All Replies on If you could tell a rookie woodworker anything...

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View Minion's profile

If you could tell a rookie woodworker anything...

by Minion
posted 01-10-2012 12:43 AM

36 replies so far

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 1957 days

#1 posted 01-10-2012 01:00 AM

Mine would be never forget where you are and what you are doing when in the shop. Accidents happen quickly.

-- Life is good.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51451 posts in 2514 days

#2 posted 01-10-2012 01:04 AM

Safety. That would be my lesson. I think safety is the most important thing you can keep in mind. Stay alert, use the proper safety glasses, hearing protection, and dust protection. Understand and use your tools properly. If you get hurt the hobby isnt quite as fun especially if its a permanent injury.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View doncutlip's profile


2832 posts in 2590 days

#3 posted 01-10-2012 01:04 AM

Howie is spot on, safety first.

-- Don, Royersford, PA

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 1454 days

#4 posted 01-10-2012 01:04 AM

I would say with my little experience so far, be prepared to be broke because it’s a slippery slope with the tool purchases! Haha!

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

View bigkev's profile


198 posts in 1662 days

#5 posted 01-10-2012 01:04 AM

+1 Howie. Buy the best quality tools you can afford as they will make your life easier – even if you have to buy used.

-- Kevin, South Carolina

View a1Jim's profile


113725 posts in 2611 days

#6 posted 01-10-2012 01:06 AM

Good point Wayne
Beyond saftey I would say go for it what ever your project might be.

-- Custom furniture

View DS's profile


2141 posts in 1454 days

#7 posted 01-10-2012 01:07 AM

Respect the tools. The moment you don’t, you’re new nickname becomes Stumpynubs or some such.

Also, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Doing it right usually takes only a little more effort and is always less effort than doing it twice.

Don’t be afraid to ask the right questions. The moment you assume something, you make an… well, you know what that means.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View RockyTopScott's profile


1184 posts in 2513 days

#8 posted 01-10-2012 01:14 AM

If you don’t have patience, get some.

-- “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” ― Thomas Sowell

View Don W's profile

Don W

16644 posts in 1602 days

#9 posted 01-10-2012 03:12 AM

I agree if you know exactly what you need, planing is key. However some of my best projects “just happened”.

This is a project that was an idea, but evolved. Sometimes its fun to just have fun.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View CharlieM1958's profile


16090 posts in 3252 days

#10 posted 01-10-2012 03:19 AM

Patience. See my signature line.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View HamS's profile


1648 posts in 1423 days

#11 posted 01-10-2012 03:37 AM

I echo the safety first. Establish the habits of being safe and do not deviate. The other thing is to quit when you start screwing things up. Come back to it tomorrow and chances are the problem will look very different.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View bent's profile


311 posts in 2703 days

#12 posted 01-10-2012 03:40 AM

plan your work, work your plan

View Joe's profile


185 posts in 2427 days

#13 posted 01-10-2012 03:47 AM

Measure twice cut once, or in my case measure three times.

-- Senior Chief

View Dave's profile


35 posts in 2049 days

#14 posted 01-10-2012 03:52 AM

Slow down! I get in a groove and then find I forgot to add that half inch for the tenon and cut my peice too short. Damn that sucks! Now I try to make a cut list and check it like ten times.

View Manitario's profile


2386 posts in 1917 days

#15 posted 01-10-2012 03:59 AM

Resist the urge to buy a bunch of tools that you think you might need. Wait until you get some experience and you’ll be more informed in your tool decisions. I bought a bunch of different tools when I first started and as I’ve gathered more experience I’ve needed to “upgrade” many of them.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


12033 posts in 1652 days

#16 posted 01-10-2012 04:23 AM

‘Stay away from the Off-Topic forums on LJs.’


-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View WorkTheWood's profile


35 posts in 1434 days

#17 posted 01-10-2012 04:26 AM

Some great advice in here for a brand-new woodworker like me.

-- -- Lou Stagner

View foneman's profile


111 posts in 3129 days

#18 posted 01-10-2012 04:29 AM

Don’t get blood on the wood!!!

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 1710 days

#19 posted 01-10-2012 04:45 AM

Learn how to sharpen chizels and planes really good. A sharp tool makes all the difference.

Avoid the urge to buy cheap power tools.

Make stuff for your wife and she won’t mind you buying more toys – uh, I mean tools.

View Tootles's profile


719 posts in 1536 days

#20 posted 01-10-2012 04:47 AM

Here’s a slightly unusual one that hasn’t been mentioned yet.

Get your feet positioned correctly.

Whether working by hand, in which case the “boxer’s” position is often best, or working on a machine, the way you position your feet can make a big difference to your comfort and balance, which leads to increased accuracy and safety.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2682 days

#21 posted 01-10-2012 04:57 AM

Read books.


View Gary's profile


8313 posts in 2467 days

#22 posted 01-10-2012 05:03 AM

I think everyone agrees that safety in number one. Next, I’d say to never stop challenging yourself. Never be satisfied with your skills. Try something new. Enjoy your accomplishments.

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View Cozmo35's profile


2199 posts in 2070 days

#23 posted 01-10-2012 05:08 AM


-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View Trackman's profile


53 posts in 1472 days

#24 posted 01-10-2012 05:21 AM

Prepare yourself mentally, see each step as it applies to the next step. But most of all, just have fun and don’t get discouraged. I’ve been so disgusted at myself for screwing up a project when I’m in the final stages, walk away from it for awile and your mind will figure out a way to get around the obstacle that your facing.

