5 Tips That Will Have You Woodworking Like A Pro
Updated: Jul 16
written by Chelsea Rodgers
Whether you are an avid DIYer or have always wanted to get into woodworking, you don’t need to have all the fancy tools to woodwork like a pro. All you need is the willingness to learn. Learning how to woodwork is not as challenging as it may seem. Most people don’t understand that the key to early success in woodworking has a lot to do with choosing the right project. Learning takes time. Especially in woodworking, you don’t want to rush the learning process. You want to master the simple skills before you dive into more complicated skills. If you tackle on complex projects before you’re ready, the end result will leave you frustrated. These 5 tips can help even those of you who are just starting out, woodwork like the pros.
Hold it…Safety First
First things first, safety. Your eyes, ears, and fingers are essential in woodworking, so you want to be sure you take good care of them. Safety should be your priority over any woodworking endeavor – even if your just using hand tools. Just because you may not be using dangerous power tools doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. Pieces of wood can fly around, and can easily end up in an eye. Safety googles should be placed on before you start and kept on until you’ve finished cleaning up. Ordinary glasses will not provide enough safety for your eyes. You want to have eye protection goggles that fit snug on your face to keep out and flying particles.
Your ears are more sensitive than you think, and you don’t want to risk causing any damage to them as you’re using noisy power tools. The type of ear protection depends on personal opinion. Some find the earmuff style more comfortable, others would rather have ear plugs. Either style will give your ears the protection needed to block out loud noise.
Woodworking always runs the risk of damaging and cutting fingers. A good, well fitted pair of leather gloves will help keep your fingers safe and well, attached.
We suggest finding a spot to hang your safety googles and ear protection and gloves right where you enter and exit. As you enter your woodshed, place your eye goggles, ear protection, and gloves on. Make a habit to only take off your eye and ear protection when you exit, hanging them up in as you leave.
Start With Simple Joints
When your starting out, choosing the correct first project can make or break you as a woodworker. If you tackle on a project that is more advanced than your skills, you’re finished piece is not going to end up like you expected. Like with any skill, you must start with the basics and then gradually build on them as you are ready.
Joints are the best place to start off. The basic butt joint is one of the simpler methods of joinery You can build things like a bench, shelf, or a box with a butt joint. Once you’ve masters the butt joint, you’re ready for the mitered joint. The mitered joint, requires getting the perfect angle on the cut. Picture frames or a shallow box are good projects to help practice mastering the mitered joint.
After you’ve feel confident in making the mitered joint, you’re ready for the half lap joint. With this joint you can create things like dividers in your shallow boxes you made earlier while practicing butt and mitered joints.
No one ever gets the perfect joint on the first try. No one ever really gets the perfect joint on the first 5 tries. Mastering joints comes through practice, so understand and plan to practice these methods many times before you master them. These three joints will have you creating lots of different woodworking projects.
Use A Few Basic Hand Tools
Back in the day everything in woodworking was done with hand tools. Power tools definitely help make things easier and in half the time but, it still can be useful to learn how to use the basic hand tools. Make a project or two using hand tools. Take your time and pay attention to get a feel for the wood and how it responds to saws, nails, sanding, and painting/staining. Some basic hand tools you want to become familiar with are: hand saw, hammer, screw driver, ruler, simple miter box, miter square, and a pencil.
Recognize That Fine Wood Gives A Professional Look
While your practicing, you may go for the inexpensive wood for your projects. This is fine, understand that the specialty wood is what helps give projects that stunning finish. Veneer for example is a type of “fancy wood” that is topped with a thin layer of specialty wood. Birch panels with the correct finish, can get you that quality look without spending a lot of money, Below, you can compare quality in the picture of the birch wood alongside the pine wood.
Making A Simple Box
1. Start by building the sides of a shallow box. You can use either the
basic butt joint or mitered joint for this. The sides can be made of a
3-1/5-inch or 4-inch-wide pine board.
2. Cut a piece of birch panel for the bottom of the box. Use tack nails and glue like Hot Stuff Adhesive (MLCS item number 447-6010) to create the bottom of the box.
3.. Create a picture frame that fits on top of this box.
4. Cut and insert a piece of birch paneling into the picture frame. Glue it into the picture frame.
5. Sand any rough edges down with very fine sandpaper. Wipe every bit of dust and grease off the box and cover.
6. Coat every part of the box with sanding sealer. This ensures that the final finish looks even and not blotchy.
7. When the sanding sealer is dry, apply a nice light stain or clear polyurethane finish to your box.
Fine-Tuning A Few Basic Skills
Once you have made a few projects with hand tools and you have a good feel for how the wood responds to you and your tools, you’re ready to learn the skills needed to use power tools.
Start with the power drill. You’ll need a tiny drill bit that you can use to make pilot holes, in order to screw boards together, Pilot holes will help prevent the wood from splitting, and allows screws to go in straighter. One you have your pilot hole, you can use a screwdriver or an electric drill to easily zip the screws into the wood.
When starting off with saws, we recommend 2 saws, a handheld jig saw, like the Pendulum Action Jigsaw and a scroll saw. You can find the Pendulum Action Jigsaw on the Eagle America Website, item #415-5696.
Pendulum Action Jigsaw item #415-5696.
Begin with the handheld jigsaw. These tend to be a little safer than circular saws, chop saws, or table saws. Be sure to read the instructions that come along with the tool. While the jigsaw is still disconnected from its power source, practice putting the different blades in and out securely. When using the jigsaw, never force any movements. You want to move with the tool. Practice using the jigsaw over and over, and eventually the cuts you make will glide through the smoothly with ease.
Just remember choose simple projects to acquire your woodworking skills. Don’t be afraid to do the same project a couple of time to help you gain confidence and master woodworking like a pro!