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Forum topic by Ritty posted 04-05-2011 04:42 AM 1720 views 1 time favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Ritty's profile


63 posts in 3030 days

04-05-2011 04:42 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tip

hey fellow LJs, i wanna start being more precise. well for starters what sort of tools do i need to buy to be more precise and what work practices should be used to become better at precision. im just tired of going thats close enough. looking foward to any comments, there always a big help.

23 replies so far

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4127 days

#1 posted 04-05-2011 04:46 AM

learn how to cut to the pencil mark, cut the pencil mark in half, cut the pencil mark off

otherwise use a clamp and a stop block

measure, test

measure test

measure test

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3881 days

#2 posted 04-05-2011 04:59 AM

Use a marking knife.

I always use mechanical pencils in woodworking because the line is
always the same thickness.

A dial caliper has many uses in woodworking. It’s a good tool to help
your thinking about tolerances.

I’ve usually found working to “relative accuracy” works better than
working to absolute accuracy.

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2926 days

#3 posted 04-05-2011 05:14 AM

Learn how to accurately set up you machines to true zero/square settings.
Make test cuts to see if you’re really cutting where you think are.
Along with tools mentioned above a good square is a must have item.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3231 days

#4 posted 04-05-2011 06:39 AM

The number one thing that will increase your accuracy is good work holding and fixed positioning. That is why people fret so much over a workbench. It is not a table. It is a clamping device. It is also why people fret over their chucks on a lathe. There are just too many ways for the workpiece to move. Clamps, holdfasts, bench hooks, vises, sticking boards, and many other auxiliary work holders are available to add to your arsenal for holding things in place while you are cutting and guiding your cuts.

The real trick is not to expect to plow through and make a well fitting piece with one pass. It really is not that reasonable to expect to have a finished piece with one cut. Rapid stock removal and precision cuts are two different things. You are fighting a constant battle to try to do them both at the same time. Take a roughing cut to get it into the ball park and then tune in with precision tools. For making precision cuts to length, use fixed stops that are set to predetermined positions where you do not have any choice but to cut to the proper dimension. Clamp things down carefully where they cannot move while cutting. That is why miter boxes and miter saws have clamps on them.

If you are talking about hand tools for close fitting, planes and scrapers can be really useful in making microscopic adjustments. A well set plane can take off just a few thousandths off. Also floats and files are great for making small adjustments.

For power tools, routers with good fences or templates can make clean repeatable cuts. For most parts, I will cut roughly to size on a bandsaw and then sneak up to final measurements with planes, spokeshaves, files, scrapers, sandpaper, rotary tools, or anything else handy to get to the final dimension. I am predominantly an advocate of hand tools but I am not a purist. I also have a table mounted router with an Incra fence.

I am not a fan of tablesaws. They make good cuts but for the most part, their work holding sucks. The only exception I would make would be the big ones with sliding tables where you can clamp the work in place and move it through the cutter. Yes, you can add things like panel jigs and such but they don’t usually have the same precision unless you spend a lot of time getting them adjusted. The real problem with tablesaws is not the crosscutting. It is the ripping.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 3084 days

#5 posted 04-05-2011 06:50 AM

Good precision doesn’t start with the tool. It starts with knowing how the material will behave when it meets a tool.

All the setups and workholders that come roaring out of the pages of the wishbooks add up to weak attempts to convince you that you can become a good woodworker in a weekend.

Congratulations on asking the question. That impresses me more than I can convey in mere words.

Wood is fibers. Different species have different fibers arranged in different ways. Watch them, touch them, study them.

