What tip/technique has most significantly improved your WW skill?

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Forum topic by guitchess posted 746 days ago 1227 views 1 time favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View guitchess's profile


82 posts in 2332 days

746 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: question tips skill improving

This question popped into my head the other day while sanding, quite a zen activity, and I started wondering if there were any gold nuggets of wisdom that I could get from the rolls of LJs.

For me, I would say what improved my fine woodworking skills the most was the idea of “sneaking up” on a finish measurement. Especially when working with solid wood. I used to falsely believe that if a 1×12 had a straight edge then the 1×4 that I ripped from it should be straight. Internal stresses in the wood rarely allow this to be the case. I don’t remember where I first saw this tip, but it drastically improved my furniture/cabinet making.

So I guess my question is; If you would be willing to share it, what tip, technique, or bit of knowledge made the most significant improvement in your ww skills?

30 replies so far

View danr's profile


150 posts in 1808 days

#1 posted 746 days ago

I think that this is a very insteresting question and it is difficult for me to pick just one. I have been building “fine” furniture for many years and the only formal training that I ever had was in high school wood shop. Everything else came from reading/internet/just doing it.

So if I have to pick just one I would say that the tip/technique/knowledge that most improved my woodworking skill is the understanding of wood movement. The good news is that I learned about this very early on in the school of hard knocks (ie. practical experience). Since 90% of the pieces that I have built are in my home I was able to witness this wood movement activity. Wow its amazing.

I have currently been very interested in learning more about finishing. I have a lot to learn but I think I am on the right track.

Interesting question. Thanks for asking.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


14720 posts in 2299 days

#2 posted 745 days ago

That is a darn good question. I have so much to learn, I don’t even know the proper question at times ;-)) I’ll think about it, but until then, discovering LJ has to be #1! Thanks Martin.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View pintodeluxe's profile


3315 posts in 1437 days

#3 posted 745 days ago

1. Taking two passes to center dados.
2. Rout counterclockwise, end grain first (unless inside a frame, then clockwise).
3. Pattern routing jigs with toggle handles.
4. Fine Woodworking Magazine / Online Content

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Loren's profile (online now)


7385 posts in 2271 days

#4 posted 745 days ago

It all comes with time and experience and finer tools
can help, but aside from the sensitive philosophy
Krenov’s books installed in my brain, it would have to
be the incredible self-jigging dovetailing and tenoning
saw – the humble bow saw which I made myself.


View William's profile


8971 posts in 1466 days

#5 posted 745 days ago

For me, it was when I finally realized that accuracy was not as important as I once thought it to be. A tight joint is not always tight, depending on the weather. Close enough might be perfect on a changed weather day. I’m not saying that one can just throw anything together and wait for the weather to change. This isn ‘t precision accuracy engineering though. Wood is a living object and always moving. When I realized this, or got it through my thick skull, I was able to begin learning methods to work around that. This allowed me to not only prevent future heartbreak from internal stresses, but it also gave me the freedom to stop worrying myself into an early grave worrying about super duper accuracy. This, in turn, has allowed me to enjoy wood working even more than I did before.


View Tennessee's profile


1447 posts in 1138 days

#6 posted 745 days ago

For me it has to be in sanding – always make sure all the swirls, cut marks, and any other marks are gone before moving on to the next grit. Keep repeating this. And I always learned to go one extra grit. A lot of times, going to 220 won’t cut it, you gotta go to 320, or 400 to get that finish you want.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

View Raymond Thomas's profile

Raymond Thomas

180 posts in 842 days

#7 posted 744 days ago

Patience and observation are equal in their importance to what I have learned so far from WW.

-- Raymond, Charlotte, NC -------- Demonstrate the difference!

View Paul C.'s profile

Paul C.

154 posts in 1869 days

#8 posted 744 days ago

The most liberating lesson I’ve learned is that good enough is good enough. I fuss to a 1/16 at best, and this allows me to just enjoy woodworking. I’ve even got assemblies that are 1/16 or 1/18 out of square, and you can’t tell!
Oh, and my shop is not perfectly tidy, either.

View Paul C.'s profile

Paul C.

154 posts in 1869 days

#9 posted 744 days ago

Sorry, the reason it has improved my skills is that it allows me to focus on the stuff that matter, like show surfaces and the like.

View kop's profile


16 posts in 751 days

#10 posted 744 days ago

I use to think that my projects never looked as good as the next guys and would get disheartened and want to quit then one day someone said that the reason was that I wasn’t the other guy and that my projects were just as good just different and that’s what gives us our individuality, the fact that we all see and think things differently.
Take Care and God Bless

-- Kindlyoldpoop

View Woodworker_Collins's profile


188 posts in 1138 days

#11 posted 744 days ago

When something brakes or doesnt work out the way you want it to, dont get frustrated, just try again and remember its isnt a problem unless you cant fix it. :)))

-- Adam, Ireland,

View chrisstef's profile


10611 posts in 1630 days

#12 posted 744 days ago

The sneak up on it method has done a lot for me too but to get there the biggest thing i have learned is the importance of sharp tools. Im just getting my planes and chisels to the point that they are well tuned and as sharp as i can make em and i can see the difference in my projects all ready.

Im still working on patience ;)

-- "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 ShaneA's profile


5285 posts in 1222 days

#13 posted 744 days ago

A helpful item to me was a video by Rob Cosman, The Great Handplane Revival. Good visuals/instructions in sharpening, tuning, restoring and using planes. Helped speed my learning curve.

View AlanBienlein's profile


141 posts in 1298 days

#14 posted 744 days ago

Working in multiple cabinet shops and seeing the different ways to accomplish the same thing. By letting go of the mentality of “That’s the way its always been done” lets you think outside the box to solve any wood working problem you might come across.

View a1Jim's profile


112008 posts in 2201 days

#15 posted 744 days ago

Never stop learning and be open minded about techniques that are different than the techniques you use now.

-- Custom furniture

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