WoodWorking Beginner Tips. WoodWorking Plans. Deciding What Tools are Best for the Job.
WoodWorking Machines Toos. How and Why You Need to Plan Your WoodWorking Projects in Advance.
Basic Application and Choice of Paints
Paint is a medium that both protects and enhances lumber and a variety of other surfaces. The woodworker or home handyperson will eventually be painting something, whether it is part of the home or a lovingly created project. The choice of paint will depend a lot on the project that requires painting. Is it to be for indoor or outdoor use? Will it come in for lots of wear and tear? These questions must be settled before the choice can be made.
Paint has three elements; pigment, binder and base. The pigment is the color, without which the paint would simply be a clear lacquer. The binder stops the paint from separating and helps it to adhere to the surface. It contains resin in various amounts; the highest resin content makes the most durable paint. The base is what classifies paint as water or solvent soluble, e.g., a water-based paint can be cleaned up with water, or an oil-based paint which needs solvent for clean up.
The item to be painted must be clean and free of loose dust and dirt. It needs to be sanded smooth before painting and sometimes between coats. A primer will help increase the durability of the paint and reduce absorbency. Sometimes the undercoat is mixed with a primer to save you time and effort. Water-based or latex paints are popular due to the ease of application and fast drying time. You can get several coats on in one day.
Some surfaces cannot be painted with water-based paints. Wallpaper will peel, while bare wood will swell due to the water content. Metal surfaces will rust and the rust will show through the paint. Water-based paint will go over flat-finished oil paints but not high gloss.
Oil paints usually need 24 hours or more of drying time between coats. Good quality oil-based paints are more durable than the water-based ones, especially for external use. Both come in grades of gloss, the highest gloss being used for high-traffic areas, as it is easier to clean. Flat or low-gloss paint is used for ceilings, while walls are often painted with a semi-gloss.
If you don't want your painted surface to look streaky and have the odd bristle stuck to the paint, use a good quality paintbrush. Many so-called handyman paintbrushes are poor quality, even though the price tag says otherwise. A good job cannot be done with a poor quality brush. Some projects are painted with a rag or sponge to achieve special effects.
Basic Application and Choice of Stains
There are many different types of stain on the woodworking market. Which one you choose will be governed partly by personal preference and partly by the type of lumber you've used. And of course what your project is. Some projects demand to be painted, while others are much more beautiful with the grain enhanced by stain or varnish.
Finishing your project with a stain or other finish is one of the most satisfying tasks, because it is the last thing to be done is relatively easy and enhances your project greatly. All the hours of hard labor have now come to fruition. But if you are not careful, disaster can strike at the last minute.
Finishes are usually chosen for their ease of application and fast drying time. If you choose a finish that takes hours to dry, it's possible that dust or bugs may settle on the surface while it is still sticky and mar the finish. To minimize this risk, apply the finish or stain in an insect and dust-free environment. But you'll still need plenty of fresh air due to possible fumes, so keep the windows open.
The five most common finishes are varnish and polyurethane, oil, shellac, lacquer and water-based finishes. A stain is a finish containing colored pigment that alters the natural color of the wood. Oils and varnish bring up the grain and enhance the natural color of the wood. Out of them all, varnish gives the most protection for the wood surface. It also takes the longest to dry, but layers can be built up to give a good protection.
Oil soaks into the wood and is ideal for external use. It is easy to apply; gives fair protection and simply using more over a scratch will often make it disappear. Some oils don't cure but leave a sticky surface on the wood. They should be avoided. Linseed and Tung oil are both good oils to use.
Shellac is widely used because it is fast drying and different colors are available. It will probably need to be thinned with denatured alcohol before it can be brushed on. You need to work fast in applying shellac and maintain a wet edge. It's not quite as durable as varnish and breaks down over time, so don't use that old tin that's been sitting in the shed for years, even if it is well-sealed.
Lacquer dries so fast it is mostly sprayed on. The dry dust can be explosive and the fumes are toxic, so watch your step with it.
Sanding between coats is a necessary part of applying finishes and stains. Using the 'wet sanding' technique will reduce the amount of dust that could spoil your finish. Special sanding paper is required for this. It's a good idea to practice your technique on a scrap to make sure you get it right, before tackling your project.
Common Woodworking Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Since no one is perfect and neither is wood, there will most certainly be mistakes in your woodworking. But will you have to throw the whole piece away and start again, or can it be fixed? Don't despair; most mistakes can be fixed in some way or another. Mistakes usually fall into one of two categories. The first is the tradesman's mistakes such as not measuring something correctly or putting the right measurement in the wrong place. The lumber itself causes the second; e.g., a flaw such as a knot right where you don't want it, or a piece of lumber tearing out or cracking.
If you've found a knot in your stock, you may consider leaving it there for visual appeal. In this case the knothole will need to be stabilized by filling it with glue, otherwise the brittle wood that forms the knot could fall out leaving only a hole. A thin solution of cyanoacrylate adhesive is what you need to soak into the wood fibers. Larger gaps can be filled with an epoxy colored to blend in with the wood. Or you could mix some sawdust from the wood into the epoxy before it hardens. If you want to take the knot out, you can do that and use the band saw to cut a patch of wood to fit.
If you've been using the router to edge light-colored wood such as maple, it often causes burn marks which are quite difficult to remove with sanding. But you can use the router again to mill it off if you set it a bit deeper - about 1/32) and go past that burned spot quickly.
Mortise and tenon joints should fit snugly to be strong, but when you are learning they are sometimes loose. It's no good filling it up with glue/ this won't work. What you need to do is cut pieces of wood and glue/clamp to the sides of the tenon. This way you can re-cut it for a better fit.
