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  • Getting Started in Woodworking: More Woodworking Basics for Beginners

     

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    An Insider's Guide to Buying Hardwood Lumber

    Lumber buyingIn this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, we take a trip to a few local lumberyards to show you some insider tips for purchasing the best hardwood and softwood lumber for your woodworking projects.

    We're shopping for some read oak lumber to use in a bookcase project that we'll be building over the course of the next few episodes. We chose red oak because it is readily available and available in wide dimensions.

    Two types of lumberyards
    We visit a hardwood dealer in Western Connecticut that specializes in rough lumber for cabinet makers and flooring. The material you buy here is rough sawn, and requires that you mill it smooth using a jointer and planer before it's ready for use. It's also a good idea to let rough-sawn lumber acclimate in your shop to prevent it from bowing or warping when you cut into it with your woodworking tools.

    We also visit the lumber department of a construction home center. The wood sold here is already surfaced and ready for use. This option is ideal if you're just starting out or don't yet have a planer and jointer in your shop. The most important thing to remember when buying presurfaced lumber is choose straight boards. Bowed or warped lumber can ruin a project entirely.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video by: Gary Junken; Editing by: Cari Delahanty

    Related links
    Free Printable Cut List
    More Lumber Buying Tips
    Lumberyard Sleuth
    Ideas For Lumber Storage
    Tying Down Lumber For Transport

    How To Rip Lumber Safely on the Tablesaw

    Ripping on the tablesawIn this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, we demonstrate how to safely rip lumber on the tablesaw. You'll learn how to set up a tablesaw for basic rip cuts, and how to use tablesaw accessories such as push sticks and a splitter to remain safe every step of the the way.

    These techniques are the first that you'll encounter if you follow along with our bookcase project that we'll be building over the course of the next few episodes. To determine the dimensions of each of your rip cuts, use the free woodworking plan available for this project.

    Safety first
    The tablesaw is a wonderful tool for making straight, square cuts in lumber, but it can be dangerous if you don’t follow our basic tips. We’ll show you how to avoid kickback (this can happen if the workpiece gets caught on the back of the blade) by adjusting the rip fence properly and using the saw’s built-in splitter. We also explain how to make a handy push stick that will keep your precious fingers out of the danger zone. Other essential tips include using an extra table or stand to give large workpieces added support and make them easier to control.

    A mid-sized tablesaw is a significant investment. Follow our setup steps in the beginning, and you’ll get decades of safe, clean, and accurate cuts from this shop workhorse.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video and Editing by: Michael Dobsevage

    Related links
    Using Push Sticks
    Rip Thin Strips Safely
    Make a Zero-Clearance Insert
    Tablesaw Tune-Up

    How To Crosscut Lumber on the Tablesaw

    CrosscuttingIn this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, the third in our series on building an oak bookcase, we demonstrate how to safely crosscut lumber on the tablesaw.

    Crosscutting lumber is just what it sounds like, cutting lumber across the grain. Just as we used the tablesaw to rip our bookcase parts to width, which we covered in the previous episode, we decided to use the tablesaw to crosscut the bookcase parts to length. To determine the dimensions of each of your cross cuts, use the free woodworking plan available for this project.

    Choose the right tool for the job
    Crosscutting can be accomplished with a variety of tools. A miter saw, also known as a chop saw, is a great tool for making cross cuts. However, miter saws have width limitations. You can also use a circular saw with the cutting guide we demonstrated in our workbench episodes. Finally, a jigsaw will do the trick, although it won't give you the highest-quality cut.

    Accessories for crosscutting
    When crosscutting lumber on the tablesaw there are a few accessories that are must-haves. Most tablesaws come with a miter gauge, which will support a workpiece as you pass it through the blade. These can be outfitted with a long backer board to provide support for long boards and prevent tearout as the blade exits the back of the workpiece. You can also purchase an aftermarket miter gauge, many of which feature helpful accessories like a telescoping fence or flip-down stops for making repetitive cuts.

    When crosscutting long boards, it is extremely helpful to support the board where it hangs off the tablesaw. For this you can use a support stand, or rig something up with a sawhorse.

    A crosscut sled is also a must-have accessory for the tablesaw. This shop-built jig is great for cutting wide boards that can't be supported by a standard miter gauge.

    The one accessory you should never use when crosscutting on the tablesaw is the rip fence. It must be remain out of the way of your cut to prevent the board from jamming between the blade and the rip fence, which can lead to dangerous kickback.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video and Editing by: Michael Dobsevage

    Related links
    Two Versatile Crosscut Sleds
    Tune Up Your Crosscut Sled (FW Online Members Only)
    Choosing and Using a Miter saw
    Support Stands

    How To Cut Rabbets and Dadoes with a Router

    Routing DadoesIn this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, the forth in our series on building an oak bookcase, we demonstrate how to cut accurate dadoes and rabbets with a router and a simple jig.

