If not a magic pill!, we have a powerful list of tips that can hone your woodworking skills from a beginner to pro level. We all start somewhere and if so, all of us have learned many of our lessons the hard way. The tips we have mentioned here are not just from a precaution perspective but small nitty gritties that will help you excel the art of woodworking.
If you are a beginner woodworker then please make sure that you are avoiding these mistakes to make your work error free
15 Tips to Take Your Woodworking to the Next Level!
1. Safety First
Wood is a brilliant material that can be cut, shaped or carved into any shape that you want. With the right kind of woodworking tools, it is very easy to work through both hardwood species such as teak and softwood species such as pine. But whenever you are working with wood, there are certain factors that you have to keep in mind.
The tools that are used to craft the wood into various articles are either very sharp or considerably heavy. If these tools are not handled properly then it is very easy to get hurt. The hand or machine operated saws, chisels, CNC Router, and such instruments are so sharp that they can cut through your fingers. Hammers are heavy and can seriously damage the fingers. Thus, one should always use leather gloves while using such tools.
Goggles are also mandatory because splinters can arise as you are working with wood. It is also necessary to use plugs for your nose and ears. The former is because whenever you are working with wood, it produces a lot of dust that is harmful to the body. It is important to have a proper dust collection system in place. Wood-based machinery creates a lot of noise and can even render people deaf, thus the earplugs.
2. Easy Sanding Operations
When you are working with wood, the finesse of the products starts to show from the time you start the finishing operations. This starts with sanding ends with the application of the finish coat such as polyurethane, melamine or even paint finishes. Sanding operations is a very tricky part. The wooden surfaces have to be properly sanded otherwise the finish coat will not have the desired effect on the surface.
If it is a flat surface it is very easy to sand using several grades of sandpaper. However, in the case of curved surfaces or turned surfaces, sanding becomes a difficult task. You need to use a sanding pad to hold the sandpaper properly and firmly. The sanding pad has to be the appropriate amount of stiff and flexible to ensure proper sanding even in the farthest reaches of the surface. An easy option is to use a notebook- lock the edge of the sandpaper between the pages, curve the notebook, and go sanding!
3. A Ruler Does It All
Rulers are one of the most fundamental tools of woodworking operations. Whenever you are trying to design a project, the first thing you consider is the dimensions. And the only way you can represent these dimensions is through a ruler. You may think that a ruler is only helpful with straight lines. However, that is not the case. You can drill holes or simply attach a pencil along the required length. Then you need to fix one end of the ruler to a surface and push it along that axis. The pencil will create a circular outline with the required diameter and you can easily get curved lines using just a ruler and pencil.
4. Create Your Removable Mixing Surface
Finding a surface to pour out your glue every time is a hectic affair. A great alternative is to attach the masking tape in rows over a considerable area on your workbench. Pour the glue on it and start applying it to the wooden surface using a brush. Once you are done with gluing, wait for the waste glue to dry out, peel off the tape and throw it into the garbage. This way you get a clean, new, and worry-free mixing surface every time you need it.
5. Reach For the Corners Easily
There are a plethora of woodworking plans that you can design and a lot of them come with complex geometry. This means that you have difficulty applying a finish coat on those hard to reach corners and edges because your fingers or the brush is too big. However, if you were to use a spray bottle to spray the finishing coat, it will be evenly distributed throughout any surface. Just wipe down with a clean cloth after you spray to remove the excess finish and you are good to go!
6. Divide A Plank Equally Irrespective Of Its Width
Planks come in all kinds of width and it is not possible to equally divide all of them. For example, it is impossible to divide a 11 3/8” plank into 4 equal parts! An easy way around this situation is to lower the measuring tape at an angle to reach a whole number that is easily divisible. You only need to measure the width of the plank at an angle such that it measures 12” and mark the parts accordingly (at 3” mark) to get equal widths off the plank!
7. Radial Sawn Timber
If you are operating on a log, the best way to cut it into planks is to cut out a quarter section and then cut it diagonally. This ensures that all the planks that you obtain have growth rings running more or less perpendicular to the face of the plank. Such planks are better because they show considerably less shrinkage and swelling and hence are less prone to defects such as warping, bending, and twisting. These planks also have a higher strength owing to their greater dimensional stability.
8. A Safe Sanding Technique
Sanding is one of the most important operations to bring out the aesthetic goodness in wood.. However, when you are sanding your hands may slip and brush harshly over the sandpaper leading to an injury. Sanding the edges is also a risky affair because they are sharp and can injure you. The chance of having splinters pierce into your hands as you are working with wood is also very high.
You can avoid these accidents very easily- put on leather gloves and wrap painter's tape around it with the sticky side out. The padded leather gloves protect your hand while the sticky surface keeps the sandpaper in place as you continue with your operations.
