Woodworking


This month, for the Make: Skill Set theme, we’re going to be covering woodworking. We’re excited. While many of us are more than comfortable dramatically brandishing a soldering iron, we’re far less confident in firing up a skill saw. We’ve invited a number of woodworking pros and hobbyists to come over and help us out. We’re planning original how-tos on woodworking basics, required tools for the shop, and some tips and tricks from the pros (and from our readers). We’ll also be rounding up projects from the blog and Make: Projects and posting some woodworking projects from the magazine. And we’ll have a video from our pal Deek (Tiny Tellow House) on building a chair from shipping pallets. It should be fun month!

Last month, we covered electronic skills. We looked at soldering, key components, how to read circuit diagrams, basic math in electronics, how to use a multimeter, how to apply Ohm’s Law, and more. We even built a crowd-sourced Q&A of nagging electronics questions. We hope you followed along and learned something.

As always, we’d love to hear what you’d like to see us cover about basic woodworking. Please tell us in the comments below.

114 thoughts on “Make: Skill Set: Woodworking

  1. Woodworking is my central connection. My electronics and astronomy interests all draw from my love of woodworking. Right now I am concentrating on using handtools and my latest project is making a hand plane.

    Eric

  2. Yay woodworking. Now here’s to hoping that it’s not ALL cnc stuff. ;p. Not everything has to be lasercut.

  3. Yay woodworking. Now here’s to hoping that it’s not ALL cnc stuff. ;p. Not everything has to be lasercut.

  4. I’d love a tip or two for making more accurate cuts when measuring and marking 2x4s, etc. with my tape measure. For example, the play in hook at the end of the tape can result in cuts that are just a hair too short, and I’d love to know of any tricks for making sure I can quickly and accurately measure and cut. At the rate I work, it can take a whole morning just to cut a few pieces! :)

    1. The play in the tape is to account for its thickness. ie the difference between hooking over the end of the board and pushing against the wall.
      As far as accuracy, measure, us a square to make a line and practice.
      I have seen some folks align the saw to the line, then put their square against the sled as a guide.

    2. The play in the tape is to account for its thickness. ie the difference between hooking over the end of the board and pushing against the wall.
      As far as accuracy, measure, us a square to make a line and practice.
      I have seen some folks align the saw to the line, then put their square against the sled as a guide.

    3. My favorite tip is an oldie, but a goodie; Measure twice, cut once.

      You are likely to find that double checking your measurements before you cut takes less time (and material) than starting all over when your cut comes out 1/8″ short.

      I second what Tod said about the tape measure. The play in the end is there by design.

      1. Hah, I usually measure like 3 or 4 times at least. Must be my insecurity.

        Another good tip is don’t cut ON the pencil line, cut just outside the measured line. You can sand or use hand tools to get right to the line when finishing.

        Also remember that the line has a width to it. A mechanical pencil will make a more precise mark than an old nubby pencil, but for a really precise line, use a sharp marking knife or a marking tool.

        In fact a marking gauge (look it up) makes a really easy beginner’s woodworking project that will come in really handy making long straight lines on boards.

      2. Hah, I usually measure like 3 or 4 times at least. Must be my insecurity.

        Another good tip is don’t cut ON the pencil line, cut just outside the measured line. You can sand or use hand tools to get right to the line when finishing.

        Also remember that the line has a width to it. A mechanical pencil will make a more precise mark than an old nubby pencil, but for a really precise line, use a sharp marking knife or a marking tool.

        In fact a marking gauge (look it up) makes a really easy beginner’s woodworking project that will come in really handy making long straight lines on boards.

    4. I second what nillo said about the folding tape. I finally bought one a couple of weeks ago and don’t know how I’ve gotten by without it. It’s a great addition to any toolbox. Be sure and get one with the 6″ slide out rule extension. Regarding tape accuracy, be wary of your hook, it does get bent and is designed to have some play in it. One tip, when measuring something under a 1/2 inch, start your measurement at the 2″ mark. Otherwise the hook will get in your way.

    5. I second what nillo said about the folding tape. I finally bought one a couple of weeks ago and don’t know how I’ve gotten by without it. It’s a great addition to any toolbox. Be sure and get one with the 6″ slide out rule extension. Regarding tape accuracy, be wary of your hook, it does get bent and is designed to have some play in it. One tip, when measuring something under a 1/2 inch, start your measurement at the 2″ mark. Otherwise the hook will get in your way.

    6. I second what nillo said about the folding tape. I finally bought one a couple of weeks ago and don’t know how I’ve gotten by without it. It’s a great addition to any toolbox. Be sure and get one with the 6″ slide out rule extension. Regarding tape accuracy, be wary of your hook, it does get bent and is designed to have some play in it. One tip, when measuring something under a 1/2 inch, start your measurement at the 2″ mark. Otherwise the hook will get in your way.

    7. I second what nillo said about the folding tape. I finally bought one a couple of weeks ago and don’t know how I’ve gotten by without it. It’s a great addition to any toolbox. Be sure and get one with the 6″ slide out rule extension. Regarding tape accuracy, be wary of your hook, it does get bent and is designed to have some play in it. One tip, when measuring something under a 1/2 inch, start your measurement at the 2″ mark. Otherwise the hook will get in your way.