    If you don't already own a router, now is the time to buy one. These versatile power tools are capable of a wide variety of tasks, and can often accomplish tasks in place of a tablesaw. They are ideal for cutting dadoes and rabbets, particularly when paired with the simple t-square jig detailed in this episode.

    To determine the locations and dimensions of each of the dadoes and rabbets on the bookcase, use the free woodworking plan available for this project.

    Dadoes and Rabbets Defined
    Dadoes are square notches cut into the surface of a piece of lumber that hold the end of a mating board. Dadoes generally run across the grain. When cut with the grain, they're referred to as grooves. Dadoes are a perfect when building shelving or cabinetry as a way to join shelves and partitions. For our bookcase project, we reinforced our dadoes with screws, although that added strength isn't essential to the joint.

    Rabbets are similar to dodoes and groves in that they can go in the direction of the grain or across it. However, Rabbets are notches cut into the edge of a board. We're using a rabbet to attach the back panel to the bookcase, but they also have a variety of joinery applications.

    A T-Square Jig and Other Accessories
    We built a simple but foolproof T-Square jig to assist in cutting the dadoes. This type of jig is designed to cut exactly 90 degrees to one edge, which is perfect for our shelf dadoes. You will also need a straight router bit. Ours is 3/4-in. diameter because our lumber measures that same thickness. If you are using plywood or thinner stock, you'll need a different bit. Most 3/4 in. thick plywood is actually thinner than that and requires a special plywood bit.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video and Editing by: Michael Dobsevage

    Related links
    All About Rabbet and Dado Joints
    Router-Table Tricks For Dadoes and Rabbets
    Choosing a Straight Router Bit
    12 Tips for Router Safety

    Hand Sanding and Power Sanding Basics

    Random-orbit sanderIn this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, the seventh in our series on building an oak bookcase, we cover the sanding process. This is typically the dreaded step in any woodworking project: it's boring and time consuming. However, it's also one of the most important steps of any project because the quality of your sanding will shine through once you apply your final finish. We cover sanding flat surfaces, edges, and curves.

    As always, for complete details about the parts and construction of the bookcase featured in this series, download the free woodworking plan available for this project.

    Sanding Basics
    Our bookcase project has most of the situations you'll encounter in woodworking, big flat surfaces, narrow edges, and curves. Start with the roughest grit you need to remove milling marks , and then work your way up through finer and finer grits with each one removing the scratches from the last grit and replacing them with finer scratches until the scratches are so tiny the eye can't see them.

    We recommend sanding all of your parts before assembling them with glue. This is true with most furniture projects. The parts are much easier to handle and once parts are assembled, it can be difficult to reach into corners. The reason sanding is so important at this step is because any ripples from the planer or scratches will become much more apparent once you apply a finish

    Simple Sanding Tools
    When hand sanding, a sanding block is a must. These are available commercially or can be made from a block of wood. Without a sanding block, you run the risk of missing areas, rounding over edges, or leaving scratches behind. If you want to speed up the process, power sanders are a great solution. We recommend the random-orbit sander, which spins and orbits in a way that prevents scratch patterns from forming.

    You'll also need some basic safety gear to protect yourself from fine dust. When power sanding it's a good idea to hook your sander up to a vacuum. You should also wear a dust mask or respirator and eye protection.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video and Editing by: Michael Dobsevage

    Related links
    When to Stop Sanding?
    Sanding Basics
    Choosing Sandpaper
    Sand, Scrape, or Plane

    Best Practices for Cutting and Shaping Curves

    Jig saw cutsIn this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, the sixth in our series on building an oak bookcase, we demonstrate how to cut curves with a bandsaw or jig saw. We also show you a few tricks for drawing, sanding and smoothing curves.

    To determine the locations and dimensions of each of the curves on the bookcase featured in this series, use the free woodworking plan available for this project.

    Laying Out Curves
    Their are two main types of curves in furniture design, radius curves and changing radius curves, also known as fair curves. A radius curve is just like it sounds. The curve is a section of a radius and can be drawn using a compass. A changing radius curve isn't a section of a circle. This type of curve can be drawn with a variety of drawing tools, including french curves and battens. We use both of those tools to draw the changing-radius curves in our bookcase project.

    Bandsaw versus Jigsaw for Cutting Curves
    The bandsaw is the ideal power tool for cutting the curves on our bookcase project. A bandsaw has a smooth cutting action and produces a square smooth edge that's easy to clean up with a sander. Because of the flat table on the bandsaw, it's also easy to control your cut. If you don't have a bandsaw in your shop, the next best tool is the jig saw.

