So, you have for a while admired woodworking and are dying to try your hand at it,
but the problem is that you don’t have the slightest idea where to start.
You are not alone.
Countless people who want to learn many wonderful things sometimes do not know where to start either.
But fortunately for you, this article has been written for you and others like you.
It is a simple article that will get you started on the basics in woodworking in no time.
In it, you will learn basic introductory concepts like:
the important tools you need,
safety equipment, understanding and working with wood,
some important terms you need as you get started and so much more.
Also, we will look at some basic projects that you can do to practice your newly acquired skills.
We will help to learn woodworking online
Before you can get started in woodworking (or any other thing for that matter),
you need to first get acquainted with the technical jargon,
and that is where we will precisely start in this article;
teaching you the meaning of a few common terms used in the trade.
Let us start by understanding what woodworking is.
Woodworking can be defined as the craft of cutting, shaping,
and joining materials made of wood,
all with the sole purpose of producing attractive or useful objects.
That’s all there is to it.
Other important terms you need to know are:
This is simply the practice of connecting pieces of wood together through various means.
There are many types of joinery that exist. I will highlight a few of them that are common.
This is a simple joint that is created when you place two pieces of wood together by connecting their ends.
No fancy shaping is required to create this type of joint.
A half-lap joint is a special type of joint where two pieces of wood,
each of the same thickness are joined together
by removing half the material at each of the intended points and sticking them together,
such that no extra thickness is formed by the bond.
This type of joint works especially well for right angle connections.
Mortise and Tenon
A mortise and tenon joint is formed by joining two pieces of wood whereby,
a rectangular-shaped hole is formed on one piece, and a rectangular shaped tongue created on the other piece is inserted into that hole.
The bond formed between the two is simple but strong.
This is a joint that is formed by connecting together two pieces of wood whose ends have been shaped into “tiny mortises and tenons”.
The result is a joint that looks like inter-locked fingers, as shown in the picture above.
Another important term that you need to know is kerf.
This is simply the thickness of the blade of a cutting tool.
It can lead to loss of wood material when some of it is turned into dust.
When you make an incision or a cut on a piece of wood using a saw or some other tool,
you have to account for kerf so that you don’t end up with inaccurate measurements. We will talk about kerf later on.
This refers to any materials such as sand paper, steel wool, fabrics, or any others,
which are used to smoothen wooden surfaces.
These are just a few of the common terms that you need to know;
however, there are many more.
If you are interested in going further in discovering others, you can check out this glossary.
Let us now move on to the tools you need:
This chapter will focus on some tools that are really important to have even as you learn woodworking.
The Circular Saw
The first tool you should consider is the circular saw.
It is one of the most important tools in woodworking and is rather inexpensive.
You can find one selling on Amazon for as little as $62.
The circular saw is a handled tool that is equipped with a toothed blade.
The blade is attached to a motor, which is run by electricity.
The rotary motion gives it the ability to cut through wood material such as plywood or medium-density fiberboard.
A typical circular saw comes with a handle hand that is safely positioned with guards to protect you from cutting yourself as you use it.
You also get height, depth and bevel adjustments that allow you to tweak the way the tool works.
The other important tool you need is a power drill.
This is another inexpensive tool but one that is very essential.
You can find one selling for as little as $32 to as much as $218.
The main use of this tool is to drill holes in wood, or other materials.
It can also be used to drive screws and fasteners.
On a standard power drill, you will find a handle, a switch to turn it on or off,
a switch to reverse the direction of rotation and a safety latch.
Also, just like with circular saw, you need to use electricity to power it,
although there are those that are rechargeable.
Another tool that you may want to add to your collection is a jigsaw.
This is another hand-held saw.
The blade is operated by an electric motor that swings in an up and down motion, hence the name jig.
Its main job is to help you cut efficiently through tough timber.
You can also change the blades so that you can do other complicated operations like cutting circular or curved shapes on wood.
Random Orbital Sander
You will also need a random orbital sander.
This tool’s main purpose is to remove material on wood surfaces and smoothen it.
It does this though a blade that is attached to an electrical motor.