If you've cut that hinge pocket too deep there's an easy way to fix it. Simply cut a matching piece of cardboard from a cereal packet - you may need two, depending on how much you overshot the depth, and insert it between the hinge and the wood. It will be invisible if you measure it right.
When applying a finish like stain or sealer to your work, you may find a spot that the stain cannot penetrate. It is most obvious and looks terrible, but what has caused it? Probably a smear of glue! But don't try to sand it off; the sandpaper will get clogged with urethane. Don't wait until it's dry to try and fix the problem. Use a cabinet scraper to remove the glue then dab more stain over the spot.
Drilling Basics and Skills
Drilling can be done with a power drill or a hand drill. Most drilling these days is done by a power drill - either cordless or corded, but if the hole is tiny and hard to get at, a hand drill might be more useful. Cordless drills are invaluable for getting into awkward places, too.
The first thing to think about when drilling is safety. Always wear goggles to keep those bits of flying debris out of your eyes. Sawdust, masonry dust or tiny splinters of tile all cause untold damage to the eyes. It is also a good idea to wear a dust mask.
Choose the correct type of bit for the material you are to drill; you can't drill wood with a masonry bit or vice versa. Attach the drill bit to the drill securely. If you are going into a wall, make sure there are no power cables or water pipes behind it. If you are drilling into something slippery like tile, then place some sticky tape over the spot. This will help to stop the point of your bit from slipping and it helps to stop the tile from shattering.
Keep the drill perpendicular to the drilling surface. Sometimes it's a good idea to make a little nick at the spot where the drill is to enter. You can tap the point of a nail into it, or use a bradawl, then start the drill slowly. Hold the drill with both hands and let it do the work. There should be no need to apply any pressure. If it won't go in - or if there is lots of smoke and heat - check that you have the right drill for the job.
If what you are drilling is moveable, clamp it down. Never try and hold the item still with one hand while drilling with the other; that's a recipe for disaster. There is usually some splintering at the exit hole, so if you need to drill right through an object and want a nice neat finish, clamp another piece of wood tightly to the back of it. Slowing the drilling speed as you reach the end will also help to reduce tearing.
If you are drilling inside, the lady of the house will thank you for taping a small bag to the bottom of the hole before you start drilling. This will catch most of the debris and save a big clean-up when you've finished.
Easy Woodworking Projects for Beginners
A beginner in the art of woodworking should start on an easy project. If you choose something that is beyond your level of expertise, you are likely to become frustrated and may ruin it. Choosing an easy task and completing it successfully will hone your skills and keep your enthusiasm hot. The experience you gain will enable you to choose something just a little more difficult the next time and before long you will be able to successfully tackle a project with a high difficulty level. So what are some easy projects for the beginner?
A small bookcase or set of shelves would be a good place to start. This will give you practice in measuring, cutting and joining. You may need to plane the pieces and you'll certainly need to sand them before applying the finish, unless you cheat and buy the boards ready to go. When you are finished, you'll find lots of use for such a piece. Whether it is used to keep the children's books up off the floor or kept for your own workshop will be up to you..
If you prefer something much smaller, a jewelry box could be a good choice. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you desire. You could do small dovetail joints and you'll certainly need to cut out mortises for the hinges and probably the clasp. You'll get practice measuring and drilling tiny holes to screw the hinges on.
Another good project for the beginner is a planter box. The gardener of the family will be thrilled to have one of these to show off those pretty plants. It won't matter if the corners of a planter box are not absolutely perfect, as it just sits there holding a plant. Anyway, the worst part (if indeed there is one) can be turned to the back, or covered by the trailing tendrils of plant.
Other, smaller projects could be a spice rack or a coat rack. The spice rack will certainly give you practice in measuring things accurately, while the coat rack could be made a little more challenging with the addition of a shelf above it.
You can often download free woodworking plans for beginners from the Internet. Some woodworking magazines may also include project plans, while other can be bought, either from the Internet or in books. The library may be another source. Many plans will tell you what you need both in tools and materials, to complete a project.
Essential Hand Tools for Woodworkers
Most woodworkers love their power tools, but good hand tools are just as necessary. In fact, years ago, our forefathers accomplished many wonderful things using hand tools only. One essential hand tool you'll need for the workshop is a claw hammer. Most people have used one at some time in their lives. Choose yours to feel comfortable in your hand and not be too heavy. A rubber mallet is also handy to use when you want to fit something together without leaving any marks on it.
A Speed Square can be used to quickly mark a square line across the end cut of a piece of lumber, or any other angle you require, up to 45%. Even more versatile, a sliding bevel is handy for duplicating angles as it can be locked in place. It can also be adjusted for any angle.
A retractable tape measure with both Metric and Standard markings on it is another tool you will use constantly, while a utility knife with a retractable blade will have many uses such as marking lumber or cleaning a hinge mortise.
Chisels and screwdrivers are always in use and every woodworker should have a good basic set of each. Screwdrivers will need to be both the Phillips and Flathead types. A level is another necessary part of the woodworker's basic tool set. Most things you make need to have their horizontal or vertical level taken. One long and one short will be most useful.
Nail sets are used to sink nail heads just below the surface of the lumber. Keep a variety of sizes to suit the job in hand. A small block plane is another essential tool to shave that thin sliver of wood off your stock.
You may decide a handsaw is necessary for your workshop. There are many varieties such as coping saw, pull saw, compass saw, keyhole saw and of course large and small crosscut saws. What you need will depend a lot on the type of work you intend to do. Other essential things to have are files, rasps, pliers and sanding blocks.
Last but not least is a large piece of pegboard to hang your tools on, keeping them handy for your use and safely out of the way of little fingers. For those tools that won't hang, a lockable cupboard is the way to go. Shelving may seem easy to store things on, but they'll get covered in dust and sawdust and be easier for children to get at.