9. Stain Index Helps A Lot
Every time you are done crafting a wooden article, the thing that worries you is what stain to put on! Yes, wood is such a material that looks great with any stain put upon it. But it is difficult to decide upon a finish that will be unique and yet match your decor. A great way to know for certain about the color of stains and finishes is to refer to a stain index.
You can easily craft a stain index at your home. Just cut out square blocks of wood species you use such as pine, birch, oak, and so on. Attach them using masking tape or glue and apply the finishes of your choice along the width of these blocks. You may apply polyurethane, melamine, shellac and a range of finishes on all the blocks. Every time you need to apply a finish to a wooden article you have crafted, just refer to this homemade encyclopedia of wooden finishes to get the best results.
10. The right Way To Stain
Staining the wooden surface is one of the most significant steps of woodworking. With the proper stain, any wooden article can charm anybody. However, this is a very delicate process and needs to be dealt with carefully. Certain basic steps need to be diligently followed if you want to get the best of staining.
Sanding: The staining or finishing process begins with sanding. If you have not sanded the wood properly, it will react poorly to staining. When you are sanding any wood surface you should start with a large grit size and gradually move to smaller ones. A 60 or 80 grit sandpaper is the best size to start sanding operations. You can follow it with 100 and 120 and end it with fine sanding using a 220 grit sandpaper. This makes way for a very smooth surface that is susceptible to a good finish.
Finish: Once you have sanded the wooden surface, you need to clean off any sawdust before applying a finish coat. Wiping the surface with a clean, damp cloth is sufficient to remove any accumulated sawdust. Once you have obtained a clean surface, layer the chosen finish on the surface using a clean cloth or brush. Let it dry for the required amount of time before applying the second coat. Different finishes need to be re-applied a different number of times, but at least 3 coats of any finish is mandatory.
Top Coat: Once you are done applying the finish, you are nearly done with the finishing operations. Varnish, shellac, wax, etc are the different materials you can apply as a topcoat. It ensures enhanced glossiness and imparts some degree of surface protection.
Read more woodworking tips here
11. Recycled Bottles For Glue
One of the messiest affairs, when you are working with wood, is gluing. Gluing is an essential part of woodworking. Whenever you need to fix the different joints you need to use glue. If you are veneering the surface of wood, you need to depend on the glue. Thus you cannot do without glues in your woodworking practices.
If you have old mustard sauce bottles or sports water bottles, they make for excellent glue bottles. The thin nozzle of a mustard sauce bottle or the sipper in water bottles is great to control the flow of glue and prevent excess from dripping out. When you are not using the glue, you can securely stopper the bottle till the next use.
12. Fix That Miter Joint
A perfect miter joint looks and feels great. However, aligning two wooden boards at exactly 90⁰ is quite a difficult affair and may not always be perfect. If there are gaps along a miter joint there is a very easy fix to it. Press the shank of screwdriver along the joint at an angle from both sides of the attached boards. This covers any gap that has come up along the miter joint and the untrained eyes will be unable to see any defect at all!
This detailed article will help you to create perfect miter joints every time.
13. How to Fix Dents
The wooden surface is prone to getting dents if some heavy material has bumped into it. This looks gross and takes away the aesthetic charm of the wood. A very easy way to get rid of dents is by using a damp cloth and hot iron.
Place a piece of damp cloth on the surface of wood where there is a dent. Now take an iron heated to the highest setting and place it on the damp cloth, moving it in a circular motion until the cloth is dried. Repeat the practice until the dent is no longer visible.
When you use a damp cloth the moisture from the cloth travels to the wood fibers and thus incites swelling. This swelling leads to the removal of the dent on the surface.
14. Store Epoxy For Longer Period With This Trick
Epoxy resin is effective in wood joints because it cures easily and gives sturdy joints. However, it is also very expensive and thus should not be wasted. Oftentimes, when the resin has been left unused for a long time it crystallizes in the bottle. If such a thing happens, you can follow either of the two steps:
15. A Mount To Apply Finish
Finishing your woodworking project is difficult and one of the most time-consuming affairs. Every coat needs to dry properly before moving to the next step. A mount can be created at your workshop if you want to speed up the finishing process. Take four 2x2 blocks of wood with minimum thickness and drive 2” nails less than halfway into them. That’s all that you need to get an elevated surface to place the wooden article as you apply finish coats. You can turn it around when one side is done instead of waiting for the finish to dry.
Looking for you next woodworking project check out this huge list of 40+ creative woodworking projects to begin with.
If you are reading this article then we can understand your desperatness for making those smooth wooden edges. Let’s be honest, its going to take time to turn your level from a beginner to pro, but it will be easy if you stick to your practice and be consistent. You are going to be a pro sooner or later. We are constantly looking for more ideas and tricks you will not find elsewhere since Bill Baum and the team themselves practice woodworking everyday. Make sure to bookmark.