This is just a list of rules that I have either come across or thought of for myself that I need to keep in mind at all times when (trying to) do fine woodworking. This list is mostly for my own reference, and in no way to be considered exhaustive, but rather to be added to and updated as I continue to learn. If you fine folks reading it have suggestions to add, or strongly disagree with something I have on here, feel free to leave a comment! I’m here to learn.
1. Keep grain orientation in mind at all times. When you’re laying out parts, when you’re marking out, when you’re planing, etc. This includes making sure your cross-grain orientations are reversed when gluing up panels for tabletops, benchtops, etc.
2. Corollary to #1, especially pay close attention to grain orientation when planing. If you’re not sure what direction the grain is running, take a light test shaving, and be prepared to turn the workpiece or plane from the opposite direction.
3. Secure workholding is essential. If your workpiece is sliding around, you can’t do good work on it, and you may have a safety issue as well. Put it in a vice, clamp it between dogs, secure it with a batten, hell, nail or screw it down if you have to, but get that sucker attached to your bench so it’s like they’re one solid, immovable piece.
4. Plan your order of operations in advance, in order to ensure maximum efficiency, reduce the possibility of critical errors the further along you go, and to forestall cosmetic damage once you’re in the sanding and finishing stages.
1. Get out all your tools. You’re going to end up using them all anyway, so you might as well get them all out now. This was my dad’s first rule for doing any project, and, to my mother’s considerable chagrin, I have found it to be universally true. I do try, however, not to follow his example in “never putting anything away.” I have found that doesn’t work so good.
2. Do your layout for all pieces, keeping grain appearance, direction and orientation in the final piece in mind.
3. Perform all gross dimensioning operations – ripping, thicknessing, cutting to length.
4. Plane all pieces straight, smooth and square. They don’t need to be smooth enough to finish, but get them essentially flat and square.
5. Glue up any sub-assemblies that need to be glued, such as panels, tabletops, etc.
6. Do your marking out for such pieces as you can, keeping in mind that quality woodworking often means doing direct measurement or gang-cutting of parts. Begin with the most critically dimensioned pieces first, and work your way to the least critical.
7. Cut your joints – mortises, tenons, rabbets, laps, tongue and grooves, dovetails, grooves for panels, etc.
8. Do a test assembly.
9. Perform any decorative operations – beading, reeding, making moldings, carving, etc. If you screw a piece up, easier to replace it before you’ve glued up the workpiece.
10. Do any final smoothing and/or sanding.
11. Stain, if staining.
12. Test assemble, then glue up.
14. Install hardware, if applicable.
5. Perform operations on the back side of workpieces first, then flip them over and work on the front. That way, if there’s some sawdust or a stray nailhead, grit, stain, whatever on your work surface, it’ll mark the back of your work instead of the face. Better to keep your work surface scrupulously clean, of course, but Murphy never sleeps.
-- I have no idea what I'm doing.