Essential Portable Power Tools for Woodworkers
Every woodworker must have a selection of power tools to help him achieve perfection in his woodworking task. Even if perfection is not reached, the task will be made a great deal easier and more successful with the correct power tool. It may even be the difference between success and failure.
Which type of power tool you get will depend on the kind of woodworking you intend to do. If you intend to hone your skills and make working with wood a career, you'll need to invest in the more expensive tradesman's tools. But if you just like to potter around in the shed on your days off, then the handyman's portable power tools may suit. If in doubt, choose one with slightly more power than you think you'll need.
A cordless drill will be one such basic power tool that you will find a myriad of uses for. Consumer reports state that the 14.4-volt class is one of the better buys. A torque rating of 250 inch-pounds is required for most household projects.
A circular saw is essential for cutting your lumber, but choose a corded one for greater reliability. The 7 1/4 inch model seems to be the favorite for workshops. A rip guide and a laser cutting guide will add to the price, but save you a lot of frustration and time. If you are likely to need curved cuts in plywood - or anything else for that matter - a jigsaw is for you. The narrow reciprocating blade is ideal for the curved cuts impossible with a circular saw. Get one with an orbital cutting action and a scrolling feature for increased versatility.
A reciprocating saw or saws-all will be handy, though perhaps not strictly essential, as you can cut almost anything from 2x6 beams to copper pipe, with it. Available in both corded and cordless models, the lighter ones are the easiest to maneuver. Sanders of various kinds will come in handy too and save you a lot of effort.
All this woodworking is going to make your shed very dirty, so you'll need a wet-dry vacuum to clean it up. Prices are extremely reasonable and most models are designed for both the pro and the home.
One way to keep to a budget with power tool purchases is to buy a cordless combo unit. You can get up to seven different tools for the price of one, depending on what you choose, but make sure you get those that will all fit on the one battery. Ryobi's One Plus System offers one battery for lots of different tools.
Filling Tips for Finishing Projects
One thing you'll be doing quite a bit of as a woodworker is filling in nail holes. Nails have to be set so they cannot be seen in the finished project, as that would spoil the visual appeal. The heads could go rusty and then you would have a spotty appearance. You cannot just paint over them either, because paint will eventually flake off the metal heads and they will be easily seen.
If you are going to paint your project, then filling the nail holes presents no problem. Instructions on the paint can will probably tell you what putty to use and when and how to apply it. Don't forget to sand the finish smooth or you'll have a line of rough spots that are still visible under the paint.
If you are staining your project, filling the nail holes is a little more complicated. You need to fill them with something that is a close match to the stain you will be using, or you will still have that spotty look. Many wood fillers are colored to match various woods, but the trouble is wood colors vary considerably, even within the same type of lumber.
Another problem occurs because wood fillers don't absorb stain in the same way wood does, so this causes discoloration. Sanding the filler afterwards often forces minute particles of the filler material into the surrounding wood grain and this will cause an obvious color difference. So what is to be done? You've spent lots of time on that project and don't want to see the finish ruined.
One thing you can do to minimize the effects of the filler is to use a pre- stain conditioner. This will prevent the filler affecting the surrounding areas of the lumber, especially if your lumber is soft wood like pine, birch, maple or fir. After using a pre-stain conditioner, there is a time limit for applying the stain. About two hours is normal for most pre-stain conditioners. But what happens if you exceed the limit? Don't worry; just apply another coat of conditioner, then add the stain within the time limit. When you are sanding the filler, be careful that you don't sand the surrounding, conditioned lumber.
You can also purchase filler that is powdered. You then mix it with a small amount of the stain that you intend to use. This will give a close color match and can be done either before or after you stain the project. If you do it afterwards, you need to take great care not to damage the surrounding areas when sanding it.
Getting the Right Tools - Deciding What Tools are Best for the Job
There are so many tools available for the woodworker, it is impossible to buy them all. But you will certainly need some, so how do you decide what you will need and what you may never use?
Chisels are the woodworker's best friends, being used for a variety of tasks from mortising to chopping joints for a lumber barn. There are many different kinds available, but the butt chisels are the most used in cabinet making. The short handle makes them easy to balance and because the sides of the blade are beveled they are good for tight corners.
Experts consider the block plane and jackplane to be essential hand tools in a workshop. The jack plane is used for flattening and smoothing large areas of rough lumber, while the block plane is for getting those important joints flush and smoothing end grain and convex curves.
A small backsaw with a 10-inch blade is good for cutting joinery due to its small kerf. It is often used with a miter box. A dovetail saw is similar but smaller and is used for cutting dovetails, moldings and other fine-finish cuts. A panel or short-cut saw is good for general cutting of both lumber and paneling like plywood. It can also be used to cut plastic. With its sharp point for plunge cuts the drywall saw is handy for cutting electrical and plumbing holes in plasterboard and drywall.
What you get will depend on what type of woodworking you intend to do. If you are going to take up woodturning, you will need a lathe and a basic set of specialized woodturning tools such as bowl gouges and various others. You may need various types of power saws, depending on whether you want to cut your own stock or buy blanks ready cut for your project. If you want to be a home handyman doing repairs to the home and building things like bookcases or outdoor furniture, you'll need something quite different.
To decide which tools are best for the job, you need to know what task they will need to perform. For instance, if your project needs you to make curved cuts you will need a coping saw if you do it by hand or a jig saw or router with a guide, to do it with a power tool. If you buy a plan for your project it will most likely have on it what tools are needed for completion.
How Adhesives Are Used in Woodwork
There are many different kinds of adhesives used in woodwork and they all have different properties and are used for different tasks. If you don't use the right one for the job, you will run into problems.
PVA or polyvinyl acetate is a non-toxic, white glue that dries clear. It is not waterproof so cannot be used for exterior projects or fittings. It can also be used on paper, leather, cork and fabric, and cleans up with soap and water.
