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Transitioning from "rough builder" to "woodworker"?

by DerekJ
posted 02-08-2016 03:00 PM


28 replies so far

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TiggerWood

271 posts in 1421 days


#1 posted 02-08-2016 03:17 PM

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rwe2156

2689 posts in 1295 days


#2 posted 02-08-2016 03:39 PM

I would start by learning some basics like milling, joinery, etc.
You’ve got some rudimentary tools to start with but you’ll need some hand tools like chisels and planes.

There will be plenty of suggestions on that.

I would start by studying videos you can find them on YouTube or places like Fine WW’ing.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

4464 posts in 953 days


#3 posted 02-08-2016 03:52 PM

I think a good project to make the transition is to pick something simple and useful for your shop. Cabinet, tool stand, saw bench, step stool… whatever. Then find some plans, makes some plans or wing it as you prefer. Now, build it. But, it has to be solid and presentable. Also, you can’t use any nails or screws. For me, that was the point where I think I understood the real difference. Traditional joinery is better and stronger than fasteners in most cases for furniture and other “fine” woodworking. You’ll quickly learn that precision, well tuned tools and good stock preparation are key to obtaining the results you’re after.

Welcome to the rabbit hole:P

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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MadMark

979 posts in 1267 days


#4 posted 02-08-2016 04:37 PM

Incra

M

-- Madmark - Madmark2150@yahoo.com Wiretreefarm.com

View DerekJ's profile

DerekJ

98 posts in 702 days


#5 posted 02-08-2016 04:41 PM

Thanks for the replies so far! I plan to square up my table saw and miter saw as soon as I get home tonight – That should help me out quite a bit.

I do have a small 5 piece chisel set – nothing fancy – but I have used them a TON since I bought them. I almost wonder how I got by without them before!

I’ll look into some of the fundamental skills – specifically joinery – and try to complete Kenny’s challenge – I’ve wanted a stool for my bench for some time now. Is glue acceptable? And if so, does a basic Titebond I work okay for basic joining?

-- Derek ~ Omaha, NE

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CB_Cohick

483 posts in 1065 days


#6 posted 02-08-2016 04:55 PM



...
I ll look into some of the fundamental skills – specifically joinery – and try to complete Kenny s challenge – I ve wanted a stool for my bench for some time now. Is glue acceptable? And if so, does a basic Titebond I work okay for basic joining?

- DerekJ


Nails and screws are just devices to hold things in place until the glue dries :-)

-- Chris - Would work, but I'm too busy reading about woodwork.

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waho6o9

8009 posts in 2391 days


#7 posted 02-08-2016 05:03 PM

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HokieKen

4464 posts in 953 days


#8 posted 02-08-2016 05:05 PM



I ll look into some of the fundamental skills – specifically joinery – and try to complete Kenny s challenge – I ve wanted a stool for my bench for some time now. Is glue acceptable? And if so, does a basic Titebond I work okay for basic joining?

- DerekJ

Great choice for a first project. Won’t take forever, good confidence builder, and useful. Good luck and don’t hesitate to ask any questions!

I would put focus on mortise and tenon joints for a stool. Splaying the legs a bit will add stability and give you some good experience with mitering. And YES, glue is absolutely acceptable. Critical even. You’ll want to learn how to spread it properly and keep it from ruining your finish. In fact, when you get down to it, a lot of the motivation for the joinery we use is to maximize surface area for glue. Dovetails and box joints are beautiful joints. They also increase the strength of the joint by providing many times the glue contact area that a simple butt joint or even rabbet joint has.

Titebond 1 is fine as far as I know but I’ve never used it. I use TB2 unless there’s a need for waterproofing then I use TB3.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

14777 posts in 2433 days


#9 posted 02-08-2016 05:08 PM

... find some plans, makes some plans or wing it as you prefer. Now, build it. But, it has to be solid and presentable. Also, you can’t use any nails or screws. For me, that was the point where I think I understood the real difference…

- HokieKen

^ Amen to that!

The very first project I used rabbets and dado joints on -with no fasteners- was a cutoffs bin. To me, it was huge to create something so large and solid without using nails or screws. Frame and panel front, too. Using that build approach for shop-type furniture / cabinetry / workbench will kick your skillset up a notch.