The blade turns in a circular as well as an elliptical manner.
To use this tool, you simply stick a sandpaper onto the blade and turn the device on.
Place the blade onto the wooden surface as you can see in the above picture.
Allow the device to rest on the surface on its own weight and move it along as it does its job.
The Router is another important tool.
This is simply a tool that is equipped with an electric motor and a cutter attached at the base.
When you move it along the surface of wood, it cuts a hollow shape through the wood.
This is one of the most important tools you can ever have because its uses are varied.
Among the many things it can do are:
A chisel is a hand-held tool that has a blade at the end.
Its main use is to cut or carve wood.
A combination square and a tape measure
A Combination Square and a Tape Measure
Keep in mind that when working on wood,
you will need to take measurements and these two tools will enable you to do that easily.
Safety at Work
Your safety is very important.
You will be working with tools that could potentially cause serious injuries and bring about other health problems; therefore,
the importance of taking extra caution. Let us look at some things you need to have to ensure your safety:
Hand gloves are very important, as your hands are the part of your body that you will use most of the time while woodworking.
Therefore, your hands are subjected to the highest risk, most of the time.
A good pair of hand gloves is your first line of defense.
There are many different hand gloves out there on the market.
Whenever possible, make sure you select hand gloves that are cut-resistant.
Think for a minute of all the flying pieces of wood while sawing.
These wood pieces may find their way into your eyes and cause serious injury.
Also think of other debris as well as electric sparks.
When you think about all the bad things that could go wrong when foreign material finds its way into your eyes, safety glasses are a “must have”.
You also can’t ignore the fact that woodworking – especially when using power tools
– generates saw dust as well as debris,
which you could inhale.
These materials could cause respiratory health problems down the road.
To be safe, you will need to use protection like dust masks.
A better solution that may do the work of both equipment
(glasses and dust mask) would be an over-all face gear.
A good example is shown below.
It is hands-down the best protection for your face I recommend.
The power tools we have just discussed generate a lot of noise,
which could cause serious hearing problems like Tinnitus.
Leather Thumb and Finger Guards
We have just talked about hand gloves being the best protection you can have for your hands.
The problem is, there are times when you may need to be more “hands-on”.
In other words you may need to take out your gloves to operate more efficiently.
One such instance is when carving. In such a case, you may need to use a leather thumb and figure guard.
These protect your thumb, finger as well as knuckles from injury during such an operation.
High Friction Finger Wrap Tape
Lastly, you will also need a high friction finger wrap tape.
Before we wrap things up here, let me highlight a few safety rules you need to observe while woodworking:
We will learn more about wood and choosing the right wood in the next chapter.
Before you can start working on projects, it is important that you familiarize yourself with a few things first.
That way, you will be able to understand wood better and will be more efficient in your work. Let’s start with…
A few things you need to know about wood
Here are a few things that you should keep in mind:
Moisture affects Wood
This is the first thing that you must always remember, because it will affect how you work and how your projects turn out.
Wood tends to expand and contract, depending on the amount of water in the atmosphere.
This change has more to do with the width, as opposed to the length – which seldom changes.
The reason why this happens is because the fibers in wood have the capacity to absorb moisture,
which makes them expand, or lose it which makes them contract.
So what does this mean for your projects?
Whenever you are working on a project, let the wood rest in the area first before you get started.
This makes sure that the wood adapts to the moisture in the atmosphere.
A big mistake people make is start working on a project; for example a chair, in one place and then move the item to another place. This is not advisable.
If the place that you work on your project happens to have a different level of humidity,
then the wood may expand or contract accordingly, and this may affect the finished product.
You may start seeing the wood cracking or shrinking.
Do your best to work on your most sensitive projects in the area where you intend to keep them?
Alternatively, you could take measurements of humidity, and then account for the difference either in expansion or contraction as you build your project.
Always check the end grain of the wood
As you shop for wood, spend some time checking the end grain of the wood.
Doing this is important because the pattern formed at the end grain provides insights into how the wood was cut from the original tree,
and this is crucial because the manner in which wood was cut will affect its expansion as well as shrinkage.
