What do you feel has helped you boost your knowledge and confidence in woodworking?

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Forum topic by lateralus819 posted 06-11-2013 12:15 AM 1433 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2241 posts in 2094 days

06-11-2013 12:15 AM

Feeling this one out. Think it would be neat to share some experiences, good and bad, that have helped you all through your woodworking career.

For instance, me being a beginner, every project i try and do something I’ve never tried regardless of how much frustration, anxiety, or anger it causes me.

My first project was a simple dovetailed box, with a front composed of multiple strips glued together along with some miter cuts.

2nd was an urn, rabbet joints for the corners, spline inlay along the outer edges, two piece top, button with a cove cut into it.

3rd was a triangle box 5×5x5, splined mitered corners at 30 degrees. Inlaid top, with 4 equal sided triangles to form one big triangle (WHAT A PAIN, but what a learning experience).

4th (crazy it seemed at the time but it came out beautifuly) a dining table 48”x43” Multiple boards glued together, breadboard ends, mortise and tenon joints for the aprons and legs. A deep roundover cut to form a sort of raised panel look for the legs. Dyeing the maple, polyurethane the top.

Now I’m currently working on a shaker inspired hall table, I hope to try even more new things.

Sorry for the some-what long read. I remember reading on the web some where someone said to always try a new technique or style on each piece, and i think it is a great philosophy. I’ve had a lot of times where i wanted to just give up and sell all my tools and move on, but i pushed through it and i believe everyone can. I figured this would be cool to share positive thoughts for everything and maybe somethings people may encounter on their way. Cheers.

27 replies so far

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3486 days

#1 posted 06-11-2013 12:31 AM

Learning traditional trade practice and having the guts to trust myself. For some reason woodworkers don’t seem to understand that the tools and trade practices evolved together over centuries and power tools were designed to make work easy and predictable. Most woodworkers I know spend inordinate amounts of time reinventing everything and building jigs to avoid learning pretty simple techniques and sequences. I remember early in my woodworking when I’d spend hours constructing a jig or fixture to do simple things I could do with a hand saw, plane or chisel in seconds or minutes.

View lateralus819's profile


2241 posts in 2094 days

#2 posted 06-11-2013 12:39 AM

It’s funny you mention that, at work whenever i need to cut a small ammount off a pallet or whatever it be, i ALWAYS reach for a hand saw, number one it’s just as fast as having to go track down a sawzall and cord, two its more fun!

View oldnovice's profile


7337 posts in 3573 days

#3 posted 06-11-2013 03:51 AM

It comes down to the old KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid , principle, which is applicable to much of life …. except politics.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View knotscott's profile


8153 posts in 3580 days

#4 posted 06-11-2013 09:33 AM

Flat, straight, square stock at the beginning of each project makes joinery fit and go as planned, which really boosted my confidence. Prior to that, joinery was hit or miss, and it was frustrating. There are several ways to get flat square stock, but none easier than a jointer, planer, and TS…..adding and using those tools were a game changer for me.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View MyWayChipCarving's profile


49 posts in 2082 days

#5 posted 06-11-2013 12:18 PM

Don’t limit yourself. I am a woodcarver. I started carving through a class I took at work. The instructor was a great teacher in teaching carving in the round, relief and such. One thing he said he did not teach was chip carving. The reason being is that it was too precise and you made the same cuts over and over. All the cuts had to be the same. So listening to him I did not try it for years. Then, I joined a carving club that had a beginners class that taught a little bit of all carving, including chip carving. I tried it and LOVED it. I meet an older gentlemen named Jim Eagle that let me use his tools just to see if I would like it.

Now, many years later, I am still chip carving, teaching classes on the subject and have created my own method/style of doing it.

If it had not been for Jim, I would not have tried it. Sadly, Jim passed this last April. I owe a lot to him and I tell people to keep their minds open. Try things, even if you think you will not like it. Try it, you never know.

-- Please recycle. Save the trees.......for woodcarvers!

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3119 days

#6 posted 06-11-2013 12:27 PM

Just one word:


-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 2108 days

#7 posted 06-11-2013 12:35 PM

Using hand tools only for several years was a great base to move into the power machines for me, but there was still another considerable learning curve with the machines, and the increased dangers.

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2881 days

#8 posted 06-11-2013 01:24 PM

They say imitation is the best form of flattery….I think that’s how it goes.

I’ve learned more from shadowing the best, imitating their techniques, buying their tools, and listening.

Point is, it seems like a lot of apprentice WWs just have to be unique and re invent the making of the wheel.
And, even though they were told exactly how to proceed or they read the directions, they Still do it different.