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

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Dano46

81 posts in 2984 days


#10 posted 02-08-2016 06:02 PM

A lot of good answers there Derekj. I would say that keeping your tools sharp, and adjusted as close as possible. Early in life, I was learning the carpenter trade, and eventually became a pretty good finish/trim carpenter. As the economy slowed I needed a more steady job. I went to work in a pipe organ factorys cabinet shop. Unfortunately they closed their doors a year after I began. Of the many things that I learned during that year was that there is a big difference between a carpenter and woodworker.

Also using good hardwoods like oak, walnut, cherry, make a world of difference.

You have chosen a good honorable trade or hobby. It’s very satisfying and enjoyable. By the way the above story happened back in the early 70s, and my career took a different direction, but I still enjoy woodworking.

-- You can't trust a dog to guard your food.

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DerekJ

98 posts in 702 days


#11 posted 02-08-2016 06:13 PM

Dano – just a hobby for me! Your pipe organ shop history is interesting! I am a piano/keyboard player and one of the projects I would LOVE to do when I’m better at the trade is disassemble an electric keyboard/MIDI controller and build a custom wooden housing for it.

Japanese joinery looks fascinatingly complex – thanks for the reference, Waho.

-- Derek ~ Omaha, NE

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JKMDETAIL

201 posts in 1469 days


#12 posted 02-08-2016 06:31 PM

Don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes. Heck ask even the best, they make mistakes. For the craftsman a lot of that is to make the mistake into something. That’s how artist are born.

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jmartel

7476 posts in 1964 days


#13 posted 02-08-2016 06:39 PM

Honestly, the biggest thing that makes a huge difference? Get rid of measurements. Use a tape measure for rough lengths in the beginning, and then get rid of it once you start cutting. Measure everything off of other pieces. Make sure all your cuts are the same by setting up fences for batch cuts rather than making marks off of a tape measure. Cut joinery by referencing off of the pieces that will be connected. Measurements are only a way to mess it up.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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MrFid

855 posts in 1719 days


#14 posted 02-08-2016 06:58 PM



Honestly, the biggest thing that makes a huge difference? Get rid of measurements. Use a tape measure for rough lengths in the beginning, and then get rid of it once you start cutting. Measure everything off of other pieces. Make sure all your cuts are the same by setting up fences for batch cuts rather than making marks off of a tape measure. Cut joinery by referencing off of the pieces that will be connected. Measurements are only a way to mess it up.

- jmartel

Really good advice here. Use a measuring tape for the first cut, then work off that for all the others. Other tips:

1. Make a crosscut sled and use the five cut method to square it up. See the wood whisperer for a good video on crosscut sleds and that method.

2. Use stops on your sled (and other tools; miter saw…) to cut every piece to precisely the same length, rather than measuring and marking.

3. Get some handplanes, and learn to sharpen and use them. I use a block plane, #4, and #5 the most for my work. Depends on what you’re doing.

4. Do not trust that the wood you buy from Home Depot or anyplace is flat, straight, and square. This is a big one, especially if you’re working in pine. The pine from big box stores is never dependable, especially the longer lengths. The errors are more compounded over long lengths.

5. Watch some TV shows (Rough Cut, Woodsmith Shop, etc.) Although they make it look very easy to complete a project in a half hour, they do show some good techniques.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View Jeff2016's profile

Jeff2016

115 posts in 679 days


#15 posted 02-08-2016 07:57 PM

I’m another rough carpenter turned “foreclosed home renovator” (think lipstick on a pig), the biggest obstacle I found was my own mind. I continually have to remind myself there is no rush.

When I get in the middle of a project, I tend to speed up and compromise back to “close enough” as though the project needs to be finished before I turn the lights out for the night. It’s that production mindset I formed while working the above jobs.

When I find myself feeling rushed now, I walk out and turn off the lights for a while. (I do this for the enjoyment tho not a job.)

Paul Sellers has a useful read on squares that helped me quite a bit.

https://paulsellers.com/2014/06/on-woodworking-squares-and-working-wood/

There is a world of difference between construction square and woodworking square!

