What Are Your Skill Building Projects?

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Forum topic by chrisstef posted 07-16-2012 12:28 AM 3270 views 0 times favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17428 posts in 3034 days

07-16-2012 12:28 AM

Ive been a part of LJ’s for goin on 3 years and within that time ive seen my work incrementally get better which makes me happy. Ive fell into a theory of trying to do something new during each project. Recently acquiring a jointer im still working on my skills with that tool. I found that making a cutting board really started to hone in my ability to create nice square edges which is fundamentally important to a good glue up.

So my question is to everyone … what projects are good to help a novice woodworker build his fundamental skills?

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

35 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


6956 posts in 2626 days

#1 posted 07-16-2012 12:32 AM

Small boxes, quite a few challenges and they dont take a lot of wood. Squareness, joinery, design, and finishing in a small package.

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17428 posts in 3034 days

#2 posted 07-16-2012 12:37 AM

Boxes are tricky, i tried to hand cut finger joints today … straight to the garbage bin lol. Nice suggestion ShaneA.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View hhhopks's profile


651 posts in 2405 days

#3 posted 07-16-2012 12:37 AM

Mine isn’t very good. Just too many excuses of not having the time. I like to dream about it.
What little time that I have, has been tied up in learning how to use the tools. Lately, it has been hand planes and table saw setup.

Someday (kids out of school), I’ll make something.

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View MichaelAgate's profile


398 posts in 2351 days

#4 posted 07-16-2012 12:44 AM

Handcutting finger joints must have been fun. Funny, it’s no trouble to hand cut a dovetail, but I have never attempted to hand cut a finger joint.

-- Michael and Matthew

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17428 posts in 3034 days

#5 posted 07-16-2012 12:45 AM

hhhopks … what are you doing to work on the handplane skills? Ive got the gear but i think my technique is behind the curve. My “flat and sharp” is comin along.

Michael – It was a small 4”x5” 3 fingered rectangle, nothing extravagent thats for sure.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2595 days

#6 posted 07-16-2012 12:53 AM

I think any project is good. I would suggest building project that interest you and worry about the techniques for the project. Skill will certainly follow. If all you’re going to build is cutting boards all your life (that’s just an example) and you get really good at it, does it mean your not a good wood worker? I consider myself a decent woodworker, but I’d struggle with some of the scroll work and bandsaw boxes. I have no interest (in building them, I love to look at them), but ask me to build a complex gun cabinet and I’m all over it.

Build what interest you and you’ll improve your skills.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View knockknock's profile


447 posts in 2200 days

#7 posted 07-16-2012 12:55 AM

I’m building a mantel clock case using dimensioned poplar to learn some basic plane usage. I am getting practice cleaning up and squaring wood. I put grooves in the side panels for the dial board and reeded the edges. The base is 2” x 2” that I beveled and mitered. For the top panel I used morticed styles and rails with a raised panel. I still have to dowel the major pieces together and make the back door, and then finish it.

The planes that I have: smoother, block, plow, small shoulder, and an antique reeding plane.

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2821 days

#8 posted 07-16-2012 01:01 AM

Building jigs and fixtures. You kill 2 birds with one stone by building skills while build devices to improve repeatability and accuracy.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3700 days

#9 posted 07-16-2012 01:07 AM

I aint been doing much woodworking, I got to finish restoring my shed.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3096 days

#10 posted 07-16-2012 01:13 AM

Pretty much every project I do. – lol

Even if I’ve done something dozens of times, I can always find somewhere for improvement.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View ssull4167's profile


31 posts in 2442 days

#11 posted 07-16-2012 01:30 AM

well by my experience is as you start to get a big collection of hand and power tools you start to run into situations where you need to figure out how you are going to make a cut or what ever your working on. Then you find out you are going to have to make some kind of jig to make it work. I think that really helps add to your skills. As you get more hand and power tools your skills will get better because you can have all the tools you need and still run into a difficult situation and you will have to make a jig or something else. As far as what to build , make things that you have fun with. Just try different things with them. And i am not telling you to go out and spend a ton of money on tools but i will tell you it gets more and more fun when you get them built up. Just keep it fun and keep building and do alot of research on youtube and the internet and your skills will grt better and better.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2591 days

#12 posted 07-16-2012 01:40 AM

First reading your title I instantly thought I just try to make my self get better on each project, but then once I started to read your response.. So that being said I don’t really have a good answer at your time.

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

View LukieB's profile


966 posts in 2357 days

#13 posted 07-16-2012 02:12 AM

I really like shop storage projects for skill-building, I also try to do something new each time I build one.(I put dovetails on my router bit cabinet) It’s good learning, plus if you screw it up, you’re the one who has to look at it all the time. And sometimes they can be a good reminder in the shop to “not do that again” LOL

-- Lucas, "Someday woodworks will be my real job, until then, there's this"

View steviep's profile


233 posts in 2674 days

#14 posted 07-16-2012 02:36 AM

I think repetition is key. My first job in carpentry was to cut studs to length (92 5/8”) and I cut thousands of them. I learned how to cut square and straight and it has served me well. I would say something with allot of joinery, like shadow boxes maybe?

-- StevieP ~ Micheal Tompkins - you were not here on earth long but left a giant mark on us. RIP Brother

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2717 days

#15 posted 07-16-2012 02:41 AM

My shop ‘furniture,storage, and jigs are where I practice. I have shop drawers with every type of joinery imaginable. My earliest wooden hinges are incorporated into a lot of shop storage and serve as constant motivators to improve my skills.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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