Picture it: eight people with different skill levels, each trying to design a different project (which, by the way, they have no idea how to do) and hopefully cutting some wood by the third class. Meanwhile, the instructor is running from student to student, and then running to the table saw where a kickback has occurred. It is no wonder that at the end of the class not a single thing has been made and most of the students don't come back.
Although this universal admiration of hand skill is appreciated, the truth is, woodworking is no mystery. And fortunately, even if you missed out on taking a thorough shop class in high school and feel ill-equipped to tackle a simple woodworking project, it’s definitely not too late to learn. Here’s a list of some basic skills you would do well to develop. None of these skills require expensive, dangerous machinery or exotic tools. They are the foundational skills every woodworker should know.
Make It: Paint one spring-style clothespin, two craft sticks, and one mini craft stick in your child's favorite colors. Once dry, glue a craft stick on top and bottom of the clothespin as wings, and the mini craft stick as the tail. Cut a triangle from crafts foam and glue it upright atop the mini craft stick. Once dry, glue strong magnets on the bottom of the clothespin.
A marking knife is used for marking where you will be cutting with your saws. For getting into tight spots (like dovetails) and making very accurate lines (which is vital for tight fitting joints) you need just the right marking knife. You would think that any old knife would work, but you would be wrong. Years ago I purchased several that didn’t work well.
Clamp two opposing case sides edge-to-edge and mark each dado location with a pencil. Be sure and mark the location of the case tops far enough down on the case sides, so that the tops provide a joining surface for the valance. Next, clamp a straightedge guide across the two sides. Position the guide square with the plywood edge, install a 3/4-in. straight bit into the router and adjust it to cut 3/8 in. deep. Slowly push the router along the guide, crossing both plywood pieces. If you plan to use biscuits to attach the face pieces, cut the necessary slots with a biscuit joiner [ 2 ]. For the tall sides, space the slots about 12 to 14 in. apart. Cut three slots into shelves that are 18 in. long or less, and four into longer shelves. (I cut slots for No. 20-size biscuits.)
Make It: Let your child choose a few bright colors to paint his dragonfly. Paint a wood clothespin to be the body and paint two mini craft sticks to be wings. Once dry, cross the craft sticks on top of the clothespin and glue in place. Add googly eyes to the front and glue a strong magnet to the bottom of the clip. Display it on the fridge and your little one will feel very proud.
The last tool I recommend for every beginning woodworker is a quality router. While many routers available today offer two different bases (a stationary base and a plunge router base), for most beginners, a quality stationary base model will take care of quite a number of tasks, and can also be mounted in a router table should you choose to invest in (or even build one) one down the line. Choose a router model that is at least 2-HP and has electronic variable speed controls (as larger cutting bits should use slower speeds), a soft start mechanism and is easy to make bit changes (preferably with the ability to use both 1/2-inch and 1/4-inch shank router bits).
Woodworking knowledge is something we are all constantly in pursuit of. Thankfully, there are a LOT of options available to us. We no longer have to rely on taking expensive classes when so much information can be found online and in books. And as many Guild members know, even online classes can be quite effective thanks to the additional interactivity. In my situation, most of my learning is through podcasts, books, and blogs. I punctuate my learning each year by taking a class or two. And whenever possible, I do try to learn directly from other woodworkers in person. So if you’re like me, you probably want to select more than one thing in this list. Let’s just say you should pick the one that you get the MOST information from. And if you are thinking about podcasts, just select the Woodworking Blogs option, since most podcasts are presented on blogs.
Always be on the lookout for usable wood. You might be able to salvage some. You can use a metal detector to find nails and screws. You don’t need a full fledged metal detector. I use a pinpointer made by Garrett. If your wood has some woodboring beetles you can still use it if not eaten too badly. A healthy dose of cyfluthrin will take care of them.
A quality wood moisture meter is vital to the long-term success of any woodworking project you put together. Lumber mills try to dry their batches of lumber according to the intended end product destination. That is, if the wood is harvested in the wet Northeast, but is going to be shipped to the arid Southwest, it will be dried more than wood kept in the Northeast for use by woodworkers. The success of your woodworking project, from wood flooring to kitchen cabinets to fine furniture, depends on the correct moisture content levels of the woods you use for your area of the country.
Bruce Lamo has done woodworking pretty much all his life, although never exclusively to make a living. He prefers making furniture and working with solid wood, but often uses plywood when making cabinets. This article originated when a few friends were considering buying tools that based on his experience, he thought would not be a good investment.
Hello Eva. Thank you for commenting. I know and feel what you are saying. But selling is an integral part of any business and there is no escaping it. There are no companies as such that pick up things from artisans and craft persons. But it might not be difficult to find a business or a store where you live that will do just that. And maybe other ways of selling your wood crafts are worth looking into as well. Here is an article we wrote on it… Easy places to sell more of your wood crafts..
Hi, Patrick. “When I get home, if I need to crosscut the 18×8 piece, is that possible on a cabinet saw with a crosscut sled or better with a track saw?” That is possible to do on either a cabinet saw or a track saw, and you can end up with the same result. If I were doing this in my shop I would do it on my table saw because I have one and it would be a quicker setup, but if I didn’t have a table saw I would use a track saw. I have a friend who builds beautiful furniture and cabinetry with a track saw, and he doesn’t feel that it limits what he can build.
Once you have the four aforementioned handheld power tools in your arsenal and you've had time to get comfortable with using them, its time to make your first (and likely most important) major tool purchase. The table saw is the heart and soul of every woodworking shop, the centerpiece around which all of the other tools are used and organized, so you'll want to buy the best table saw that your budget can comfortably afford. Take the time to learn which features you really want and the table saw that best fits your budget and your needs. This article will show you the most common features, and how to determine what features you need and how to know if those features are really well built, or simply added on to the saw because they are selling features.
