Nothing beats the raw satisfaction of creating something beautiful or meaningful out of ordinary materials. Creation is a form of therapy in itself and if you manage to create something aesthetically beautiful, then looking at it nourishes your soul and works wonders for your spiritual health. Woodworking is the sort of creative hobby that not only serves as a tonic for your mental health but if learned skillfully could make you a substantial amount of extra income as well.
If you are someone who:
- Wants to get started into the art of Woodworking.
- Has envied your Dad doing it and want to do it but do not have the adequate time to gather the necessary knowledge/skills.
- Wants to build something unique that is not available in the stores.
- Likes working with tools.
- Thought of making something custom for a specific need. OR
- Struggled to find the detailed plans to build your dream project, then
this article has been prepared while keeping you in the mind.
The hobby of woodworking is for people of all skill levels, budget, and even age. However, you do need a small space(about half a garage) to set up your shop. You can buy a handheld saw, a wood chipper, and lumber to get started right away or you could invest in some work stands, mechanical table saws and drill press.
It is, however, important to note that it will take time until you see your art starts looking artistic. Worry not, there are plenty of free online books and videos that will help you overcome this initial hurdle. You can check out one of these, “The Art of Woodworking” by clicking here.
KEEP IT BASIC
You do not need the best or most expensive equipment when you start. It will be a complete waste of money, rather buy some handheld basic tools. Learn the art first before you start getting the expensive equipments. You might have the most expensive chisel set in the world but if you are bad carver then the carvings will never be any good.
Buy some handheld saws, chisels of different sizes, a measuring tape, T square, a workbench and a wood hammer. If you can spare a little extra then you may invest in a hand plane as well. These tools are inexpensive to own and require very little maintenance than the heavy machinery and are more than enough to get started. Also if you start with handheld tools rather than the automatic ones, then you will appreciate the art of carpentry and enjoy the experience much more.
KNOW HOW TO CHOOSE LUMBER
Hardwood vs Softwood:
The term hardwood generally means wood that is denser, harder and hence sturdier while softwood generally means wood that is less dense and much lighter in comparison to hardwood. But there are exceptions like the balsa wood, one of the lightest and the least dense wood but is considered a hardwood.
If we get into the science of this classification then it is based on the type of seeds they produce i.e. angiosperms or gymnosperms. Hardwood trees are angiosperms, flowering plants which produce seeds that have some sort of covering around them. Hardwoods are never monocotyledonous. Softwoods are generally evergreen trees, which produce seeds with no coating and let the seeds directly fall to the ground.
Some Hardwood Trees: Alder, apple, acorn, balsa, beech, hickory, mahogany, maple, oak, teak, and walnut.
Some Softwood Trees: Cedar, Douglas fir, juniper, pine, redwood, spruce, and yew.
Uses: Hardwoods are denser and sturdier in comparison to Softwoods and also have a much better fire resistance. Hence hardwoods are found in high-quality furniture where strength and durability are required like sofas, flooring and even house construction. Generally speaking, hardwood is more expensive than softwood due to the obvious reasons but because of its density, it can also be difficult to woodwork for beginners.
Hence, as a beginner, it is always better to advance your skills using softwood.
As a novice, you will also not be able to use your tools in the proper method and so might damage your tools more if you use Hardwood.
GRAIN OF THE WOOD
Grains are the concentric growth rings that a wood forms naturally as it grows and thickens. It is extremely important to work with the direction of the grain. Try planing a wood against the direction of the grain and you will soon understand what I am talking about. Do not try it unless you have to in some situations, but be cautious as planing against the grain can cause large chunks of wood to be chopped off.
Grain can also tell you a lot about the wood like its strengths and weakness and even how the wood could move through the years. You could also utilize the beautiful design of the grain to create surreal pieces of artistic furniture.
Knowing more about the Grain is of utmost importance to advance your skills in woodworking. If you do not know how to work with the grain, then although you may make beautiful looking woodworks but they may not be structurally sound as the points of stress may be falling with the direction of the grain. This could cause the grain to give way, breaking the entire woodwork in the process.
As the wood absorbs moisture, it will grow and start cupping. Knowledge of grains will help you know in advance how the wood may move through the years and hence build accordingly.
Cross Cuts: They are the cuts that you make when you slice the wood across the grain. Cutting across the grain is a bit harder than cutting along the grain and the saw best suited for such cuts are the ones that have smaller but a lot of teeth. The blade is called a crosscut blade and you can ask for a crosscut saw in the store. Crosscut is a necessary cut to learn because if you want to make the board shorter than its standard available size then you have to use this cut.
Draw a straight line in the board with a pencil and try to cut as straight as possible.
Rip Cuts: Rip cut is when you slice the wood along the grain. It is much easier to cut along the grain and hence you can use rip saws, which has a few but large teeth. This makes it easier to cut in a straight line. But as rip cuts are done along the length of the board, the long length of the cut makes it quite a challenge to cut in a straight line. And while starting the cut might not come perfectly.
If the cuts are not straight, it is also a great opportunity for you to used your hand plane to make is straight and in the process hone your planing skills. You will be planing quite often while woodworking, so it is a great skill to master.
The boards that come in the stores are of fixed dimension and you will need to use the rip cut frequently to make boards of sizes desirable to you.
Miter Cuts: Any cut other than 90º is called a Milter cut. They are generally cut at 45º and used to form perpendicular corners by attaching two boards cut at 45º joined together.
A Miter Saw is the perfect tool to cut the wood at any degrees but as a beginner, you can easily use a speed square and pencil for making precise 45º cuts.
Cutting Curves: Curves will open up a new world of possibilities for your projects and will add spice to your craft. Cutting straight lines will soon get monotonous and a great way to rekindle your love for carpentry is cutting curves according to your design and chiseling it bit by bit into perfection.
Normal crosscut saws and ripsaws are too broad to cut curves of intricate design. What you will need is a saw with a very thin blade. Such a saw is called a compass saw. Draw a curve of any calculated design with your pencil and saw it along the pencil line. Then use the chisel to carve out the design according to your vision.
You will be working with sharp tools and hammers so it should go without saying that some safety gloves are a great investment. And thankfully they are not expensive, you can easily buy one without breaking your wallet.
Also, depending on the amount of your work there will be a lot of wood dust and flakes generated. Not only can they pose a fire hazard but if you breathe the aerosols it is also not good for your lungs. Hence a PM2.5 mask is also a required item.
Clean the floor after your work as the wood residue could catch fire or it may hide sharp nails or tools which you could step on.
The next step is to take your skill to the next level. For that, you need a proper mentor. But before applying for a mentor you need to master the basic skills of chiseling, sawing and making the above mentioned basic cuts.
As skillfully mastering the art of woodworking is quite complex, it is almost mandatory to get expert guidance. Otherwise, you may get frustrated over small things like the wrong size screw or having to ‘guesstimate’ materials. This frustration is enough to make you give up on woodworking and it is a shame if you have to start selling off your tools to your neighbors or on eBay.
The best is to be an apprentice to a master carpenter, but it is easier said than done these days due to the scarcity of actual woodworking professionals, who were once in abundance. The second best option is to invest in some online courses or guides. So after a few months when you have mastered the basic skills, you may want to invest in “Ted’s Woodworking”- Ted Mcgrath. It has over 16,000 projects with complete blueprints and even has a material list. Click here to check what the book has to offer. Or you can watch the following video.
I wish you success in your endeavor and would love to hear any progress you make or any difficulty you are facing. Cheers!