Woodworkers or carpenters glue is also white but is stronger and sets more quickly than PVA. It is heat and water-resistant. There is also aliphatic wood glue that is popular amongst woodworkers. Both are especially good for making and repairing furniture.
Instant setting or Super glue is popular for numerous jobs, both in woodworking and elsewhere. It can only be used for non-porous surfaces and sets very quickly. It comes as a gel as well as a liquid and you only need to use a tiny amount. It is toxic and should be used where there is plenty of fresh air. Mind you don't stick your fingers together.
Epoxy is both toxic and flammable, but is one of the strongest glues made, withstanding water, heat, jarring and shock. It can be used on a variety of surfaces including pipes, ceramics, glass, china, marble and masonry. There is a resin and a hardener that must be mixed together before use. Never use near a naked flame, or inhale the fumes
Polyurethane glue has the strength of an epoxy without the mixing, but surfaces to be used must be moistened. Bonds to most surfaces and is most often used to bond two surfaces that are dissimilar. It is waterproof and can be sanded, painted or stained.
Contact cement is most often used to bond laminates to countertops. It may come apart under a heavy load, but is waterproof and bonds immediately with no clamping.
Resorcinol glue is the ultimate exterior glue due to its weatherproof qualities, but must be cured under pressure. It is similar to epoxy in that there are two components.
Plastic Resin glue comes in a powdered form that must be mixed with water. It must be cured for 10 hours or so under pressure of clamping or weights and is mostly used for furniture repair.
Applied with a caulking gun, construction adhesive is a thick, durable construction adhesive used to bond flooring, paneling, roofing, metal, wood, concrete and masonry. It is flexible and waterproof and suitable for outdoors.
With all these different types of adhesives, there will always be one to suit the job you have in mind. Always take note of the safety precautions for each type of adhesive before using it.
How and When to Use Fasteners
There are many different types of fasteners in woodworking and they all have different applications. Basically a fastener is used to join two pieces of lumber together, or to join lumber to another type of material such as concrete or metal. Some fasteners such as nails, screws and bolts are metal, while others like dowel and biscuits, are made of lumber. There are yet other fasteners. Adhesive is a fastener and so are certain types of joints such as the mortise and tenon, which are used to join furniture pieces together.
Some of the strongest fasteners are bolts, along with their nuts and washers. Bolts are usually used for external fastenings in buildings, but they can also be used for building such things as workbenches and router tables and shelving. Never use pliers to tighten a bolt, but use a wrench or socket wrench.
Woodworkers are most likely to use a lag bolt, which is actually a lag screw, since it needs no nut or washer on the other end. They are called bolts due to their head shape, which resembles that of a bolt, but they are driven into lumber as screws. There are many different types and sizes of screws. They give strength and stability to a project that a nail cannot give.
Nails are used a lot in carpentry, but not quite so much in woodworking. In furniture making, they are often used to attach trim on surfaces that will then be painted. The head of the nail must be set below the surface of the lumber so it can be puttied over, sanded and painted. Crates, jigs and other fixtures are made using nails. Nails can be driven in pneumatically if you don't mind forking out a few extra dollars for the gear. It will save you a lot of time and effort if you do much nailing. There is a lot less movement with pneumatic nailers, so your job will be more precise.
You can also get pin nailers for use when nails may be too big or thick. Pins are like nails with no heads, only much finer and when driven into the lumber they can hardly be seen. Staples are another type of fastening used for jobs not requiring the strength of a nail or screw.
Adhesives are frequently used in woodworking to join stock. Even a mortise and tenon join must be glued together. If you join two pieces using biscuits or dowelling, adhesive will be used as well.
How and Why You Need to Plan Your Projects in Advance
Planning a project in advance may seem like unnecessary brain-strain, but it will help you accomplish your goals in the long run. Some people just wait until they are 'in the mood' before starting a project, but if you do things on the spur of the moment, you'll end up becoming frustrated.
For a start, you may get nicely set into your project and then find out you don't have some part or tool you need to complete it. By the time you get to the store and back the day could be over, or there is something else that requires your attention. If you had planned ahead, you would have had everything you needed to finish the project in the time you had available.
It's also important to plan the stages of your project. Not many can be finished in one day and must be done in stages. Some stages will take longer than others. Some stages can be left halfway through if you run out of time, while some cannot. For instance, don't start the painting unless you have time to finish it. That's something that must be done to completion.
So planning a project in advance will include making sure you have the necessary tools, equipment and parts - and time. Make sure you have a good amount of time to finish it or at least get it off to a good start. Many projects will certainly take longer than a day to complete, but once you get going, you'll feel so enthusiastic that it will be easy to find time to go back and finish it.
Start by making a list of everything you need. Stock for the project itself, hardware such as nails, screws, hinges, and locks. Patterns or templates cut and ready to be used. Paints and finishes that you'll need. Sandpaper. Tools you'll need to get the job done. It's worth while checking all your tools over and sharpening any that need it before you start, then clear off your work space so you can just roll in and do it when the day dawns.
Make sure there are no other chores due on the day you plan to start your project. Check that you are not expected anywhere else and that no visitors are coming. Ring the date in red on your calendar so that it will be left free. All this preparation will stir up your sense of anticipation so that you'll certainly be ready and in the mood when the big day dawns.
How to Make Joints That Fit
There are many different kinds of joints in woodworking. Mortise and tenon is used frequently for joining two pieces together. Experts advise making the tenon first and then you can make the mortise to fit it.
When making joints it is imperative that they are a good fit. If not, the table, stool or whatever you've made will be loose and wobbly. To get that perfect fit, your measurements need to be perfect, so take great care with them. You can cut them out by hand if you are careful, or use a machine. Even so, you will still need to be careful. Machines are only as good as the person that is using them. If you've never done one before, practice on a scrap until you feel confident.