“Directions?... scaled drawings? We don’t need no stinkin’ directions!” Must be a guy thing. Not me, I always start with a good drawing and check the directions (Liar!).

side note: I believe jigs are a big part of any decent wood shop. I’ve made and still have several of them. Sure they take time to make – at first – but it’s the only way to guarantee a perfect cut, multiple times and in the long run, it saves time and material. Besides, what’s your hurry?

In fact, it would be cool to do a thread on favorite Jigs in the shop.

straight edge for skill saw on 1×12 mat.
angle jig for table saw – to make tapered table legs
sliding cross cut sled with stop block for multiple cuts for table saw
spline jig, box joint jig, picture frame 45 degree cut for table saw
5mm hole jig for adjustable shelves with 1” centers
router sled for rabbets and dadoes
door jam jigs for perfect hardware installations like door strikes and hinges

I’m glad you didn’t give up and sell your tools! Look at the stuff you’ve made already!

Enjoy the adventure. I sure have.

View Underdog's profile


1231 posts in 2240 days

#9 posted 06-11-2013 01:53 PM

Joining a club. I’ve met and watched and learned from many woodturners because of it. Forums like this help too.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2719 days

#10 posted 06-11-2013 02:30 PM

Thinking back into the early 70’s, when I sold my very first pieces, using cheap tools and an attic workshop, probably the most important thing for me was learning not to make the same mistake twice. Wood was cheap compared to now, but still very expensive, in relative terms to my budget. Tools were expensive and had to be taken care of. I read all the time, and wrote a lot of stuff down. Measure three times and still think about it!

I’ve really never been a huge hand tool guy, although I’ve flattened a board or two with planes over the years, and hand cut dovetails a few times. Overall, it just seemed like too much work to go back to a time before regular power was available. The electrical outlets were in my work area, so I used them.
I admire those who still practice the trade with the traditional hand tools, and their fine, beautiful projects, but never have had a major desire to make furniture completely by hand.

The one other thing I believe was a major turning point for me was having someone say to me how nice that piece looked, and really meaning it. It makes you want to push it further. The ultimate was having someone hand me money for the first time. THAT was my game-changer.

By the way, your initial projects are WAY ahead of my initial projects years ago. You are learning fast.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View BBF's profile


143 posts in 2044 days

#11 posted 06-11-2013 02:52 PM

Years of screwing up and learning how to fix your or others mistakes and learning when not to. Like an old timer told me “don’t get emotional over it it’s just a piece of wood and there are forests full of them.”

-- I've never been disappointed buying quality but I have been disappointed buying good enough.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19018 posts in 2772 days

#12 posted 06-11-2013 02:55 PM

I really never had a choice. Building, fixing, learning, is ingrained in my DNA. I’m not sure where it came from, but I started very young and some 50 years later only inability will ever allow me to stop. None of my immediate relatives have any woodworking talent. My dad was a farmer and could Cob the dickens out of even the simplest of task. Neither of my grandparents had any desire. But it came from somewhere. There is a desire to understand, restore, fix, or build it, no matter what it is really.

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

View CL810's profile


3869 posts in 3193 days

#13 posted 06-11-2013 03:03 PM

Going to Marc Adams School of Woodworking not only accelerated my learning but gave me confidence. Everything about MASW is first rate.

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5132 posts in 4165 days

#14 posted 06-11-2013 03:13 PM

I was always in a hurry to complete which lead to mistakes that either had to be “covered up” or repaired.
I got tired of all the re-do.
Stupid hasn’t completely left my shop, but I have him chained in a corner so he can’t run rampant. :)


View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3290 days

#15 posted 06-11-2013 03:22 PM

We were on a budget when I was a kid. We needed a new bigger house, Dad had built the one we lived
in, he would build the bigger one, I would help. No thought, no planning on my part, I just helped dig the
basement, build the forms, pour the concrete, checked for square. If a no. 2 shovel would fit my hand, so
would the square, the handsaw, the hammer. Table saw was just a saw with power, can not remember a
circular/skill saw. If it would not fit the table saw the hand saw would work. The square was how you laid
out stairs and rafters. The handbook of the square was a book too complicated for a 12 year old to master,
but I had to learn the basics. I was never told I could not do it, usually just told to do it, and if I did not
know how to ask. My own family kept me broke and working, bought tools to do work that I could not
afford to pay someone else to do. Could not afford a workshop until all the kids were gone. Now I am
retired and playing in the workshop. I am making a router table from an old table saw that was free, a
friend said “Gus they do sell router tables.” Without thinking I said, “Yes, but I am old enough that I can
play in my shop if I want to and I enjoy it.” So here I am playing in my workshop, staying out of trouble
and off street corners. My beautiful lady puts up with me and is letting me build decks, remodel the house
and maybe build a new garage and workshop. Must have learned something, but was too busy too notice.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

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