-- Proud owner of an electronics free workshop. Please check your cell phone at the door!

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DerekJ

98 posts in 702 days


#16 posted 02-08-2016 08:07 PM

Thanks – loving the tip about ditching the tape… now that you say it, I often find myself saying “fourteen and just a 32nd shy of a half… close enough!” But most of the time, it ends up not being close enough and I’m sanding to fit.

Also, not trusting the “square” of store bought lumber is a good tip as well. I haven’t used my jointer yet, but I assume it would be good practice to run one factory edge through the jointer before ripping on a table saw?

Jeff – I am living in a lipstick on a pig home, as a matter of fact! It is my first home and I worked with my father to redo it. Lots of fun, and learning opportunity. Good tip on slowing down – I worked in a wall/truss manufacturing facility for several summers and have the “hurry up, get it close” mentality so taking my time does not come naturally! Thanks for the link, Ironically I JUST bought a framers square this weekend as I couldn’t find the one I’ve had for a few years and my speed square just wasn’t enough.

-- Derek ~ Omaha, NE

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Jeff2016

115 posts in 679 days


#17 posted 02-08-2016 09:06 PM

Congrats on the first home!

I have to say, I still miss my speed square. Once I get my shop set up, I plan on making one tuned to wood working and a thinner pencil. That thing has been my go to for 20+ years and it seems almost sacrilegious to be working wood without it.
If your framing squares are anything like mine, they will return one day. I have 8 hanging on my wall for that very reason.

-- Proud owner of an electronics free workshop. Please check your cell phone at the door!

View ravensrock's profile

ravensrock

465 posts in 1457 days


#18 posted 02-08-2016 09:18 PM

You’ve got a decent set of tools to get started. Learn as much as you can. There’s a wealth of information online…especially this site! Then just pick a project and start doing it. For me this has been a learn as you go endeavor, picking up new skills (and new tools!) along the way. Always try to challenge yourself with your next project. And have fun doing it!

-- Dave, York, PA, Wildside Woodworking

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

4464 posts in 953 days


#19 posted 02-08-2016 09:23 PM



Congrats on the first home!

I have to say, I still miss my speed square. Once I get my shop set up, I plan on making one tuned to wood working and a thinner pencil. That thing has been my go to for 20+ years and it seems almost sacrilegious to be working wood without it.
If your framing squares are anything like mine, they will return one day. I have 8 hanging on my wall for that very reason.

- Jeff2016

A good square, at least 1, is a necessity IMHO. Not so much for measuring as for checking and marking. I have a set of machinists squares I use only to check other squares and layout tools. You know what the squarest squares you can buy for less than $40 are? Framing squares. Second? Speed squares. I piece squares aren’t hard to produce en masse because you get the tooling right and you’re good until tooling wears out. I prefer combination squares 99% of the time. But a reliable combination square is harder to come by and costs A LOT more. If I need to mark a line over 12” though, out comes the 40 year-old 24” Craftsman framing square. I can’t read the scale any more but it still checks dead-nutz square.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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Jeff2016

115 posts in 679 days


#20 posted 02-08-2016 11:15 PM

My search for one good square ended at a website that sells PEC cosmetic blemished products. A 12” 2 piece combination square for under $40. Harry Epstein was the name of the site.

-- Proud owner of an electronics free workshop. Please check your cell phone at the door!

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

8009 posts in 2391 days


#21 posted 02-09-2016 01:03 AM

Good call on the Harry Epstein site:

http://www.harryepstein.com/index.php

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

4464 posts in 953 days


#22 posted 02-09-2016 01:18 AM

My search for one good square ended at a website that sells PEC cosmetic blemished products. A 12” 2 piece combination square for under $40. Harry Epstein was the name of the site.

- Jeff2016

PEC has an excellent reputation among engineers and machinists I work with. I’ve never owned one, I can’t bring myself to buy anything but Starrett but I have been considering one of those 24” blemished blades for an extra Starrett head I have.