While the fit needs to be perfect, that doesn't mean that it should be a tight fit. If it's too tight, any glue will be forced out; if it's too loose the glue will be too thick and weaken the join. You might think the more glue, the stronger the bond but this is not so.
The surfaces should be straight too. It's no use having one board bowed and relying on a clamp to straighten it. Both surfaces need to be perfectly straight so that they touch each other along their length and the glue will not have an unreasonable amount of stress on it.
The surfaces should be totally free of dust, grime or anything that will interfere with the glue or prevent the surfaces from joining together. Only spread a thin layer of glue. Use a small brush and cut the bristles even shorter. Your layer of glue should be thinner than a dollar bill. Most glue can wait for about 10 minutes before the job needs to be finished, so you have only a small amount of time to assemble everything. Make sure you have everything ready before you paint the glue on.
Once the joint is glued and assembled, clamp it together to keep it in a fixed position. Small beads of glue will squeeze out the sides and this is normal. Don't wipe them off, because that will smear glue along the wood and ruin your staining or painting, since it will prevent either one from penetrating the wood. Wait until the glue is quite dry, and then chip off the beads with a chisel or scraper.
How to Select the Right Wood for the Job
It is important to select the right wood for your project, whatever it is. Most plans will tell you what sort of lumber is required, but you still have to select it from the lumber store. When choosing your lumber, try and avoid lengths with a great many knots. While some may increase the visual appeal, they do tend to weaken the lumber, so if your project is one where strength is required more than looks, keep away from knots as much as possible. Splits will only widen if they are left in lumber, so it is essential to cut off that part - or better still, avoid it - as it will likely be wasted.
You don't want a length of lumber that is bowed, either. If you hold a piece of lumber on its edge and sight down the length with one eye closed, you'll be able to see whether it is straight or curved. Don't allow anyone else to choose your lumber for you, unless they are an expert and have your interests at heart. Some salesmen will try and push a piece of inferior wood off on anyone they think doesn't know the difference.
Lumbers are graded into either select or common. The select grade is mostly free from blemishes. It is used when the finished project needs to have a beautiful finish. It is much more expensive than the common grade.
Another point to take into consideration is whether the project is for outside use or inside. Outdoor furniture is best made in hardwood for durability. There is a lot of effort required for an outdoors project and you don't want it to fall to pieces in a year of two simply because the lumber was more suited to indoors. Many people consider pine to be useful for patio or external furniture, but it will rot and warp very quickly if left out in the weather. A wall shelf or a jewelry box will not require the strength or weight of lumber that is more suited to outdoors use.
Hardwood is often used for furniture due to the attractive grain patterns it has. Softwood is often used for frames and trusses in building. Contrary to the name, most softwood is actually stronger or as strong as hardwood. Pine is often preferred for an indoor project because it is easy to cut and sand and since it is light in color will stain readily.
Poplar is a dense wood with few pores so it has a very smooth finish that enhances paint, while birch wood is hard to nail and unevenly colored after staining. Redwoods are resistant to rot and decay so they are a natural choice for exterior projects.
How to Use and Benefit from Clamps
Clamps have a number of applications in woodworking. Most times when adhesives are used for joints, they need to be clamped for 24 hours or so while the adhesive cures. It's handy to clamp a piece that needs drilling to your workbench to prevent movement while you drill it. There are many different types of clamps with a variety of uses. A wise woodworker will have several in his workshop.
Bar and pipe clamps are the most versatile to have and suitable for heavy to moderate jobs. You buy the head and tailstock separately from the pipe so that you can get the length you desire. Place the pieces to be clamped between the jaws of the clamp and rotate the adjusting cranks to snug it up.
A bar clamp is more useful for those lighter, smaller jobs. While similar to a pipe clamp, it uses a metal bar instead of a pipe. You don't have to buy the bar separately as it is sold as a unit. You may need more than one clamp to apply all the pressure needed in some jobs. Or you may prefer to use a belt clamp which is especially useful for such things as picture frames, where you need pressure on all four corners at the same time.
A spring clamp is a less expensive alternative for light clamping jobs; get a pair to start with and more if you use them a lot. If you run out of clamps, you can sometimes use a heavy weight instead. If you happen to have a spare weightlifting weight around use that, or even a container filled with wet sand. Keeping old (large) paint tins full of sand is a good idea, especially if you glue large areas.
Corner clamps are considered a necessity of life in a workshop; you'll need four to start with and then you can add by pairs if you want more. Vice Grip "C" clamps are an excellent investment and you will probably find yourself using them all the time, so stock up on them. They are used for holding anything together at right angles.
Don't buy cheap plastic clamps; they may just happen to come unstuck before the glue has cured. On the other hand you don't have to pay a fortune for them either. Choosing a moderately priced clamp should get you one (or more) that will work just fine and last for years.
Clamps come in all different sizes; experts advise choosing the larger ones as tiny clamps have limited use.
How to Work Out Your Project Budget
When estimating a cost for your woodworking project, you need to make a list of everything you need. This will include the lumber you will be using. Find out what kind of lumber it is to be made from as the different kinds vary in price and availability. If an expensive lumber is suggested, it could probably be changed for something less expensive.
The next thing to list is the hardware. Will your project require nuts and bolts? Or it is a more delicate piece that needs nails or screws? You may need hinges or locks if it is to be a box of some kind. If you are planning to make something with a mirror or glass in it, don't forget to add that cost to the total. You may also need extra hardware like special screws and wire to hang it with.
Don't forget that all-important part - the finish. This could be stain and varnish, lacquer or paint. Or it may be an oil finish. Don't forget those little extras such as sandpaper and you may even need a special tool that you don't yet have. And what about the plans; can you get them for free or will you need to pay for them? Plans often have a list of everything you need to complete a project.