I generally use biscuits for this (three per joint), and I have never had a joint fail (and a bookcase spending five years in an elementary school is a pretty fair test), but dadoes work great here as well. To assist with accuracy and consistency when using biscuits, mark your biscuit locations on a piece of scrap, and then use the scrap as a guide as you mill biscuit slots in each carcass member. The carcass top is attached so that it is flush with the top of the carcass sides. The carcass bottom is attached so that the top of the panel is 2-1/2″ above the floor (or the bottom of the side panel).
This might be where the fist-to-cuffs start. Why a router table as my second choice? It’s so versatile. With the right fence set up, I can edge joint boards, like I could on a jointer. (No, you can’t face joint, but I’ll live with that for now.) I can make any number of joints, create doors, and profile edges. I can remove the router and use it hand-held for work at my bench. A good router table simply provides lots of bang for the buck.
The best advice I could give you is to learn WordPress or find a friend who can help you figure it out. Once the light bulb goes off there will be no stopping you, you will have the power in your own hands to provide what your end user needs and to educate them about the benefits and your products value – in a selfish, wasteful, throw-away society who expect everything delivered yesterday and expect to pay dirt cheap prices for your skills and repetitive hard work. End of rant….Sorry but I just had to comment. I know what it’s like, don’t lose hope!
In the sixty years of woodworking I have found two tools of increasing necessity. One is a band saw. I can do most of my work with a band saw and hand plane. The second tool is a bow saw, or actually several bow saws. They will replace the band saw if required, though they are slow. One I made about twenty years ago has a one and a half inch wide rip blade and is about thirty inches long. I think the blade is from an old industrial band saw blade I picked up and sharpened into a rip saw blade. It works very well on ripping lumber, logs, etc. Though it tires me out to much to use it now.
If a woodworker wishes to advance in the field or to demonstrate competence in the industry, they may also choose to become licensed. The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America offers a national certificate program. The AWI, or Architectural Woodwork Institute sets standards for the industry and offers training programs for management and mid-management positions.
With sharp hand tools and unforgiving power tools, woodworking can be a dangerous activity. By following some basic safety rules, though, you can considerably reduce the risk of injury. In order to be effective, safety rules must be implemented every time—no exceptions. Committing to making safety a habit increases your enjoyment and lowers the chance of injury (or worse) while woodworking.
Just for the record, a jointer and planer are not from the ICDT kit – the philosophy on that column is, indeed, beginner AND basic (hence the Workmate). The tools we suggest in the ICDT manual are for those who are working at a kitchen table or in a backyard; the tools the editors would recommend for someone who is quite sure he or she wants to pursue serious furniture making would be rather different.
Yes Seriously! You can build an easy bed frame yourself without any other’s help. As everyone knows the starting point of any bedroom is a gorgeous bed. However, you also need something that lets you enjoy peaceful slumber in comfort and warmth, but since the bed took as the focal point of the room, you may need something that looks really good too.
Make It: Paint nine craft sticks red, six craft sticks white, and four mini craft sticks white. Let them dry. On a rectangle piece of cardstock, have your child create a blue sky and green grass with colored paper or markers. Then help her create the bottom of the barn by gluing on a row of 11 craft sticks vertically in the following pattern: two red, one white, five red, one white, two red. Glue white sticks horizontally along the top and bottom and cross two in the middle as shown. Glue the mini craft sticks to red cardstock to form the barn roof. Adhere the barn roof to the background above the barn. Cut out a rectangle from black paper and adhere it to the barn. Cut strips from a paper bag and crumple for the look of hay; adhere to black rectangle.
Then, beginning several decades ago, shop classes began to be removed from secondary curriculums. With the decrease in educational funding, and increasing emphasis on standardized testing, schools began to cull electives, institute stricter graduation requirements, and focus more on college prep academics and the subjects necessary for passing state exams. There wasn’t money or time to maintain tools and sawdust-filled workshops, and one by one school districts dropped their shop classes, figuring that students who wished to pursue trade skills could do so later at a vocational college.
I had shop classes in school which was a little helpful, but covered an assortment of skills. Mechanical drawing, leather craft, woodworking and other items but not in depth on any of these. I learned (and am still learning) by doing and trial and error. I watch a LOT of videos, look at others work (on here) and read a lot of articles but mostly by doing. The biggest skill builder, I have found, is the basic box. From that I learned cutting skills, measuring, fitting and squaring and I expanded from there. I wish I could take some classes and study under a mentor but that is not possible for me. Most important part of woodworking (I have found) is just to have fun with it, and, for me, a great stress relief.
here's my 6x6 version build with #2 pine. shelves are 1x10 and threaded rod upsized to 5/16" to allow for extra width. center upright spaced at 1/3 side to side. this is very complex structurally - all the commenters who don't believe it should build it to really feel how it works. it is basically like a post-tensioned high rise. i think i'd like to paint the uprights and stain the shelves.
I learned the basics from J. Arthur Johnson when I was in 7th grade shop class . . . and I’ve been self-taught ever since. I do read Fine Woodworking (I have EVERY issue) and some books that my wife and friends have given me; and of COURSE Marc’s fine blog and a few other on-line sources but I don’t feel like I have really learned how to do anything until I’ve tried and failed and then re- and re-re-tried until I’ve made it work MY way.
We cut the supports 16 in. long, but you can place the second shelf at whatever height you like. Screw the end supports to the walls at each end. Use drywall anchors if you can’t hit a stud. Then mark the position of the middle supports onto the top and bottom shelves with a square and drill 5/32-in. clearance holes through the shelves. Drive 1-5/8-in. screws through the shelf into the supports. You can apply this same concept to garage storage. See how to build double-decker garage storage shelves here.