What Are Your Skill Building Projects?

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Forum topic by chrisstef posted 774 days ago 1462 views 0 times favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10695 posts in 1639 days

774 days ago

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?

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

35 replies so far

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5289 posts in 1231 days

#1 posted 774 days ago

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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10695 posts in 1639 days

#2 posted 774 days ago

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

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View hhhopks's profile


564 posts in 1010 days

#3 posted 774 days ago

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 956 days

#4 posted 773 days ago

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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10695 posts in 1639 days

#5 posted 773 days ago

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.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

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Don W

14879 posts in 1200 days

#6 posted 773 days ago

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.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View knockknock's profile


196 posts in 805 days

#7 posted 773 days ago

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


1064 posts in 1426 days

#8 posted 773 days ago

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"

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13337 posts in 2305 days

#9 posted 773 days ago

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

-- CJIII Future cabinetmaker

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1730 posts in 1701 days

#10 posted 773 days ago

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.

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31 posts in 1047 days

#11 posted 773 days ago

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.

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1752 posts in 1196 days

#12 posted 773 days ago

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


921 posts in 962 days

#13 posted 773 days ago

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"

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232 posts in 1279 days

#14 posted 773 days ago

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


10737 posts in 1322 days

#15 posted 773 days ago

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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