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Things Every Beginner Woodworking Needs to Know
Curious what you need to know when beginning woodworking? This article will give you 7 important tips to get you started on the right foot!
Woodworking is a very practical and useful skill. For many people, it’s a way to relax, as well as a way to take pride in the fact that they’ve crafted something with their own hands.
While some people grow up around woodworking and shop tools, others haven’t experienced that same kind of exposure.
When beginning woodworking, there is a tremendous amount to learn and know.
There are many tools and techniques, materials to understand, and safety practices to pay careful attention to. Some techniques are simple enough to learn in a few minutes, while others are more complex.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the things that every beginning woodworker should know.
1. Having a Basic Understanding of Wood
Before you pick up a saw or buy a truckload of supplies for that piece of furniture you’re planning to build, it’s important that you first take the time to orient yourself with a few things.
There is much to learn about wood and how it behaves. Every species of wood is different and will behave differently when cut, sanded, or manipulated. And not every species of wood is right for every project. There are hardwoods, like oak, and softwoods, such as cedar.
Gaining an understanding of the various species of wood will make it easier for you to understand what you need and how it will react as you begin working with it.
2. Learning to Sharpen Your Tools
When working with wood, you’ll notice very quickly that your tools become dull. Tools with blades have to be sharpened periodically. Some blades hold their edge longer than others, but every blade will either need to be sharpened or replaced. This is another area where the species of wood matters because some species will dull your blades more quickly than others.
Every tool has a different kind of blade. From saws to planes, to chisels. And each type has different care requirements. The more skilled you become at caring for your blades, the smoother your work will flow. Any experienced woodworker will tell you that there’s nothing worse than attempting precision work with a dull blade.
3. Using a Hand Plane
One of the basic facts about any species of lumber is that it starts out a course. You will learn this quickly by simply running your hand across the surface of any rough-cut plank from the lumber yard.
In order to get the surface of a piece of wood nice and smooth, the coarse grain needs to be “planed down”. This is typically accomplished using a hand plane. These are indispensable tools of varying size that can be adjusted to whatever depth you need the blade to cut. The deeper the setting, the thicker the wood shaving the blade will remove.
Planning a piece of lumber is a relatively easy skill that takes time to master. You must develop a feel for how the blade moves across the surface of the wood, and understand when to make necessary adjustments to taking off more or less.
These planners often use dust collector filter bags to help keep your shop clean.
4. Knowing How to Prepare Your Lumber
The ability to use a plane is only one element in the preparation of wood for use in building a finished product. Modern technology has certainly made it easier to prep wood for use, but in the old days, every step in the process had to be done with primitive, simple hand tools.
Many people still prefer the simple joy of using hand tools over expensive, precision power tools. Power tools make the work quick and easy, but they are also expensive and can be more dangerous. Depending on the job you’re tackling, it might be unnecessary to spend a small fortune of a bunch of fancy power tools.
Common power tools, like a thickness planer or a cabinet table saw, are definitely helpful when it comes to prepping wood for your project. A good cabinet table saw can be quite expensive so you may want to check out the review of cabinet table saws on a budget first. We recommend being an educated shopper, understanding what you actually need before loading up on the latest gadgets.
5. Learn How to Cut a Mortise and Tenon Joint
This is a basic skill every beginning woodworker needs to learn. The mortise and tenon joint is the most fundamental joint in woodworking, but making it clean and strong is not as easy as it might look.
There are a number of ways to make a mortise, with power tools and sophisticated bits and blades, but many craftsmen still prefer using a chisel.
6. Learning to Cut Dovetail Joints
This is a way to create a strong joint between the corners to two boards. This joint is created when one side is cut into wedge-shaped tails that are then fitted into corresponding pins. The dovetail joint has been a standard technique in construction for centuries.
Today, the ability to make this joint is one of the hallmarks of a truly skilled woodworker and shows up in the finest wood furniture around the world.
7. Applying Finish to Your Furniture
Now that you’ve spent many long hours measuring, cutting, sanding, and assembling your masterpiece, it’s time to apply the final touch. The finish is the element of a woodworking project that truly brings out the beauty of the wood and transforms the piece into a work of art.
There are many types of stains and finishes, as well as techniques for “rubbing” the oil into the grain. Most people use shellac 99% of the time, and applying a varnish to the wood offers protection for outdoor use.
Once you’ve sanded after staining, and applied several coats of varnish, you’ll be amazed at the dramatic difference.
Learning the Basics When Beginning Woodworking
It takes years to become a skilled woodworker. Take your time when beginning woodworking, do your research and ask plenty of questions at your local hardware store. There are tons of great resources online to help you get started woodworking. So learn the craft, and make something beautiful!
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