One of my mentors started out as a cabinetmaker who loved working wood but dreaded getting to the finishing part. He started doing some digging to learn more about it and became so addicted to the process that nowadays he loathes having to build anything because all he wants to do is the finishing! I promise that if you give a little energy to learning how to properly finish your work, your enjoyment of the finished piece will be dramatically increased. These final touches are enough to inspire you to take on another project. 

Your first backsaws should be (1) a dovetail saw, with fine rip teeth, used for cutting joinery along the grain (like dovetails), (2) a “carcass saw” used for cutting across the grain (fine cross cut teeth), and (3) a larger tenon saw used for cutting deeper cuts, like tenon cheeks, along the grain (rip teeth). All three saws are used very, very often in my workshop. You could certainly get by with just a larger dovetail saw and a carcass saw at first, if you don’t plan on immediately cutting large tenons. Buying backsaws can be very confusing because there is no standardized naming system, and a dovetail saw can be turned into a carcass saw (and vice-a-versa) by sharpening it differently. And practically everybody that’s selling antique saws mixes the names up. My buyer’s guide really clears this confusion up and will help you know what to look for.
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.
Work bench. You might get by by using a saw horse as your work bench for a while but believe us when we tell you that you need a dedicated sturdy work bench for doing your woodwork. You can buy one, or like many woodworker, make one yourself. You can make your own workbench for under $200. There are plenty of free videos and guides online that will show you how. Just type your search in a search engine.

I always try to ask my students why they have come to my school. The standard answer is, "I wanted to learn the right way," but frequently the answer is "that I sit in front of a computer all day and don't feel like I do anything at all." Or simply, they are bored with sitting at home every night. These are the people who are really fun to have in class. They have no preconceived notions, no bad habits to break and they usually really appreciate whatever they have made. Many of them go on to make some new friends at the school. Through the years, I have seen many make plans to take another class "if my buddy is going to do it, too."


When buying a table saw, two factors determine both price and the flexibility of the machine. The larger the blade, the larger the stock that can be cut; a 10-inch saw is probably the most common size. The dimension of the table top is the other criteria: bigger is better for cutting large stock like plywood; but bigger is also less portable and more expensive.

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).


Add a little rustic décor to your walls by building a wooden mail sorter. Not only does this give you beautiful rustic décor, it also serves a very handy function by keeping mail neatly organized. You just need a few pieces of wood and some small coat hooks at the bottom to hang your keys. Stain it in any color you want and you have a very functional and very beautiful sorter.
Don’t follow the temptation to cheap out and buy a cheap combination square. Because, like me, you will eventually have to replace it because of its inaccuracy. If you want your joinery to fit perfectly, then you need to scribe it accurately with precise marking tools. Unfortunately there is really only one company (that I know of) that makes a super accurate combination square. But fortunately it is amazing, and I use it daily. I’ll talk about it in-depth in the Layout & Measuring Tool Buying Guide.

11. Other necessary skills: Each woodworker should have a basic knowledge of metalworking. Although most of the home furniture is made out of wood, in this category you may occasionally find some projects made out of metal, or the wooden furniture projects that have a decorative metal parts or fasteners. In our opinion, the combination of wood and wrought iron makes the most beautiful furniture.


Last but not least, every shop needs safety measures. Reading all safely requirements for tools is important, but there are also other issues one needs to deal with. First, it is important to use proper eye protection. Accidents do happen, blades crack and wood does go air born. Therefore, if you value your eye sight it is important to wear safely glasses. Second, you also need ear protection. Since many power tools give off a high decibel noise, the ears become damaged over time, which can cause tinnitus. There are many different ear protections on the market so choose the one that works best for you. The final safety measure is dust collection. Dust collection is often overlooked because it tends to be invisible, but it can enter the lungs and, over time, inhibit the air capacity of your lungs.
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