Once you've got your list, work out which stores you will purchase from. It's a good idea to do a bit of price comparison here. Some stores may have just what you need at a lower price. You may also get a discount for buying in bulk and this can be good if it is something you'll be using a lot of. But while larger cans of finish or paint may work out cheaper, if you don't plan on using a lot it could spoil before it's used up.
If you have the expertise and tools to cut the lumber you need from one larger piece, it will almost certainly be cheaper to buy it that way. Some wholesalers may offer a free cutting service, but most don't. You may need to buy it pre-cut and pay the extra. If you are not sure how much you'll need, err on the side of getting too much. Leftover scraps are seldom wasted. Even if they are tiny, you could still make sanding blocks from them.
So make up your list and take it around to the appropriate stores. Then list all the prices side by side. You could also check prices of online stores.
Measure Twice, Cut Once - Tips for Making the Right Cut
Cutting is an integral part of woodworking - and the place where the most mistakes can be made. The old adage, "Measure Twice Cut Once" is good advice. It basically means that if you have measured the thing twice you are less likely to make the cut in the wrong position.
One good tip for making sure you cut the right piece out of dovetails or similar joints is to shadow the waste area with pencil or chalk crosses. This is handy if you are easily distracted or likely to be interrupted, after which it is fatally easy to lose track of exactly what you were doing. It goes without saying that you keep your chisels and other cutting blades in good cutting order. It's easy to ruin a cut if your tools are blunt. In some cases the wrong cut is made because of cheap and shoddy tools. For instance, you cannot expect to make perfect miters if you've used a cheap plastic miter box and saw.
When cutting mortises into furniture legs that are turned or tapered, do it before shaping them. If it is done while the stock is still square edged all the way down, it is far easier to make accurate measurements.
When you are cutting with a saw, remember that the width of the cut - called the kerf - will make your cut inaccurate unless you allow for it. This means that when you start the cut, you should do so from the waste side of the project. Imagine cutting with scissors along a thick black line on paper. Do you cut on the inside or the outside of the line? The difference can be two or three millimeters, enough to ruin any accurate measurements that are needed. It's the same with the saw, except that it is the width of the saw you need to watch rather than the width of the line.
To make the right cut you need to use the right tool. Each type of saw is used for a different type of cutting job. Cutting across the grain of the lumber requires a crosscut saw, while a ripsaw is used to cut along the grain. The thin, flexible blade of a coping saw is good for cutting shapes, as is a keyhole saw. But the coping saw is able to turn in its own kerf, which the keyhole saw can't do. Very often clamping the stock to prevent any movement will ensure an accurate cut.
Protecting Surfaces with Top Coats
No matter what project you are painting, the final coat is the one that receives all the wear and tear, so what can you do to protect it? After all your hard work, you don't want it to become chipped or worn. Mostly the topcoat you've just painted on will be sufficiently durable, but in some cases a transparent finish over the topcoat is advisable. You may also want to use a transparent topcoat not because it is needed for durability, but because you want that particular area to look shiny.
Living areas that have lots of hard use such as informal eating areas or even a child's bedroom or play area may need a transparent finish for protection of the painted surfaces. Faux marble or wood grain finishes always require a transparent coat over them to enhance their visual appeal and give depth and realism to the grain.
Clear topcoats come in a range of gloss, semi-gloss, or non-gloss finishes. They can be water or oil/alkyd based. Your choice will be determined on how much shine you want on the area to be painted. Remember that gloss will reveal imperfections, so if your wall has been painted to hide some kind of flaw, think twice about using a transparent finish on it.
There is one major problem with using a transparent finish over your painted item. Most of the finishes will go yellow with age. Therefore, if your project is white or some other light color, the yellowing will be quite obvious. Strangely enough, it's the alkyd based finishes that are more prone to yellowing than the water-based ones, but they all do it to some extent. The amount of yellowing varies considerable between brands and types, so getting advice from your dealer is a good idea.
Varnish is a popular choice for a transparent finish, but it does yellow quite visibly with age. This may not matter if the color underneath is dark or tones in with the yellow, but it will certainly affect it eventually. Marine varnish is the worst culprit, so never use it - except for marine applications.
Polyurethane can be thinned with mineral spirits and can go over all paints except artists?oils. It yellows less than varnish but will still be visible over your whites and pale colors. Acrylic varnish is one that yellows the least, but cannot be used over oil-based paints. A brush will leave marks so apply with a roller.
Refined white beeswax makes an excellent transparent finish, but is quite labor-intensive to apply. Use a cloth and rub and buff until you drop, then reapply it at regular intervals. Is all that work worth it? Opinions vary, but it does give a lustrous finish.
Safety Tips and Tools for the Workshop
One of the most important aspects of woodworking is safety. Injuries in the workshop can happen and unless you are prepared for them and take steps to minimize their risk, you can suffer nasty consequences. One of the most important things to wear is safety glasses. You should put them on as you walk into your workshop and leave them on for the whole time you are working in there. Eyesight is the most precious thing we have so don't take risks with it.
Hearing protection is the next most important thing, but you don't need to wear earplugs all the time, just when you are using the router or other tools that are very noisy. Make sure you get good quality ones that do the job of protecting your hearing. A dust mask is also necessary for when fine sawdust is flying around in the air. Using certain finishes also requires a mask to prevent the inhalation of harmful fumes. Wearing latex gloves when using finishes is also a good safety measure.
If you do a great deal of sawing or woodturning on a lathe, a good safety investment is a dust extractor. Like a giant vacuum -cleaner, you can hook it up to be used on several machines, such as your planer/thicknesser and band saw as well as the lathe. Other safety measures in the workshop include: -
- Safe storing of electric cords while in use. If they have to be where you must walk, cover them with a light mat so you don't trip over them.
