Anybody else find the term “woodworker” a little too simplified?
Three years ago, I get a thought in my head. “It would be cool to make my own furniture, toys, and items for the house..” So the tool purchases start. I pick up a mitersaw, table saw, router, drill, the basic power tools. Five minutes after I start, the next thought in my head “I would like to cut one board that is somewhat square looking…” And thats when it really begins…
You start to learn that boards are not square at the get-go and all the cutting against a fence isn’t going to fix that. No problem, just learn how to straighten the board. Well, then you get into jointers and planers. Can’t afford them? No problem, just learn how to use your router to flatten or joint a board. Takes more time, but it can be done. Or you could look into hand planes. Of course you have your scrub plane, your block plane, your jointer, your shoulder plane, and a whole slew of others. They cost a good deal of money also, but you might find them used. If you go that route, be prepared to learn how to remove rust. You might try electrolyisis, chemical treatments, good ole elbow grease and wd40. Better learn how to flatten that sole. If the sole isn’t flat, then all of that rust removal is for naught. Unless you start out flat or square, you are never going to get flat or square. Of course you will have to sharpen the blades, so you will have to look at grinding, scary sharp sanding, sharpening stones. Oh yeah, sharpening stones, well are you going to go with oilstones or waterstones? Are you going to use a jig or are you man/woman enough to try it freehand? If you go with grinding, make sure you keep the blade cool, or you are going to lose the temper. Oh, you don’t know what temper is? Don’t worry, you will soon learn all about the metallurgical arts my friend.
Well now you have that board flat, how are you going to cut it? You say, “No problem, I will just get a tablesaw…” Ok, are you going to get a contractor saw, cabinet saw, or benchtop saw? Better check them miter slots and make sure they are standard. Expect to spend some time making adjustments to make sure the blade is square to the slots and to the fence. Might want to check your electricity out. Do you have a 220 circuit? If not, count out that cabinet saw. How many amps does that machine use. Do you have a dedicated circuit so you don’t blow those fuses? What blade you using? Crosscut, Rip, or combo? What is the tooth count? Going to go zero clearance so that you don’t get chip out? Did you get a thin kerf blade so your saw doesn’t bog down with denser woods? Are you thinking about cutting Dados? Might need a stacked Dado blade set. And that, my friend, will lead you down a whole different road.
What? You don’t know what a Dado is? Oh, those are slots cut into the wood so you can put in shelves and stuff. Of course you have to make them tight, but not too tight to allow wood movement. That my friend is a whole alchemy in itself. I won’t call it science because wood is different. It moves, twists, cups. If you find two pieces that act exactly the same, give me a call because I want to write that one for the history books. Of course, aside from dados, there are rabbets (no, not those cute furry critters in the yard), miters, splines, and tenons. Better get yourself a good set of chisels, you will need those to clean those cuts out. Of course you will learn that there are butt chisels, paring chisels, bench chisels, mortising chisels, and lets not forget those Japanese chisels that are all the rage now. Of course you can always go the handsaw route, nothing to it. There are dovetail saws, rip saws, crosscut saws, tenoning saws, and you will spend a good deal of time checking teeth configurations to make sure it matches the types of cuts you want to make.
Want to put those boards together? Get familar with dovetails, box joints, miter joints, mortise and tenon joints. And then you have to fasten them. Are you going to use yellow or white glue? Type I, II, or III? Consider that hide glue and don’t shy away from CA glue. You know, super glue, that stuff that sticks your fingers together or glues your hand to the parts you are working on. And there are mechanical fasteners like nails or screws. Of course you will be spending hours online learning about square heads, philip heads, flat, and round heads. Learning how to drive that baby without ripping its head off or stripping it down to nothing. Then you have to hide them by learning how to countersink and plug them.
Fortunately sanding is no problem. Unless of course you have options like hand sanding, power sanding with belts or orbital sanders. Better learn them grits as well. Not to mention you are going to spend lots of time wondering what type of backing and grade you are using. Want to get those tricky corners? Get them contoured or convex grips. Of course you can always learn how to use a card scraper and cut the sanding down a little.
Want to finish it? No problem. Are you going with paint or stain? With paint, you can choose oil or acryllic, thin washes or just slab it on. Make sure you use a primer. Want to stain? Waterbase, oil, or gel? Might want to try shelac or boiled linseed oil. Of course, every wood is different. Some don’t stain real well and might need a wood conditioner. Are you going to put a top coat on it? Polyurethane maybe? Well, there is satin, semi gloss, and gloss.
Of course, we haven’t covered scrollsawing, wood turning, band saws, routers, etc. I will give you a few minutes to catch your breath on that one. And, in all honesty, we only scratched the surface of the items mentioned already.
Still want to be a woodworker?
You will never get bored with the boards. And while you are learning your chemistry, metallurgy, biology, mechanics, etc., learn to smile real pretty when someone asks you what you do for a “hobby” and you are forced to reply “I am a woodworker…”
-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.