I’d recommend that as a good site to visit for any new woodworker. If you work with an aluminum cheapie then spring for a quality square, you’ll immediately realize where the extra $ went. I’ve never heard anyone who sprung for a quality square say it wasn’t worth the investment. And those PECs are probably the best value on the market.

There’s also a lot of support for the iGaging brands springing up around the internet. Anybody have first hand experience with their squares. FWIW, if you want high-end American made, PEC and Starrett are your choices.

Edit:
I stand corrected on not being able to get a reliable combination square under 40$, I forgot about the blem PEC:P

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View DerekJ's profile

DerekJ

98 posts in 702 days


#23 posted 02-11-2016 03:43 AM



Then find some plans, makes some plans or wing it as you prefer. Now, build it. But, it has to be solid and presentable. Also, you can t use any nails or screws.
- HokieKen

I am having trouble finding any plans for seating stools without screws! Are there any great resources out there for plans like that, and other similar projects?

-- Derek ~ Omaha, NE

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HokieKen

4464 posts in 953 days


#24 posted 02-11-2016 10:02 PM

Plans… not so much in my experience. Pictures…tons! Most people derive their own plans based on something they see that they like.

Post some links or pictures of something like what you’d like to build and I’ll be glad to offer some suggestions on how to get rid of the screws and replace them with some traditional joints.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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CaptainSkully

1517 posts in 3373 days


#25 posted 02-14-2016 11:33 PM

Hey Derek,

I made the same transition about 10 years ago. I needed to build something that inspired me, was useful and fit my aesthetic. As such, doing something practical like building something for the shop wasn’t inspirational enough. My first projects were a magazine rack for the bathroom in the A&C style, an expanding cookbook rack, then a coat tree for the foyer, then I embarked on a pair of Limbert tabouret tables. These have slightly splayed legs so I got to do angled legs. In the process, I blew up my contractor’s table saw that I had been hauling around for years. After some soul-searching, I decided that if I was going to keep furnishing my apartment with quality oak pieces, I should invest in a decent table saw. I bought an $1100 Delta and haven’t looked back since. From those humble beginnings, I built an entire bedroom set, a really nice dining table and a bunch of other accent pieces (e.g. mantel), commissioned pieces, etc.

I started with S4S red oak from the big box store, which is more expensive per board foot, then I took it up another notch and bought a planer and jointer so I could start with rough QSWO. From there, the sky’s the limit. The Limbert tabouret I build with templates, jigs etc. was even ammonia fumed in the Stickley style.

I currently have a toddler who spills, chews, colors on everything, so no incentive to build anything nice for inside the house, so I built a wooden boat. Once he grows up a little, I can start working on my bucket list like a bow-arm Morris chair, etc.

That’s my journey. Your mileage may vary. Good luck and asking the question is the first step. This is an amazing forum.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View DerekJ's profile

DerekJ

98 posts in 702 days


#26 posted 03-03-2016 06:21 PM

Thanks for all your replies! I took several of your recommendations and have put together a table-top for a new end table in my basement.

1) Square up my tools…. my table saw fence was two degrees out of square, the bevel on my miter saw was off, and the “stops” at 0 and 45 were 0.5 to 1.5 degrees off.

2) Drop the tape measure. I cut things a little bit long to start, then made progressive cuts until it fit JUST right.

3) Start with good material. I actually learned how to use my jointer and planer correctly, giving me perfect edges to join together – amazing what that can do!

I know it’s not much compared to the skills you all have, but I’ve never built something with such tight joints and accurate miters! Thanks for your feedback and I look forward to finishing this table and moving on to the TV stand.

The wife wants to use black iron pipe for the legs, so I’ll probably keep her happy and go that direction – plus I haven’t learned how to make strong and tight leg/shelf joints yet :)

-- Derek ~ Omaha, NE

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HokieKen

4464 posts in 953 days


#27 posted 03-03-2016 07:07 PM

Right on Derek! That table top looks great. The most important joint in woodworking is the one the wife says to use! If momma ain’t happy…

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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JackDuren

315 posts in 774 days


#28 posted 03-05-2016 03:11 PM

I would spend some time on creating joints for the projects you are considering. It’s much easier to build a project understanding the joinery first than scratching your head in the middle of it.

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