- Wear clothing that is safe. This means that it should not be loose enough to get caught in a saw blade, so even if you wear a proper work shirt, you must keep it buttoned up. Long sleeves should have close-fitting cuffs, and long trousers are preferable to shorts.
- Never drink alcohol or use drugs whilst on the job. Power tools need to be handled by someone with a clear and alert mind.
- It's much easier to do woodworking with all ten fingers intact, so be sure to disconnect the electricity before changing blades or bits. Don't just switch it off; switches can malfunction or get bumped.
- Tools should be kept clean and sharp. A dull tool can more easily bind and kick back, causing painful jolts to the wrist and even worse injuries.
- Never put your hands near the moving blade of a saw to remove cut-offs. Wait until the blade is still and the power off. Better still knock it away with another piece of lumber rather than your hand.
- Never let children play in the workshop when you are working.
Sanding and Shaping Your Project
Once you have created a beautiful project, you will need to sand it to get a smooth finish and in some cases to get the shape just right. Sanding removes excess material by the process of rubbing something hard and gritty across the surface of the lumber. Sandpaper is the medium by which this is done. Sanding gives a smooth finish that is then enhanced with oil, stain or paint.
Sandpaper comes in various grades of coarse and fine. 60 grit is very coarse sandpaper and should be the first choice to use when the project is still quite rough. In fact you may not need one that coarse, depending on what the project is. 1500 grit is the smoothest sandpaper and is used for finishing the project. If you use it to start with, it will take an age to get rid of those big rough spots. Most woodworkers use several different grades of sandpaper on a project, starting from the coarser and gradually working up to the finer grade.
Sandpaper needs to be securely taped to a sanding block of some kind and these can be bought, but are easy enough to make from a block of scrap lumber. Choose a piece that fits your hand comfortably so that you'll have better control whilst sanding. It's good to have several blocks of varying sizes for sanding different parts of the project. If you have an area that is hard to get at or an awkward shape, then a smaller block would be more suitable than a larger one. Make sure the sanding surface of the block is smooth and free from bumps.
If the lumber you are using is very fine and soft like balsa, the coarser sandpaper may tear pieces out of it, so you should start off with a slightly finer grade. When sanding you should mostly sand in the direction of the grain and it is important to go easy on the pressure. Using too much pressure will cause the wood to heat and the grain will swell. The result will be waves and warps in the wood.
Instead, let the sandpaper do all the work and change it frequently. Used sandpaper will not do its job and will cause you to press harder to get the desired result. The idea is to have several blocks with fresh sandpaper in them all ready to go, and then you don't have to stop to replace the one you're using.
Much sanding can be done by machine of course, but for that last bit of finishing, hand sanding is better.
Stationary Power Tools - Are You Ready for Them?
Stationary power tools are the next step up from portable power tools. They are heavier and stronger, with much more power and are designed to sit in the one place on their own stand, rather than be carried to the task. Or at least that's how they were originally designed, but these days many have been put on a wheeled frame so they can still have a certain amount of mobility. A handyman can make a wheeled frame for those tools that don't come on one, but if the tool has a high center of gravity, it's best to leave it without wheels or it could topple over.
How do you know whether you need stationary power tools or if you should stick to the portable ones? A lot depends on what type of woodworking you intend to do. If you only intend to do the occasional handyman's job, it would not be worth the expense of getting stationary tools. You may not even have the space to house and use them.
But for someone who intends to do a great deal of woodworking and has the space, it is probably a good investment to get at least some stationary power tools. Bench or other stationary saws do a much more accurate cut than any portable or hand saw could possible do, especially over a long distance.
The beauty of portable power tools is that you can take them to the task in hand, so if you are renovating your home, you would still need portable power tools to use in whatever room you were renovating, and will probably use them a great deal more than stationary ones.
The pros of stationary power tools are: -
- They have more power.
- They are often more accurate, so do a better job.
- They will last longer.
- They are easier to use in that you don't have to hold the weight of them.
The cons of stationary power tools are: -
- They take up more space in the workshop.
- They are more expensive.
- They cannot be taken out of the workshop.
- They are heavy to move - almost impossible to move unless they have wheels.
Probably the two most used stationary power tools would be the saw and the drill press, so if you are considering stationary power tools, one or both of these would probably be the best to start with. To decide, you still have to take a good look at the type of woodworking you will be doing. That said, having some stationary power tools might be just the thing to encourage your love of woodworking.
Tips for Keeping Your Tools Sharp and Clean
Once you get into using your woodworking tools a lot it won't be long before they don't seem to work as well as they once did. The problem will be that they are now blunt. Since it is almost impossible to create any project satisfactorily with blunt tools, you must learn how to sharpen them. But don't panic; it's quite easy.
There are three methods you can use and each one is quite good, but it will depend on how much time and money you have to spend.
The first method is hand sharpening. It is the cheapest and when done properly is an excellent - if slow - method of sharpening tools. If it is done incorrectly it will give you edges that are not much better than when you started. Our grandfathers probably had these skills, but they were not always past down to later generations.
You'll need a bench top grinder-sharpener with several white aluminum oxide wheels of 60 and 100 grit. The aluminum oxide wheels don't overheat and spoil the tools like the other types. After you've given your tools a blast on the grinder, use water stones to finish them off. These come in various grades of grit and you'll need them all so you can work your way through from coarse to fine. A honing guide is also a good investment to keep your hand steady and at the correct angle.
If this sounds like too much work, you can go to the second option and purchase a blade sharpener for under $300. Choose a reputable brand like Makita or Scheppach. These use water feed to keep the blades cool and can sharpen a wide range of tools and blades up to 15 inches long. A blade holder comes as standard equipment, but you still have to hold the blade against a slow-running wheel.