-- Trackman, Washington

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 3119 days

#25 posted 01-10-2012 05:38 AM

My ‘one thing’ would be: Heed the Little Voice. If something doesn’t feel right, stop and look it over again. Find a substitute method of operation or an alternative to doing the procedure. That intuitive little voice of warning has saved my bacon more times than I can tell.


View cabmaker's profile


1399 posts in 1843 days

#26 posted 01-10-2012 05:51 AM

Dont break the bank. Learn to use what you have. Learn it well, a few miortises with a screwdriver never hurt anyone. Learn and practice fundimentals well. Beware of all the mickey mouse gadgets. Stay with it till you work it out. Dont buy chinese unless absolutely neccessary. Limit your budget to about 4.50 on woodworking magazines, (I mean for life), I did buy one about 20 yrs ago,then looked through several recintly while at a bookstore to find that nothing had changed. Most of all Enjoy the journey. JB

View BentheViking's profile


1757 posts in 1598 days

#27 posted 01-10-2012 05:58 AM

Just about anything can be made out of wood…
And have fun
And do it your own way. Learn and let your hobby take you where you want to go with it.

And most importantly—never throw any scrap wood away because you’ll always have the perfect use for it next week.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 2316 days

#28 posted 01-10-2012 05:59 AM

Learn to sharpen and learn the importance of keeping the flat face of your tools and stones truly flat. Skip all the sharpening gimmicks but grinding is a critical skill needed to be able to quickly sharpen.

View cathyb's profile


757 posts in 2278 days

#29 posted 01-10-2012 07:38 AM

Wow, only one…hum. It is absolutely true that “haste makes waste”. Make sure that at every moment you are focused on the outcome. Take extra steps to avoid mistakes. Use chalk and lots of it (especially in different colors) to mark you wood for matching; for orientation- especially right versus left for mortising on legs (that’s another story!); to identify the parts of your pieces, etc. Before cutting on the saw, take a moment for a quick review of the cut. It takes less than a minute to push that board through the blade. It takes a whole lot of time to get back to were you started if you chop off to much, cut it too thin, cut the wrong board, you get where I’m going.
Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, I know from experience that rushing through something will cost you dearly.
That said, enjoy the ride! Never tire of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Make something that you aren’t sure that you can do. DO IT ANYWAY!!! We will be here to help if you need us. Cheers…......

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

View Popsnsons's profile


341 posts in 2016 days

#30 posted 01-10-2012 07:48 AM

Enjoy what you do.

-- Pops ~ In So Cal...

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 1674 days

#31 posted 01-10-2012 07:56 AM

Whatever you do, think it through (yes, planning I suppose). Mentally perform the task and “see” the outcome ahead of time, then the actual will improve.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

4493 posts in 2228 days

#32 posted 01-10-2012 08:21 AM

Just remember…..the most important tool in your shop is your BRAIN…!!! It’s not there just for a hat rack.

Watch your Ps & Qs, read books, ww magazines, watch videos, and obsorb the imformation, then practice on what you’ve learned…over and over and over…..Be alert, and pay attention to what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine…

-- " I don't makes my coffee spill...."

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


930 posts in 1389 days

#33 posted 01-10-2012 08:53 AM

I was working in a shop, and the foreman would constantly get annoyed at me, because I’d tell him, you’re going to run into a problem here. I thought even his steps through, to know how mine interrelated with his. Problem was, about 99% of the time, I was right. He had a seriously over-aggressive production mentality, and didn’t like to see people thinking about what they were doing for more than five seconds….

However, no matter how long you’ve been doing things, you’re not going to forsee everything, there can be microfractures in old salvaged wood not visible to the eye that are going to shatter when cut, details that don’t line up in your head…
When these things happen don’t panic, don’t assume it’s ruined, there are alot of guys out there that specialize in fixing mistakes, and the better you get at them, the less often you make them, there better you get. But even the most advanced master carpenters make mistakes, wether you see them or not.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View DaveHuber's profile


40 posts in 2151 days

#34 posted 01-10-2012 04:05 PM

Often, only you will notice mistakes in the final work.

Don’t panic in the event of the inevitable mistakes or mishaps.. Half the skill (and fun) is figuring out how to work around, incorporate or co-opt the inevitable flubs. Use it as a skill builder. You don’t have to abandon parts or projects that aren’t perfect. Just decide how to hide, adapt or adopt the problem. This is not an endorsement of sloppy or shoddy work. I’m just observing that you WILL make errors. Roll with it. Be resilient.

This fits in with a corollary. Don’t slavishly follow any plan. If you like different elements of several designs, incorporate the desirable and abandon the chaff. Make it your own.

And mark your work. Own it. Be proud of it. Even the less than perfect pieces.

And don’t be afraid to ask for help.

A second bit of advice: learn how to sharpen and maintain your tools and ACTUALLY DO IT. Problems often follow skipping the fundamentals.

BTW. Sandor Nagyszalanczy has a great book and several articles on fixing woodworking mistakes.

-- Dave, Oak Park, IL

View helluvawreck's profile


18714 posts in 1901 days

#35 posted 01-10-2012 04:21 PM

Don’t ever become a workaholic so that your hobby woodworking ends up being done in ‘stolen moments’. Make time for your family and make time to do the things that you love. You owe this to your family and to yourself. Don’t wait til you are in your fifties to build your shop. The younger that you start the better off you will be. Life is short – enjoy it.


-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2109 days

#36 posted 01-10-2012 06:34 PM

Learn and appreciate the role of hand tools. There is a place for hand tools and a place for power tools.

I was over-exposed to Norm in my early years. I greatly appreciate Norm for introducing me to woodworking but Norm has a power tool bias. Norm’s successor, Tommy Mac, has a much more balanced approach using both power and hand tools. I wish I had been exposed to that approach early on.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

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