10 Woodworking Time Savers Tips
By: Chelsea Rodgers
For most of us woodworking is a hobby. We’d love to have it as our 9 to 5 job, (and some are lucky enough that they do!) but the reality for most of us is, struggling to find time to sneak away to our garages or woodsheds to start projects. (Let alone finish them!) Schedules will always be packed with meetings, appointments, kids’ activities, the list could go on. These 10 tips will help you make the most of what little free time you have, to start, and yes, even finish those projects in the two hours you have while the kids nap, or the hour before you have, to get to your family’s BBQ.
The truth is, there is no magic power tool that will make you cut wood any faster, and help you complete your projects at warp speed. Woodworking is a skill that if you rush, it will show in your finished project. Instead, there are a bunch of little changes you can make that together can help make a big impact on increasing your woodworking efficiency. Some of those changes that will help make things go a little bit faster are:
Organize Your Shop
Maintaining an organized garage is so hard for some, but it makes a huge difference in how quickly you can complete projects. You don’t want to spend the majority of your limited woodworking time looking for tools and trying to clear a spot to work.
Organization has been a long process and there is no one perfect system, but some things that are known to make a big difference in garage organization are: building a workbench with storage, adding a peg board to hang small tools, installing a french cleat wall to hang larger tools, building a wood storage area, and adding more overhead storage on the ceiling of the garage. Keep all your bits in one place with the Router Bit Storage Cabinet (MLCS item#9660 for ¼ shank, item#9683 for ½ shank), or the Router Bit Organizer Router Bit Organizer. (MLCS item# 9376).
Router Bit Storage Cabinet. Router Bit Organizer
(MLCS item#9660 for ¼ shank, item#9683 for ½ shank), below.
Router Bit Organizer (MLCS item# 9376).
Keep A Clean Work Space
A messy, cluttered workshop can not only slow down your projects, but it can also be dangerous. On top of being organized, keeping your shop clean will make a big impact on how quickly you can complete woodworking projects. Here are some little tasks that will help you to keep your shop clean.
· Sweep regularly – sawdust buildup on a cement floor can get slippery
· Put things away after you use them – this so obvious, we know, easier
said than done.
· Keep your workbench top or tabletop work area clear of items
· Store work-in-progress projects to the side or in a space that leaves
You can also invest in tools that will help keep your work area cleaner, like the Router Table Dust Eliminator (MLCS item#9710) that collects or contains nearly all the sawdust below the table.
Router Table Dust Eliminator
Total Tool Care Blade and Bit Heavy
Duty Cleaner (MLCS item#9034)
Take Care of Your Tools
Ensure that you can always get right to work by keeping your tools in good condition. This means cleaning your tools regularly and replacing blades or other parts as needed. Our Total Tool Care Blade and Bit Heavy Duty Cleaner (MLCS item#9034) is good to always keep on the shelf to grab. Maintaining your tools has a lot of benefits. They will last longer. You will have less errors when working on your woodworking projects. And, performing regular maintenance will save you from having to stop mid-project to repair or clean a tool. Keep your tools safe when you’re not using them with covers with our Magnetic Tool Covers. (MLCS item#9302-9304)
Magnetic Tool Covers
Use Good Quality Lumber
Start with good quality lumber. You’ll save time by avoiding trying to make up for wonky boards during your project. When purchasing lumber look for straight boards that are free from cracks. Working with flawed lumber will add more time to your project as you try to figure out how to hide the flaws or how to work around them. Additionally, using lumber that is warped or flawed in some other way will leave you with a lower quality finished product. You can learn more about the types of wood to use for projects in our latest post, Printable Wood Guide Cards.
Start with a Plan
Knowing your plan ahead of time will allow you to complete your woodworking project so much faster than making it up as you go. Start your project by sitting down and writing out your own woodworking plans. Using a pre-made plan is the most efficient way to get your woodworking projects done!
Double Check Measurements
So much time is wasted in woodworking by measuring boards incorrectly. We tend to hurry and this hurrying causes me to make more mistakes which slows the project down. There’s not much you can do if you cut your boards too short. Hopefully, you have enough scrap wood to cut a new piece at the correct length or you’ll have to make another trip to the lumber yard to buy more wood.
Save yourself the trouble by double (& triple) checking your measurements before you cut your lumber. Making sure that your measurements are correct before you cut will save you so much time (and frustration).
Don’t Measure Every Time (We know…let us explain)
If you have several boards that need to be cut to the same length, you don’t have to measure every single board. Instead, measure the first board and cut it to length. Then, use that cut board as a guide for cutting the rest of your lumber.
This can be done with a miter saw by putting the board that needs to be cut on the saw. Then, place the already cut board on top. Line up the end of the boards and then position them under the saw blade so that the edge of the cut board will be against the saw when you bring it down to cut.
Raised Panel Project Calculator
(MLCS item# 9112)
Measurement Charts and Calculators
Math is not the most loved subject, yet there is so much math in woodworking!! One thing that can help with figuring out measurements is to use charts. Keep these on hand in my work shop and it saves you from turning to GOOGLE to look up dimensions. Another time-saving tool is our Raised Panel Project Calculator (MLCS item# 9112).ItQuickly and easily produce more precise detailed cut lists, without costly math errors.
Batch Your Work
A great big time savor is completing woodworking projects in phases. This allows you to focus on using one tool at a time. A typical process usually looks like:
·Cut all boards to size except boards that will need to be cut to fit during assembly. The only boards that you should wait to cut are trim pieces, or the occasional angled pieces that fit better if they are cut to size rather than cut to a pre-determined measurement.
After the boards are cut, sand them all. Start with a low-grit sandpaper and work up to a finer grit to get a nice smooth surface. If the project doesn’t need to be super smooth, still give a quick sand with a rough sandpaper to prep the surface for stain and paint.
Always stain and paint the wood for my projects before assembly. It’s much easier to stain and paint lumber first to avoid getting into corners and small spaces with a paint brush or stain rag.
Finally, Assemble. During assembly cut any pieces that were not cut at the beginning and make touch ups to the finish if needed.
When your finished your project, your woodworking plans should always be full of notes. When you have to work whenever you can find the time, this is totally necessary! Without notes you’ll find yourself spending the first 15 minutes or so trying to figure out what you did and where to pick back up. Check off steps as you work through your project and make notes about what your next step is. Jot down measurements, or sketch diagrams. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.
To help your woodworking projects go faster always keep a stock of basic woodworking items in your shop. There are some items that you will need for nearly every project you do. Those items include wood glue, wood screws, sandpaper, stain rags, drill bits and whatever else you use on a regular basis. Keep an inventory of what you have and when I run out of something or about to run out so you can order more right away. There’s nothing worse than being stopped mid-project because you run out of screws or some other basic item.
The Most Important Tip of All
Last, but not least, the real way to get through your projects faster is to just keep doing them. Naturally the first couple of projects will take longer. But, as you practice your skills your comfort level will grow. You will find in time you’ll be able to work faster and faster. The best way to improve your efficiency is to just keep learning and building. Working faster will come naturally with time.