All the nobility in your head soaked up there through your hands.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3901 days

#6 posted 04-05-2011 02:15 PM

Use the same measuring device for the entire project.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11134 posts in 3662 days

#7 posted 04-05-2011 03:05 PM

All suggestions and cautions above are excellent ones. I’m sure you will receive more good ones, too.
However, Loren’s last comment in his post, ”I’ve usually found working to “relative accuracy” works better than working to absolute accuracy.” will serve you exceptionally well throughout your quest for “precision” in working with a non-precise medium.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Ritty's profile


63 posts in 3030 days

#8 posted 04-05-2011 10:10 PM

thxs guys all of your comments have been read and will be used at some point this weekend. also im thinking of buying a starret combination square, never had one and always wanted one what do you guys also think about that? good choice ? i have always herd of their quality

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3231 days

#9 posted 04-05-2011 11:48 PM

Starrets are wonderful tools. I would never steer anyone away from them if they are ready to pony up that much. I have the big 24” contractor’s square and it is a joy to use.

Of course there is no way on earth I would buy one at the retail price. I picked mine up at the flea market for $30-$40 if I remember correctly.

I have few others ranging from 4 inch to 12 inch along with protractor heads and stuff that I have picked up here and there used and paid little for but I can’t say I would personally go buy a new one for the price.

On the other side, I have some cheap harbor freight squares that I reach for just as often as the Starrets. I don’t get upset if I splotch them up with glue or otherwise worry about. If I am measuring something accurately, I grab the calipers first anyway.

Usually though, it doesn’t make any difference to me. If I am making a table, I don’t care if the legs are 28 in long or 27-3/4. As long as they are all the same it is fine with me.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3881 days

#10 posted 04-06-2011 12:01 AM

Starret quality is great and the tool will hold some resale value,
but for woodworking you don’t need a fine square like that.

A cheap combo square can be tuned square easily enough with
a little filing. Starret squares are machinest tools – and overkill
for woodworking.

Not to dissuade you.

I’ve found the little 4” pocket squares very useful in setting up
joints and I also like the Veritas Cabinetmaker’s square. Veritas
makes a bunch of little specialized layout tools and I’ve found
them to be real time savers.

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2888 days

#11 posted 04-06-2011 06:32 PM

A marking knife, power tools for rough cutting and hand tools (chisels, planes, etc.) for fine tuning the cuts.

Even as a professional woodworker, I still use this process (even in the “time is money” environment of a business). Even after fine tuning all my machinery to “get close”, for really fine furniture, that isn’t enough. Another process I use is to use the pieces you’ve already cut to do your next machine setup. For example, when you’ve finished cutting the mortise (super fine accuracy not required – that comes when cutting the tenon) for an M&T joint, use that part to set up your table saw to cut the tenon. Sneak up on the thickness leaving the joint very snug, then fine tune with a shoulder plane. Perfect M&T joints everytime. No measuring required.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View MinnesotaMike's profile


28 posts in 2873 days

#12 posted 04-06-2011 09:44 PM

Good topic! Like how “sharp” is “sharp enough”; just how “close” is “close enough”? I know, depends on what your doing and varies accordingly, but evenually there is an optimal “inth” degree for every project.
For that answer, it’s the personal experience that matters.

View Rick S...'s profile

Rick S...

10923 posts in 3266 days

#13 posted 04-07-2011 07:33 AM

Good Post. I can’t add anything to what’s already been said other than it’s sometimes the “Skill Level” of the person behind the tool, not the tool. Practice and persistence might be the key to that.

With all due respect I’m wondering why you Posted this in “Site Feedback” instead of “Woodworking Skill Share” or “Woodworking Tools…etc.etc.” . You might get more advice in either of those as they have a much higher “Topic Count” (More Interest and Views) than here and I think Your Topic relates to either of those Forums.

-- Made In Ontario, CANADA

View Ritty's profile


63 posts in 3030 days

#14 posted 04-08-2011 10:27 PM

ya but this is my 2 forum and still dont know what im doing but ill get the hang of it and thx you guys all your comments really help me maube ill post it again on woodworking skill share

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3270 days

#15 posted 04-22-2011 09:45 PM

Experience – Get to know your tools. Get to know your materials. Make mistakes. Learn from them. You’re never too old to learn. I’ve been at this for over 40 years ago now but last week I made an expensive mistake. I won’t do it that way again

Practice – It won’t happen overnight. Skill is acquired, not bought. A skilled person can make something good with old and worn out tools. An unskilled person can only make expensive sawdust with new and expensive ones.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

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