    8. I second what nillo said about the folding tape. I finally bought one a couple of weeks ago and don’t know how I’ve gotten by without it. It’s a great addition to any toolbox. Be sure and get one with the 6″ slide out rule extension. Regarding tape accuracy, be wary of your hook, it does get bent and is designed to have some play in it. One tip, when measuring something under a 1/2 inch, start your measurement at the 2″ mark. Otherwise the hook will get in your way.

  5. I’d love a tip or two for making more accurate cuts when measuring and marking 2x4s, etc. with my tape measure. For example, the play in hook at the end of the tape can result in cuts that are just a hair too short, and I’d love to know of any tricks for making sure I can quickly and accurately measure and cut. At the rate I work, it can take a whole morning just to cut a few pieces! :)

  6. I’d love a tip or two for making more accurate cuts when measuring and marking 2x4s, etc. with my tape measure. For example, the play in hook at the end of the tape can result in cuts that are just a hair too short, and I’d love to know of any tricks for making sure I can quickly and accurately measure and cut. At the rate I work, it can take a whole morning just to cut a few pieces! :)

  7. I started to try to begin to get into woodworking. I had a garage in SoCal at the time. I live in a 5th floor walk up in Europe now. I would love info on setting up a small hand tool only apartment friendly workshop. No stationary tools or benchtop tools.

  8. I started to try to begin to get into woodworking. I had a garage in SoCal at the time. I live in a 5th floor walk up in Europe now. I would love info on setting up a small hand tool only apartment friendly workshop. No stationary tools or benchtop tools.

  9. Great topic! I make my living as a woodworker and I’m currently in a carpentry apprenticeship program. Even though I’ve used tape measures and tools all my life I’ve learned a lot in my training. It might seem elementry but I think it’s a good idea to get a firm grip on the basics, i.e. how to read a tape measure, knowing which side of the pencil line to cut, know when you can get away with a 16th gap and an 8th gap, know how to use basic hand tools (skill saw, miter saw, table saw), using a speed square and the like

  10. Great topic! I make my living as a woodworker and I’m currently in a carpentry apprenticeship program. Even though I’ve used tape measures and tools all my life I’ve learned a lot in my training. It might seem elementry but I think it’s a good idea to get a firm grip on the basics, i.e. how to read a tape measure, knowing which side of the pencil line to cut, know when you can get away with a 16th gap and an 8th gap, know how to use basic hand tools (skill saw, miter saw, table saw), using a speed square and the like

    1. Tapes aren’t that accurate and as they age, even less so. Go get yourself a lufkin folding rule. Just don’t put it in your back pocket and sit on it. You can also use the folding rule to “calibrate” the tape and determine how it’s most accurate.

  11. This is really great stuff, folks, keep it coming! We’ll have a book drawing later in the month and will do questions with crowdsourced answers (like we did with the Make: Electronics giveaway), but we’ll try to get as much of this covered in the course of the month as possible.

  12. This is really great stuff, folks, keep it coming! We’ll have a book drawing later in the month and will do questions with crowdsourced answers (like we did with the Make: Electronics giveaway), but we’ll try to get as much of this covered in the course of the month as possible.

  13. So many projects out there call for cutting wood with laser cutters of shop bots that sometimes it’s discouraging when all I have is a bandsaw and a drill press. I’d really like to know how to get some intricate projects with moveable parts done by hand.

  14. So many projects out there call for cutting wood with laser cutters of shop bots that sometimes it’s discouraging when all I have is a bandsaw and a drill press. I’d really like to know how to get some intricate projects with moveable parts done by hand.

  15. I am by no means a hand tool fanatic, but I think more people should be aware of the speed and ease of some hand tools in simple jobs. While not as “easy” as using a cordless drill, you’d be surprised at the speed and ease a big Yankee style ratchet screwdriver can sink 3″ wood screws into 2x material. The same as using a good hand saw for cutting the occasional 2×8. I recently replaced stairs leading to my porch using my dad’s Yankee driver, and rebuilt part of my deck using only his old handsaw. Of course, these tools are dating back 50 years or more, and finding a new tool of equivalent quality is hard. Stay away from cheap copies (does HF ring any bells?) if you want a tool to last and work well.

  16. Finally something I’m good at. I really enjoy woodworking, but I’m no where near the accuracy that this guy is… Check out woodgears.ca

    I am going to be building his wooden bandsaw this summer.

  17. Finally something I’m good at. I really enjoy woodworking, but I’m no where near the accuracy that this guy is… Check out woodgears.ca

    I am going to be building his wooden bandsaw this summer.

  18. Finally something I’m good at. I really enjoy woodworking, but I’m no where near the accuracy that this guy is… Check out woodgears.ca

    I am going to be building his wooden bandsaw this summer.

  19. Finally something I’m good at. I really enjoy woodworking, but I’m no where near the accuracy that this guy is… Check out woodgears.ca

    I am going to be building his wooden bandsaw this summer.

  20. Finally something I’m good at. I really enjoy woodworking, but I’m no where near the accuracy that this guy is… Check out woodgears.ca

    I am going to be building his wooden bandsaw this summer.

  21. I’m another maker whose primary focus is woodworking.

    The first thing y’all must add to people’s skillsets is safety. Woodworking with power tools is significantly more dangerous than soldering electronics and so forth.

    Statistically, the most dangerous tool in the shop is the table saw. There are two classes of injury it can inflict: blade contact injuries, and kickback injuries.

    Touching the blade will obviously ruin your whole day (unless you have a SawStop tablesaw). But kickback actually kills people.

    Kickback occurs when your workpiece wanders off the fence and contacts the back edge of the blade, where the teeth rise out of the table. The teeth will grab your board and hurl it toward you. The tangential speed of a tablesaw blade is about 120 mph. A 120 mph 2×4 will easily smash through the wall of your shop. You can imagine what it’d do to your gut.

    Kickback can be entirely prevented by using a splitter or riving knife. These are simple devices attached to the saw that prevent contact with the rear end of the blade. All table saws are required to have them, but there are many idiots out there who remove them. So please tell people not to be idiotic.

  22. A second basic skill that people need for woodworking is how to hold your work. A kitchen table can be a perfectly good electronics workbench, but it’d be a terrible woodworking bench. Woodworking benches are best thought of as clamping machines. They’re also built extremely sturdily to withstand the racking forces they’ll experience.

    An excellent reference on workbenches and work holding is The Workbench Design Book, by Christopher Schwarz (the editor of Popular Woodworking).

    1. He also has a blog over at popular woodworking that has a ton of great info about workbenches. I am thinking about making the top of my new one out of LVL since it’s so stable because of his LVL bench.

    2. He also has a blog over at popular woodworking that has a ton of great info about workbenches. I am thinking about making the top of my new one out of LVL since it’s so stable because of his LVL bench.

    3. He also has a blog over at popular woodworking that has a ton of great info about workbenches. I am thinking about making the top of my new one out of LVL since it’s so stable because of his LVL bench.

  23. Tips and tricks for accurate measurement, or I cut it twice and still too short..
    Story poles, Folding rules, Stops and guides, tapes, squares, marking gages & knives
    It’s not what you know, but the wood you know.
    Grain direction, wood movement, hard, soft, engineered (ply MDF etc),
    Power Tools, or why does the breaker keep popping
    Saws, Drills, Routers, Sanders, Vacuums, stationary, etc
    Hand Tools
    Hammers, Saws, Planes, chisels, rasps, sand paper, etc
    A Sticky topic or Glues, fasteners and Clamps oh my!
    Different types of Glues and applications,
    Workbenchs & Clamps
    Screws, nails, and specialized hardware
    Tips and tricks for gluing up panels, laminations and curves
    Finishing
    Stains, Poly, dyes, etc.

    “Before we use any power tools, let’s take a moment to talk about shop safety. Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses.” – Norm Abram, Every episode of New Yankee Workshop

  24. Another maker here who primarily works with wood, very pleased to see this topic come up. Nice timing too since I just finished documenting the process of restoring an old handsaw with the intention of turning it into a project for the Make:Projects site. Guess I’ll have to finish that up this weekend :-)

    Not to take any of the thunder away from what Make is about to roll out but I noticed several posters express an interest in hand tools and apartment friendly wood working. I would suggest checking out Popular Woodworking Magazine, since their recent redesign they’ve probably become the most maker friendly woodworking publication out there – lots of online content, blogs, videos etc… – and have been the leading publication for modern hand tool use.

    -Josh

  25. Another maker here who primarily works with wood, very pleased to see this topic come up. Nice timing too since I just finished documenting the process of restoring an old handsaw with the intention of turning it into a project for the Make:Projects site. Guess I’ll have to finish that up this weekend :-)

    Not to take any of the thunder away from what Make is about to roll out but I noticed several posters express an interest in hand tools and apartment friendly wood working. I would suggest checking out Popular Woodworking Magazine, since their recent redesign they’ve probably become the most maker friendly woodworking publication out there – lots of online content, blogs, videos etc… – and have been the leading publication for modern hand tool use.

    -Josh

  26. Another maker here who primarily works with wood, very pleased to see this topic come up. Nice timing too since I just finished documenting the process of restoring an old handsaw with the intention of turning it into a project for the Make:Projects site. Guess I’ll have to finish that up this weekend :-)

    Not to take any of the thunder away from what Make is about to roll out but I noticed several posters express an interest in hand tools and apartment friendly wood working. I would suggest checking out Popular Woodworking Magazine, since their recent redesign they’ve probably become the most maker friendly woodworking publication out there – lots of online content, blogs, videos etc… – and have been the leading publication for modern hand tool use.

    -Josh

  27. Scrapers! I once spent an hour trying to get the planer scallop out of an oak plank with power sander and never did quite get to a perfect finish. Then someone turned me on to the card scraper and I was able to get an incredible finish in about a quarter of the time.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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