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Transitioning from "rough builder" to "woodworker"?

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Forum topic by DerekJ posted 02-08-2016 03:00 PM 1131 views 1 time favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DerekJ

80 posts in 348 days


02-08-2016 03:00 PM

Topic tags/keywords: beginner improvement framer improve accuracy want to get better need to improve

Hello! I’m pretty new to this site but love the information that’s available and the interaction on posts and projects! I have a pretty specific question and would love to get some advice from experienced woodworkers here.

I have a lot of experience with “rough” building – my dad was a framer growing up, I’ve been using tools since I was a kid and can get ”close enough” for rough builds with my miter saw, table saw, wormdrive/circular saw.

My question is – what are some good projects, and corresponding tips, to get past the “close enough” for framing aspect of my builds. My angles are always just a little bit off, my table saw cuts are always just barely out of square… My wife loves the look of stained pine so everything I’ve done for the house has been with pine – this allows me to mess up and fix things without breaking the bank, and for the things I’ve done so far, it hasn’t really mattered much if something was a touch off – just grab a belt sander and make it fit.

I want to improve and start to create more intricate and finished items – using nicer and more expensive wood. This doesn’t allow for as much room for mistakes – yet I’m not really sure where to start and what to focus on first! Any links to tutorials/guides/tips would be appreciated as well!

Tools I have currently at my disposal, in case it helps with your recommendation:

Rigid table saw
Makita compounding miter saw (25 year old hand-me-down)
Skil wormdrive circular saw
Rigid router with homemade table and “starter” bit set.
10” bench top drill press
biscuit joiner
13” Dewalt surface planer
6.5” Rigid jointer/planer (wedding gift I never even asked for – WOW!)

-- Derek ~ Omaha, NE


28 replies so far

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TiggerWood

271 posts in 1067 days


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

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2190 posts in 941 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

1738 posts in 599 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

976 posts in 913 days


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

Incra

M

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

View DerekJ's profile

DerekJ

80 posts in 348 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

View CB_Cohick's profile

CB_Cohick

460 posts in 711 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

7168 posts in 2037 days


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

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

1738 posts in 599 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!!!

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

13713 posts in 2079 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 --

View Dano46's profile

Dano46

80 posts in 2630 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.

View DerekJ's profile

DerekJ

80 posts in 348 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

View JKMDETAIL's profile

JKMDETAIL

172 posts in 1115 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.

View jmartel's profile

jmartel

6565 posts in 1610 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.

View MrFid's profile

MrFid

804 posts in 1365 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

72 posts in 325 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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