The most common bench tools in the woodshop are routers and sanders. We have already talked about routers to some extent. Orbital sanders have come a long way from the jitterbug style of old. New sanders leave a better finish, are quieter and last longer. At some point, probably right away, you will want a sander . No one likes to sand. It is tempting to buy multiple sanders to address an unpleasant task. Here again, I point to the hand tools. Learning to use a smoothing plane and a cabinet scraper will reduce your sanding to little or nothing and cut down your overall time to finish a project.
In recent years, this versatile and accurate tool has become a fixture in the work shop and at the work site. Also called a “chop box,” the miter saw consists of a powerful circular saw mounted on an arm that hinges at the rear of the tool. When the blade is lowered in a chopping motion, it cuts through the workpiece, passing through a slot in the base. The motor and blade can be pivoted with respect to the base for miter cuts. Another adjustment makes it possible to tilt the blade, too, allowing for compound miter cuts, handy for jobs like cutting crown moldings, which are set at a pitched angle and that must also turn around corners. The diameter of the blade determines the maximum cut width, with standard sizes ranging from 8-inch blades up to 15 inches. A 10- or 12-inch saw is sufficient for most jobs.
I built my first bookcase in middle school. A multitiered assemblage of wooden planks laid across stacks of bricks, it was reminiscent of pieces from the early Flintstone Period--and I was proud to have made it myself. Since that masterpiece, I've built 50 or 60 more, most while working as a cabinetmaker for an interior design firm, where I learned the carpentry skills, design guidelines and construction techniques used in the bookcase shown here. Basically consisting of three plywood boxes fitted with a hardwood face frame, this piece looks built-in because it spans from wall to wall, and is trimmed with molding at the ceiling and floor. I used 3/4-in. birch plywood for the cases, 4/4 sustainably harvested African mahogany for the face frames and 3/4-in. mahogany plywood for the sides surrounding the doorway. With moderate skills and some patience, it wouldn't be hard to make this project fit any space.
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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.
I have used a Workmate successfully for years and I am in the process of building an upgraded replacement for the work surfaces. My replacement bench top will be a little longer, much thicker and it will have and extended apron between the two halves to greatly improve holding wood vertically for dovetailing. With this simple upgrade it turns the little Workmate into a very capable portable woodworking bench.
Wondering if you are still hanging in there Scott? One thing I notice woodworkers often do when getting started (including myself) is they sell their hand made items way too cheap, it doesn’t help anyone except the customer. You say yourself that they sell as fast as you can make them. Put your prices up! Double or even triple, the amount of orders may slow down but you will be doing yourself a favour. Don’t bother with Etsy or Craigslist or local markets in my opinion. Build it up for yourself to make money not making the giants even richer from all your hard work. I’ve been selling my woodwork online since 2004, before all these giants came along. I feel I have the experience to offer advice if anyone is interested. Trust no one! The internet has become a place for giants to make money off you (Facebook, Etsy, GoogleAds, Amazon…… the list goes on.) Don’t let them take your money, learn how to use them to your advantage instead of being a sucker and paying them money to grow even bigger while you stay the same size. They don’t care about you, they only care about their own business models. Grow your own business brand and ignore anyone who appears to want to help you, especially if their main business is making money online. That’s all they care about! Not you. Invest your time and money in yourself, your own website – not others and you will succeed, providing you are doing what you love and are passionate about.
Break down plywood Following the cutting diagram, crosscut plywood along the line marked “first cut”. Take the smaller of the two rip 3/4″ plywood according to diagram and cut list. For safety and easier handling, use a circular saw with a good quality blade (following a straight edge guide for a straight cut) for first cross-cut on plywood. If you are not confident in your circular saw’s ability to cut straight lines with no tear out, leave yourself 1/4″ of extra material (there is enough extra material in a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood to do this) and make your final cuts on the table saw.