To illustrate what I am talking about, look at the picture:
The lines you see at the cross-sections are the patterns we are talking about, and they all have names:
Keep your eye on the barometric pressure
In our last analysis, we saw that you should always consider the humidity when it comes to wood. The thing is, humidity rises and falls depending on the barometric pressure.
When pressure is high the humidity is low, and when pressure is low the humidity is high.
The one thing to keep in mind is that you should avoid working on wood on days when the pressure is varying very quickly.
For instance, if you were cutting wood on a day when pressure was low, if the pressure suddenly changed, then your wood pieces would be shorter and this can affect your project.
It helps to keep a barometer with you so that you can keep an eye on the barometric pressure.
Always use a pre-stain conditioner
Before you consider staining any piece of wood, ensure that you apply a pre-stain conditioner first.
This is especially true on porous or soft woods.
The reason for this is to avoid blotchiness.
The pores may allow your stain to seep in and the result is a look that is blotchy.
When you apply a pre-stain conditioner, it covers up the pores and this allows your finish to be more even.
I bet you now know more about wood, let us now move on to selecting wood to work on:
There are many types of wood out there each suited for certain types of projects.
Knowing about them helps you become a more efficient woodworker. Let’s look at the most common ones.
The first type of wood that you need to know about is Pine.
This is an expensive type of wood that is either whitish or yellowish in color.
It is a soft type of wood and is perfect for creating furniture meant for kids.
You can also use it to create tables with a farm-house look or for curvature projects.
The great thing about it is that it resists expansion and shrinkage, which makes it easier to work with.
It also tends to work well with stain as long as you apply a pre-stain conditioner.
The main downside to working with it is that due to its softness, it gets dents and scratches easily.
Unlike Pine, this is a hard type of wood.
It has a blond or reddish-brown appearance and is perfect for building cabinets and shaker-style tables.
You can also use it to create carved chairs or similar projects.
The good thing about it is that it has an attractive color. It also shapes and polishes easily.
The only downside is its price as well as its color, which tends to get darker over time.
Unlike most types of wood, this is one of the hardest. On a scale of 1 to 5, you could rate it at 5.
It has a creamy white appearance, which may at times have a tinge of redness.
It is best for creating items that are heavy such as kitchen cabinets and dressers.
The best thing about it is that it is durable owing to its hardness.
It also works well with dark stains and may be used to mimic pricier types like cherry.
However, if you fail to apply pre-stain conditioning, you will definitely get a botchy look.
Like Maple, oak is also a hard wood. It would score a rating of 4 on a 1 to 5 hardness scale.
There are two varieties of this kind of wood; the first one has a reddish appearance and the second one looks whitish.
The distinctive feature of this wood is that it is grainy.
It is great for creating Art and Craft pieces, due to its wavy grain, which tends to come out when you do a finish.
The only downside is that if you do not stain it well, you will exaggerate the grain and it will not look as great.
Lastly but not the least, there is Walnut.
This type of wood is as hard as oak.
It is chocolate brown or somewhat yellowish and is quite grainy.
It is best for projects such as antique-style dining tables, head-boards, and mantels.
The good thing about it is its color which is very attractive especially when coated or oiled. It is also very strong which is ideal when carving.
The main downside is the price; walnut is pretty expensive. you can check Teds Woodworking Plans
One of the things that are essential to woodworking success is being able to make very accurate measurements. You Can Check the Basics Measurements
Unfortunately, many things could go wrong here if you are not careful.
So I would like to cover a few guidelines that you should follow when it comes to this. They include:
Ensure your measuring tools are accurate
Inaccurate tools can result in the wrong measurements.
Therefore, to avoid this, place all your measuring tools (I’m talking about rulers, tape-measures, squares, etc.) on a table against each other.
Check to verify that all their markings align with each other.
If you notice that one tool doesn’t align, get rid of it.
Only work with tools whose markings align with each other.
Make sure your tape displays numbers correctly
Many tape measures are calibrated wrongly.
