A Woodworker's Bag of Tricks

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Darrell Peart posted 03-23-2011 09:18 PM 5680 reads 13 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In woodworking, there is much to be learned from books. But not all knowledge is to be found there. Many “tricks of the trade” never make it to print, but instead, exist as sort of a vernacular knowledge base that is conveyed from person to person “on the job”.
Adding to my “woodworking bag of tricks “has been a lifelong pursuit. I have never reached a point, nor will I ever, where I can say “I know it all”. What I can say is “This is the best way I know at this time, until I discover or learn a better way”
Every new woodworking acquaintance presents an opportunity to trade tricks and mutually advance. Many years ago, I had the very good fortune to work alongside a couple of extremely knowledgeable and skilled woodworkers. There was nothing these two guys could not do, and do exceptionally well – it was enough to give me an inferiority complex. I made a point to glean whatever information I could from them. At first, I was surprised when they were doing the same to me: constantly picking my brain. But after some thought, I realized this is how they got as good as they are. They were open and eager for knowledge at every opportunity. It was not just me adding to my bag of tricks, they were doing the same as well.
It’s the intermingling of woodworkers that keeps tricks circulating and alive. Early in my career I did not realize this on a conscious level, but used it to my advantage nonetheless. When a new employee would come into the shop, I would introduce myself and ask right away “what kind of woodworking have you been doing”? I was not trying to be nosy – I was on fire to learn and the new guy was potential fresh fodder in that regard.
Back then , I would also regularly apply for woodworking jobs, which I had no intention of taking. Typically, the shop in question was known for something that fascinated me and I wanted to learn how they did it. The interview (almost) always included a shop tour in which I would ask a variety of questions, trying not to sound as though I was on an espionage mission (which I was).
Writing and teaching has, not surprisingly, been a great source for adding to my bag of tricks. Although I am supposed to be the one teaching, it often goes the other way as well, with me on the learning end of the equation. This is especially true when I travel to somewhere new.
Earlier this month I made my first trip to the Northeast to teach at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. The northeast has a different woodworking tradition than the west coast, and therein exists a great opportunity for the exchange of ideas.
Upon arrival, Bob Van Dyke, (founder and director of the school) greeted me. I soon realized, (although it was not stated) Bob and I were both on the same mission: to add to our respective bags of tricks. As I unpacked my jigs for the upcoming class, Bob was eager to learn how they worked. When I asked about a router bit for one of my setups, Bob (with a smile) pulls out a bottom bearing flush trim spiral bit – and waits for my response. It took a double take and a few extra nanoseconds for it to hit. For some time I had wanted just such a bit for flush trimming (greatly reduces blowout) when using a router table.
The bit is not an “off the shelf “product, but its individual components are. Bob gives credit for idea to Will Neptune, who regularly teaches at the school. This is vernacular woodworking at its best: ideas that are freely passed from one person to another.

In that spirit, I now pass this trick on to you:

Bit : Onsrud ¾” spiral bit #40-141
Bearings: (2 each) Whiteside B19 ¾” OD , ½’ ID
Bearing Stop Collar: Whiteside LC-1/2

May you freely give and take in the exchange of new ideas – may your bag of tricks forever grow and overflow.

-- Darrell Peart - Seattle - - author G&G Design Elements for the Workshop

10 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#1 posted 03-23-2011 09:22 PM

Thanks Darrell Many woodworkers don’t share tips . It’s great to someone with your expertise pass them on. Thanks so much. I learned many things with your post. Need any help ? ( an espionage mission) :))

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View degoose's profile


7234 posts in 3378 days

#2 posted 03-23-2011 10:15 PM

I too am eager to trade ideas with every one I meet…Thanks for the insight.

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 2964 days

#3 posted 03-23-2011 10:25 PM

Nice post! In my opinion woodworkers who do not freely share knowledge, tips and tricks are not true woodworkers; we have to keep the craft alive and pass along and gain knowledge. This is one of the things about the game we play that I like; there is ALWAYS something new to learn, one lifetime is not enough.
By the way, I’ve always said that about the only difference between a pro and an amateur, is that the pro has a bigger bag of tricks!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View MShort's profile


1790 posts in 3442 days

#4 posted 03-23-2011 11:25 PM

Thanks a bunch for the info.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 3760 days

#5 posted 03-23-2011 11:41 PM

Thanks Darrell for the tip. Much appreciated .

Have you tried this setup with a climb cut? Or does it seem to work tight curves (opposite grain) OK?

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4424 days

#6 posted 03-23-2011 11:42 PM

Thanks for the tip. I’ve been using a bit that has a slight spiral but not as much as the one you showed. A great looking bit.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Darrell Peart's profile

Darrell Peart

362 posts in 3612 days

#7 posted 03-24-2011 12:17 AM

Thanks everyone-
Jim – just one of the many hats we woodworkers have to wear – that of secret agent!

John – as long as the bit is good and sharp there should be no need to climb cut.

-- Darrell Peart - Seattle - - author G&G Design Elements for the Workshop

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3768 days

#8 posted 03-24-2011 01:24 AM

Several years ago there was a lot of tip and tricks sharing-

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3139 days

#9 posted 03-24-2011 04:06 AM

thank´s for the tip and the blog to it :-) not that I´m into electronkillers for now
but you never know and if the day come .. I hope the brain will remember this :-)

take care

Ps. you are now under hypnose …. empty your bag and fill ours ….. lol

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2716 days

#10 posted 03-30-2011 07:53 AM

Well done Darrell. And so ture. Thanks for the router bit photo/info, I’v been wanting something like that. Now if I could get a bit that cuts cleaner rabbets longer. I just got a whiteside catalog from my sharpening guy, maybe I’ll find someting in there.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics