What is considered "A General Rule of Thumb" ?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by ericandcandi posted 08-17-2009 05:53 AM 1999 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ericandcandi's profile


152 posts in 3484 days

08-17-2009 05:53 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip

I am relatively new to this wonderful world of woodworking and got to thinking one day. Alot of us noobies out here do not have a construction/woodworking background in any way. No matter how many books and magazines we read, there is know way we can learn all of the ”basicrules of thumb that woodworkers have learned either in their field of expertise or that have been passed down from generation to generation. The question that started all of this is:

When using standard woodscrews, is there a correct bit size to use for pre drilling? Is there a general rule of thumb for the correct undersize drill bit for each size woodscrew used?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a thread/forum /posting/sticky or something that those of use new to woodworking could go and be that much further with our woodworking knowledge?

Please feel free to leave your best General Rule of Thumb…( about woodworking! )

-- ericandcandi in Louisiana- Home of the "LSU Tigers"

20 replies so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18247 posts in 3642 days

#1 posted 08-17-2009 08:19 AM

My first rule of thumb is to try not to hit it too many times a day ;-)))

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

View scrappy's profile


3506 posts in 3397 days

#2 posted 08-17-2009 08:22 AM

First and formost rule of thumb…....

If it looks dangerous, DON’T DO IT! Saftey first!

-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View JuniorJoiner's profile


485 posts in 3406 days

#3 posted 08-17-2009 09:07 AM

i’m with scrappy, if it looks unsafe don’t do it. use pushsticks and the machines guards. control dust so your not breathing it. and wear eye protection. everything in woodworking comes with or from experience; I hope you have no bad ones.

I do most of my woodworking without power tools, so I use chisels more than most.
here is my blurb on chisels .

when buying chisels, it is all about the steel. fine grained steel . hard and capable of taking a fine polish is essential. good chisels will lead a long life, be rehandled many times, passed on to generations . and even reground or repurposed when worn down.
cheap chisels are not worth the tin cans they are made from. coarse grained steel that won’t take an keen edge, dull quickly, or even bend after some mallet work.
worse, cheap tools can cause a beginner to doubt their abilities, both with sharpening or using them.

handles are not quite as important when selecting a chisel, as they are made of wood, and can easily be modified by the user. they should be comfortable to use, suited to the task the chisel is meant for, and not so round as your chisel rolls off your worksurface when you lay it down.

important to add, as with all tools. a dull cutting tool is useless. investing in the tool is equally as important as investing in the stones and skills to sharpen it.

using chisels

there are many different types of chisels, some general purpose. many specific to certain tasks.
in general, all chisels are used mostly the same way.

chisels only have one handle but are usually a two handled tool. one hand to provide the cutting force(on the handle)and the other to guide the cut(closer to the cutting edge)

the face of the chisel (the beveled side-a chisel is only beveled on one side) should be the face you can see during use. if you see the flattened back of the chisel, you are using it backwards, and have less control of it’s cutting action. cutting mortise’s is an exception.

guide blocks are an invaluable asset to chisels.helping the woodworker maintain the proper angle for paring or chopping cuts. they also enable repeatable accuracy.(ie. paring all your dovetails to a perfect 90 degrees.)
nearly all fine joinery is best created with a chisel and appropriate guideblock.

sidenote- guideblocks are easily created accurately with an electric mitre saw. just remember that with the scale on a mitre saw, 0 is actually a 90 degree cut.
also when creating guideblocks, remember to leave length so they can be clampled to the workpiece.

take small bites. chisels drift away from their beveled face when you apply force. this is lessened when the bevel encounters less wood. so by taking small bites you improve accuracy, also lessening the chance of breaking or splitting the workpiece.

what i have written is certainly not gospel, as I am no expert.(as a matter of fact I have lots of trouble sharpening carving chisels)
I just hope it helps some.
good luck.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3348 days

#4 posted 08-17-2009 11:22 AM

Something about wood that impressed and surprised me as a newb (still not far from that distinction) was the concept of wood movement, and how very alive wood remains long after its been felled, sawn up, and dried. Just search Google for “wood movement” and you get 137k pages on the subject. Just the first few are enough to learn a lot about it, and there’s even a handy calculator from one of my favorite online wood shops. Wood moves a lot across its grain, and almost not at all with the grain (something like 0.1% on average). The way the wood is resawn matters, too, so learn a bit about plain sawn/flat sawn (most movement), quartersawn (less movement), and riftsawn (least movement, least available (hardest method of resawing)). There’s also an element of aesthetics in each of these. Sometimes you just want the cathedrals seen in plain sawn lumber. Sometimes you want the thin, consistent stripes of quartersawn.