Ideally, when you pull out the tape and hold it with your left hand,
you should be able to see the numbers displayed correctly.
Many tapes will have them displayed up-side down. This makes it harder for you to take correct measurements and can often lead to mistakes.
To avoid this, make sure you shop for a tape that displays the numbers either on both sides or
correctly when held in the left hand, as shown below.
Mark with the thinnest lines possible
After taking a measurement, you will most likely want to mark points before you can start cutting.
Most people new to woodworking do this job with a pencil but this isn’t your best option.
A pencil line can be thicker (up to 1/32”), and result in problems.
You may get away with making such an error in just one board.
But if you account for that gap in several boards, the compound difference could cause problems you would never imagine.
Instead, opt to use marking knives. They are more precise.
Work with actual dimensions instead of nominal ones
You will often find wood pieces being sold with certain dimensions that would actually fit your project. These are nominal dimensions.
Don’t be tempted to work with them since such dimensions, most often are erroneous.
You are better off going through the trouble of verifying the measurements or adjusting whenever necessary.
Measure pieces against the real project
If you are working with a plan that has already been published,
you may feel that it would be better if you just cut up all the required pieces before you start working on the project.
Make no mistake, some serious mistakes could be made,
whether on your part or the part of the publisher, and if the project is a complicated one,
you may get frustrated down the road.
It is much better to cut and measure the pieces as you work on the real project.
That way, you can easily spot problems early on and correct them before you go too far
If you follow these basic rules of measurements,
you will hardly find yourself going wrong or making some of the most common errors that arise in woodworking.
Now let’s look at some rules on cutting wood.
The Rules of Cutting Wood
Here are some of the things you will need to pay attention to as you cut wood:
Mark the cut line
I probably shouldn’t have to tell you this but before you start making any incisions on the wood, you will have to mark it.
How else would you ever hope to cut on a straight line without first marking the line you intend to cut along?
Therefore, get a pencil, or a chalk, or a marking knife, and mark the line.
Doing so gives you a higher chance of making a precise cut.
Mark the side that is considered waste wood
This is also another important thing to do.
Remember earlier when we talked about the kerf, and how it can affect the piece of wood you are cutting?
You can’t afford to make mistakes that result from not accounting for the kerf.
So, mark the side of the board that you assume you won’t need after making the cut. 4
Then make sure that you make the cut while placing the blade in a way that ensures the kerf is accounted for in the waste side and not the side that you consider useful.
That way, you won’t end up affecting the measurements you have already made.
Set the proper blade depth
When using a power tool such as the circular saw,
it is important that you set the right depth before you start cutting.
This not only ensures that you cut more efficiently;
it also ensures you don’t hurt yourself by having the blade kick back.
So what is the proper blade depth?
It should always be between ¼ and ½ below the board.
Any depth bigger than that,
will cause problems that could cause accidents; therefore, try to stay within this range.
If you are cutting wood that is thicker, get a bigger saw.
Support the wood as you cut
As you cut, you will need to support the board to prevent it from veering off.
But as you do that, avoid supporting the board on both sides as if you are binding.
This is dangerous because binding could cause the blade to get caught up and kick back and this reaction could seriously hurt you.
It’s better if you gently supported the side that you marked as waste.
I say ‘support’ because that side should be free to fall off once the cut is completed.
Don’t clamp or hold it in position.
One way to support the piece in position would be to use a temporary nail as shown below.
This allows you to give all the attention you need to cut the piece.
As you can see, the waste end will easily fall off upon completion.
Use a guide
If you are having problems keeping the saw on a straight line, then you may find a guide useful.
A guide keeps you from veering off the straight path by allowing you to move the saw along it.
You could buy a straightedge piece and clamp it to the piece of wood you are cutting.
Now if you cut while moving the saw along, you won’t have to worry about making precise cuts.
It will just happen.
See the picture below to understand what I mean.
Up to this point, you have learned plenty of background material to get you started.
In the next chapter (which also happens to be the last),
you will get your hands dirty by doing a few simple practical projects.
We have come to the end of the Article.
Thank you for reading and congratulations for reading until the end.
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