The Tormek Sharpening System is the most expensive, but the best when you have many tools to sharpen - or just like to use the best product you can get. The quiet motor is virtually vibration free and the slow-turning wheel gives complete control over every aspect of honing and sharpening almost every tool you could think of. There are many accessories that come with the Tormek System, but you will have to buy extra jigs for those things like scissors, short and long knives, axes, planer/joiner blades and turning tools.
Tips for Organizing Your Workspace
No matter where you do your woodworking, you need to have the area well organized, both for safety and ease of use. This means you need to have storage that is easy to access, otherwise you'll end up not using it. If you find yourself placing tools where they are convenient to get at, instead of away on the shelf or cupboard, consider moving the storage area to a more convenient location.
Fishing tackle boxes are great for storing small items and power tool accessories. Label them clearly so you don't have to waste time rummaging. Small jars can be used to store different sized nails and screws. They can be kept in a spice rack or nail the lids to the underside of a shelf, then you can easily see what's in them, and all you need do is unscrew the jar from the lid. Pegboards will hold many tools in a way that keeps them easy to see and access. Make use of the walls for storage. Often two or three nails on the wall will hold awkward stuff up out of the way. If you have lots of extension cords, use a garden hose-reel to store them on.
Paint cans take up lots of room, so if you have several that are less that half full, you could tip them into something smaller. Make sure you label anything that you decant into another container, so you don't forget what it is. Sandpaper can be stored in a folder, the various grades separated for ease of use. Paintbrushes can be stored upside down in a jar or tin. If you have one large enough to replace the lid without bending the bristles, it will keep dust out of them.
Have plenty of trashcans around so that you won't be tempted to throw rubbish onto the floor where it can pose a trip hazard. Keep dustpans and brushes by your saw bench for quick clean-ups.
Place your most-used workbench where the natural light is best. Otherwise make sure your artificial light source is in the right place. Eyestrain and a shoddy job will be the result if you cannot see properly. Keep safety equipment like goggles in a place near to where you will be using them. This makes it convenient to use and reminds you to use them.
Spend the last ten minutes of your woodworking time in cleaning up and putting your tools away. That way you'll keep on top of the natural mess that accumulates while you are working.
Tools and Habits for Keeping Your Workspace Clean
A clean workspace is a safe workspace and this is so important in a woodworking space that it bears repeating. If your workspace is a jumbled mess of sawdust and dirty tools and equipment, you'll never be able to make anything in a satisfactory manner because you won't be able to find the tools for it, and there will be no cleared area to start working on when you do find them. Besides, you'll probably take one look at the mess and decide to do something else.
Keeping the place free from dust and dirt will ensure that the finish of your project will not be ruined by small particles of dust adhering to it whilst it's still wet. It will also be a healthier place to work as you won't be inhaling dust or getting fine particles into your eyes.
If your workspace is clean to start with and all your tools stored within easy reach, you'll be delighted to go into the workshop and complete a project with the joy it deserves. Good storage is essential. A pegboard on the wall will keep many of your hand tools within easy reach and view.
Labeled storage tins or clear jars are the next essential. If they are lined up at eyelevel on your shelf, then there will be no trouble in finding what you want. Brushes and brooms within handy reach are essential too, and if you get into the habit of sweeping up your mess at the end of every day, it won't get on top of you. If you do lots of woodworking, an electric dust extractor would be a good investment. A wet-dry vacuum cleaner doesn't cost much either and will help make your job easier.
Another good workshop habit is to put tools away when you have finished using them. This will ensure that you have plenty of cleared space to continue working, rather than tripping over tools that are not in use. It will save you stepping on power cords, too. When tools are put away, they are more likely to last a longer time, as no untoward accident will befall them. It's quite easy to spill or splash paints and finish while you are using them and these things can damage tools and cause them to work at a substandard level.
Cleaning the tools themselves will keep them in good working order too. Always make sure they are well lubricated so they are not susceptible to rust and wear.
Where to Get Your Woodworking Materials and Tools
There are a number of different places where you can source your woodworking materials. The first place that springs to mind is the local handyman store. For a good variety of hand and power tools that you pick up, look at and discuss with the salesman, your local store is hard to beat. Many salesmen are experienced in the use of tools and equipment, so they are able to advise you what to buy if you are somewhat inexperienced.
If you have someone else to advise you or consider yourself to be experienced enough not to need advice, then you may want to consider shopping online. There are many Internet woodworking sites that also sell both tools and other materials. Some specialize in just selling various exotic woods - great for that jewelry box, while other may sell antique - or more ordinary, hand or power tools. Online shopping may offer you the opportunity to purchase lumber or tools that are not available locally.
A woodworking club is another place from which you may be able to source products. When many woodworkers get together and decide they all want a specific tool or finish for the project they intend to make, stores are often willing to give them a discount for quantity. Apart from that, you'll be able to get lots of advice and experience from your local woodworking club.
Woodworking clubs may sometimes be able to source raw lumber that a lone woodworker could miss. People who want to get rid of trees or old lumber may contact them, so the club can buy it and each member has the opportunity of then purchasing a smaller amount from the club.
Watch out for a wood expo or working with wood show in your area. Not only will you have fun, but you'll also see the latest inventions in the tool world and very often they will be offered at a good discount as a promotion. Better still, their use is often demonstrated, so you can see at a glance how they should be set up and used. Discounts are sometimes offered on tools just before a new one that is similar, comes out. This is a good time to buy. There is nothing wrong with the tool being offered at a discount; the retailers just want to move it before they receive their new stock.
Recycling places may have used lumber and tools that are still quite good. These will often have come from deceased estates and in some cases can have years of use left in them. Builders often dump perfectly good lumber that has been left over from a completed job. It's really worthwhile keeping your eyes open to get this stock, as it will be at bargain prices.
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