Some anecdotes I’ve heard about wood movement include tables cracking loudly in half down their lengths, right through the center, antiques that have been fine in antique shops and homes in one place for 100 years being purchased and brought to another place only to have the change in humidity cause them to warp, bow, twist, and crack, and I’m on the list of having a lot of my projects fail months later, because I didn’t properly appreciate how very much wood moves. I’ve made things that slide easily enough when made bind completely later – beyond any mechanical means of moving them ever again – because I made things that should slide fit too perfectly together. I was even proud of my perfect fits :)

I turned a Eucalyptus cup on my lathe with a base exactly the diameter of the faceplate it was screwed to, even sanding it and the faceplate a bit when finishing it – they were flush. A month later the cup was nearly 1/8” shy of the faceplate all the way around, or nearly a full 1/4” thinner, and it was only about 3” wide to begin with! In fairness, it was made from a fairly green limb, but still, I was shocked when I saw it sitting there on my workbench.

Things like rail-and-stile cabinet doors came about because the panels inside need room to grow and shrink inside the grooves in the rails and stiles. I didn’t know this earlier this year and glued some pretty poplar panels into their frame grooves. I’m worried that if I ever move, those doors are going to crack all over in their new home.

Oh, and one last thing about this – good woodworkers tend to buy the wood they need for a project, then stack it up in its final location for a few weeks to let it acclimate to that location. Some even leave it in a kitchen where it’s destined to become cabinets, or upstairs in an office boardroom for a month, then go pick it up when they’re ready to build. They’ll mill the wood (cut, rip, plane, etc) and assemble everything ASAP. It’s not good to cut up all your pieces, then leave them sitting in your shop for a week before you get back to assembling. They’ll warp again, even if just a little bit. Fit won’t be as perfect. For a lot of things it’s okay, but if you want really perfect, pro-level work, they tend to follow these steps religiously.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View firecaster's profile


572 posts in 3385 days

#5 posted 08-17-2009 01:47 PM


Concerning your question about predrilling for woodscrews; the easiest thing is to find a chart from a magazine or maybe online that shows drill sizes for screws. If you use a countersink, it is sized for a particular diameter of screw. If all else fails, I hold the drill bit and screw together and make sure the drill bit is the same size as the shank excluding the threads. That allows the thread to have full bite into the wood.
As for drilling a hole the screw will fit through, I just remember from my hardware store days that #6 = 1/8”, #8 = 5/32”, #10 = 3/16”, #14 = 1/4”.

Somebody else may know a better way.

-- Father of two sons. Both Eagle Scouts.

View Jim Crockett (USN Retired)'s profile

Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 3699 days

#6 posted 08-17-2009 07:11 PM

Wood Magazine has a useful woodscrew pilot hole chart.

Search for screw chart and you’ll find many more.


-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

View Joseph Cataldie's profile

Joseph Cataldie

71 posts in 3182 days

#7 posted 08-19-2009 06:45 AM

The internet has loads of info, tips & tricks, but don’t underestimate your local library. Mine in Baton Rouge has at least ten shelves worth of woodworking/furniture building books.

Good Luck!

-- Joey C., Baton Rouge, LA,

View ericandcandi's profile


152 posts in 3484 days

#8 posted 08-20-2009 06:26 AM

Thanks for all of the great comments!!!!!

-- ericandcandi in Louisiana- Home of the "LSU Tigers"

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3543 days

#9 posted 08-20-2009 06:30 AM

As someone once said”to read understand and follow all of your tools instructions and most important of all wear you saftey glasses

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View floyd3's profile


6 posts in 3168 days

#10 posted 08-20-2009 07:14 AM

My wife bought me a book last Christmas called “Woodworker’s Essentials”. It taught me all sorts of things I didn’t know. Here’s a link for purchase

-- "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." A. Einstein

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3335 days

#11 posted 08-20-2009 01:11 PM

I built my web site to answer questions like yours. On my home page, click on the INFO button and you will find screw size, drill bits, and all kinds of information you can use. Example is the pilot hole chart here.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10365 posts in 3395 days

#12 posted 08-21-2009 02:07 AM

Who was that guy?

-- 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 scrappy's profile


3506 posts in 3397 days

#13 posted 08-22-2009 04:22 AM

Got this in an E-Mail today along with some other “Little Known Facts”

In the 1400’s a law was set forth in England that a man was allowed
to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb.

Hence we have ’the rule of thumb’

-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3720 days

#14 posted 08-22-2009 04:31 AM

My main rule of Thumb? Don’t do this to your thumb!

Courtesy of Degoose!

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3348 days

#15 posted 08-22-2009 04:51 AM

sIKE – Now that is nasty. First guess: circular saw? Second guess: band saw?

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

showing 1 through 15 of 20 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics