Tag Archives: Get Woodworking Week

Thoughts When Starting Out

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I’m not the most experienced woodworker by any stretch of the imagination, but now that I have a few years under me, I thought I might pass along a few thoughts that may benefit folks that are interested in getting started in woodworking.

Safety

It’s no secret that woodworking can be dangerous. One can spend tons of time focusing on specific safety topics, but from a high level you want to protect you eyesight, hearing, lungs, and body.

Protect your eyesight. A decent pair of safety glasses is not expensive. If you’re a glasses wearer like I am, you’ll want an “OTG” (Over The Glasses) pair of safety glasses. Don’t rely on your prescription glasses for this – you’ll be mad when you get a scratch or ding in those nice pricey lenses, plus they don’t have great side or underneath protection. I have a pair of OTG safety glasses, and if I am doing anything that is going to kick up dust from underneath that can get up and behind the lens, I also have a pair of OTG goggles that I’ll use.

For hearing protection, I have a pair of ZEM SensGard that I use most of the time (and can’t beat free – I won them from Matt’s Basement Workshop shwag a few years ago). I also have a pair of the over the ear type that includes a radio and 1/8″ jack for plugging in an audio device.

To control dust, and therefore protect your lungs, you can think of doing this in three phases. First collect as much of the dust at the source. You can use your shop vac if you don’t have a dust collector yet. Next is for the finer stuff in the air, you can get an air filter, or use a filter attached to a box fan in the meantime. Thirdly, a decent mask for the face filters what’s left before you breathe it in. You can get a good respirator that can take interchangeable particulate and organic filters (for vapors) for not a lot of money.

To protect the rest of your body, use safety items such as push blocks (which you can make and I like better than push sticks at the table saw), a riving knife or splitter at the table saw, etc. Make sure you have a “no zone” for your fingers around any blade. For instance, anything closer than the throat plate of my table saw is off limits. I have and love the Micro Jig Grr-ripper, and would recommend it as a core piece of safety gear. Have a healthy respect for the tools used. You don’t want to be callous, but you also don’t want to be so tense that you are approaching the operation in an overly stiff or nervous way. I think either approach can leave one more at risk for an injury. Trust your gut instinct as well. If you have reservations about a certain cut, take a step back and rethink it. Chances are there is an alternate way to get the same thing done. If you’re tired, maybe another time would be a better time to flip that power switch on.

What Tools?

Early on, I bought some tools with the thinking that “oh I bet I cold use this to do xyz thing!”. I was too concerned with building up my shop instead of building a thing. But I became anxious to get started building and luckily at that time, some very talented woodworkers I met helped set that priority straight.

So what would I do differently and recommend for folks starting out? What I do today. That is, let the project decide what tools I need. Think of the project you want to make – what tools do you need to get it done? Chances are, you may have the basics: cordless drill, hammer, circular saw, etc. and you can get quite a bit done with these. I worked with a basic set of tools like these when my wife and I lived in an apartment. Say you have these tools, but your project calls for some curves, that could justify a purchase of a jigsaw, or if you have a shop space ready, a bandsaw.

Embrace Mistakes

You will make mistakes. It’s okay. It’s even good. Good? Yep, because you can learn from them. A mistake may mean you alter the design of something, or maybe at times, you may end up with a piece of wood to add to the burn pile. Either way, it’s an opportunity to learn. Failures are not the opposite of success, but the path to it.

Always The Learner

There is always something new to learn. Check out my Woodworking & Maker Links section for some great podcasts, blogs, and education sites, as well as my YouTube subscriptions for some great video channels to learn from. (And, if you know of a great channel, blog, podcast, etc. that I don’t have listed, post a comment to let me know!)

Not just with woodworking, but with anything in life, I try to take a learner’s approach. Knowledge is valuable. There are things I can share with others, and there are always things others can share that I can learn from.

Challenge yourself. With each new project, I try to incorporate something I have not done before. With the puja table I made, it was sliding dovetails. My workbench was the first time I used mortise and tenon joinery (and big ones at that). That said, don’t discount a technique that can be used effectively just because some may poo poo it since it’s not “fine” woodworking. I’ve used pocket holes in situations where it works well (and in a case where it maybe it wasn’t – but that goes back to that whole learn from mistakes thing).

Enjoy It!

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? That also means it’s okay to take a break, too. If you’re tired, short on time, maybe even a little bit burned out on it if you’ve been in the shop a lot, or simply just not “feeling it” that day, it’s certainly fine to take a step away for a bit. You’ll be back in the shop in no time, refreshed.

It’s Get Woodworking Week! Two Things To Keep In Mind.

GWW14It’s “Get Woodworking Week”! Begun by Tom Iovino from Tom’s Workbench, it’s a week to think about ways to introduce the craft to others.

For this year, I’d like to offer a couple of things to keep in mind…

Mistakes are okay!

I think the fear of failure makes some folks a bit timid about getting started. Don’t let mistakes throw you. Mistakes are learning experiences. Often they are not catastrophic. Embrace them, learn from them, then get “back on the horse” and get going again. Take this example from the recent Woodworkers Fighting Cancer easel build.

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Yep. I cut on the wrong side of the line. I had my dado stack in the table saw set to 5/8″ thickness. I had a choice: either discard the piece and start over, or keep my current setup that I had at the table saw, cut the rest of the legs the same way, and thus choose a “design modification” so that the panels of the easel would be 5/8″ shorter. I chose the latter, resulting in a “design modification”.

Invite Your Kids Into The Shop.

Keeping safety in mind, I would encourage folks to invite their kids into the shop. My son is 8 years old. With a little ways to go before being ready for the table saw, jointer, or other power tools, he was a great help in the easel project with glueup and assembly. I didn’t push him, I simply invited him into the shop to see if he wanted to help Dad out with some glueing up of the easel. He readily said yes.¬†With some special needs, he can either be prone to less focus, or have¬†laser like focus.

I explained that we needed to spread glue up evenly in each of the half lap joints and if he needed some help, just let me know. He did remarkably well, and when he did run into a situation of too much glue running over the edge, I told him it was just fine, we can wipe up the excess, which we did.

In the end, he really enjoyed helping me out, and of course, had some extra fun as well.

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100 Pieces Of Wood

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To celebrate their 100th day of the school year, my son’s homework tonight for his second grade class is to bring in a collection of 100 small items. We were going over our options of what he could bring in: maybe some Lego pieces, pennies… or how about pieces of wood? He loved the idea, especially when I offered some different species to make the selection of different colors. This was turning into a great opportunity for Get Woodworking Week!

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After cutting up 25 pieces each of pine, red oak, maple and walnut, my son helped me sand any of the rough edges. Then came sorting time. We labelled four sandwich bags for each of the species. We then talked about how each of the trees make a different color wood, with different grain and how some woods are harder or softer than others. Some of the red oak pieces had some of the bark still on them, so when my son asked why those were two colors, I got to explain how that was part of the bark from the tree still there, and that wood came from the outside part of the tree.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until Get Woodworking Week to teach your child about woodworking, take any opportunity to do that! It just so happened this opportunity came up this week!

Get Woodworking Week! Don’t Let Shop “Shortcomings” Stop You

Yep, it’s Get Woodworking Week! Masterminded by Tom Iovino over at Tom’s Workbench, the idea is for folks interested but new to woodworking to get into the shop. While I’m pretty new to woodworking myself, and completed my first “true” furniture project this past year, I’ve been interested in woodworking for much longer. Prior to building that project, I found I was guilty of worrying too much if I had the right tools to do the job. I knew it too when I began thinking to myself that I was getting tired of trying to get the shop “right” before attempting something more than a DIY carpentry project, and I was just itching to actually build something that could be considered real woodworking.

It was right around this time I went to WoodExpo in Boston, and got to meet and talk to folks with real woodworking experience: Tommy MacDonald, Eli Cleveland, Mike Morton, Rob Bois, Neil Lamens, and others. When asked about what woodworking I do, the reply went along the lines of, “Well, not much yet. Still building up my shop”. Invariably, each replied in various ways not to worry so much about shop building, but get some wood and build something… anything! It was like the Nike commercials – Just Do It. They confirmed what I was thinking, and I’m thankful they did so.

So, if you find yourself wondering if you have the “just right” shop setup and “enough/right” tools to do woodworking, stop. Buy some wood and just do it.