    With either tool, the trick to cutting curves in your furniture is to mark out the curve and then cut roughly 1/8-in. from the line. The remaining waste can be removed with a power sander or by hand sanding.

    To sand and smooth curved surfaces, we show two techniques: The first is with a belt sander; the second uses a curved hand sanding block made from a scrap piece of lumber.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video and Editing by: Michael Dobsevage

    Related links
    Drawing Big Curves
    Precise Tools for Drawing Curves
    How to Cut Flawless Curves on the Bandsaw
    Tips for Better Sanding

    Joinery With Screws and Hardwood Plugs

    Oak bookcaseIn this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, the eighth in our series on building an oak bookcase, we'll show you how to complete the joinery of our bookcase project using screws and wood plugs.

    As always, for complete details about the parts and construction of the bookcase featured in this series, download the free woodworking plan available for this project.

    Best Practices For Joinery with Screws
    Screws are a great way to reinforce your joinery, especially when you're starting out. They create a rock-solid joint that can be accomplished with limited tools and limited experience. But joining two boards with screws requires a few key steps

    The first step of the process is to drill a clearance hole in the top piece of wood so that the screw can pass through it freely. The clearance hole should be equal to the diameter of the outside of the screw. This lets the head of the screw do its job and pull the top piece against the mating piece.

    The other hole you need to drill is in the bottom piece; it's called a pilot hole. Its job is to clear out material so that the threads of the screw can catch the wood. A pilot hole also prevents the screw from splitting the workpiece. Clearance and pilot holes are especially important when using hardwoods.

    Hide Your Screws with Wood Plugs
    Exposed screws can detract from the beauty of this bookcase project, so we decided to use hardwood plugs to conceal the screw heads. To do this, we drilled a counter-bore so that the screw head would sink below the surface of the workpiece. After driving the screws, the counterbore allows us to plug the hole.

    You can purchase commercial wood plugs at your local hardware store or online, but we prefer to make our own. This way we can use matching wood to help the plugs blend in, or create custom hardwood plugs with a contrasting wood to accent this project. In this episode, we demonstrate a really smart technique for making hardwood plugs.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video and Editing by: Michael Dobsevage

    Related links
    Using a Drill Driver
    Use Screws Like a Pro
    Making Square Pegs in a Round Hole
    Video: Making Hardwood Dowels (FW Online Members Only)
    Get More From Your Drill Press

    Build a Simple, Sturdy Workbench: The Base

    There's a catch-22 when it comes to workbenches. Every woodworker needs a good one, but it is hard to build a traditional workbench without already having... you guessed it... a workbench. In this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, we'll show you how to build a sturdy workbench that will serve your workshop for years to come.

    The design for this workbench is loosely based on one featured in Sam Allen's book Making Workbenches. We modified the joinery and dimensions, which are detailed in a measured drawing and materials list available as a free plan download.

    The bench is constructed with lumber and supplies available at any home center or lumber yard. To build it, you'll need a few basic tools including a router, drill-driver, and circular saw.

    Requirements for a workbench
    While you can follow our  measured drawing, we recommend customizing the dimensions for your bench to suit your needs.

    There are two common ways to determine the height of your workbench . The first is the height of other surfaces around your shop. We designed our bench to match the height of the tablesaw so we could use the workbench as an outfeed support when cutting large pieces.

    Another approach to sizing your bench is based on your stature; the taller you are, the taller your workbench. To determine a good height, straighten your arm against your side, aim the palm of your hand toward the floor, and measure from the floor to your palm. This height is generally comfortable for bench tasks like hand planing and routing.

    Joinery and Construction
    In this first episode we focus on building the base. In episode two, we construct the benchtop and attach a woodworking vise.

    The base is constructed with kiln-dried construction lumber (not green lumber, which is wet and might warp as it dries). And the joinery system consists of long threaded rods, sometimes called truss rods, that fit inside the stretchers and are held in place with washers, nuts, and dowels.

    We cut all of our lumber to size with a circular saw and a shopmade straight-edge jig. You can also use a mitersaw or tablesaw if you have those in your shop. The holes for the dowels and bolt system are bored with a hand-held drill-driver. A drill press would speed up the task and provide better accuracy.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video by: Gary Junken; Editing by: Greg Gordon

    Related links
    A Short History of Workbenches
    Gallery of Workbenches
    DOWNLOAD THE PLAN: A Simple, Sturdy Workbench
    Build a Plywood Workbench

    Build a Simple, Sturdy Workbench: The Bench Top and Vise

    Workbench viseIn this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, we complete our workbench project by making the bench top from stacked sheets of MDF (medium-density fiberboard), attaching a traditional woodworking vise, and drilling holes in the benchtop for benchdogs, which are great workbench accessories for holding down your work.

    Attach the bench top and vise
    The bench top is constructed by cutting two matching pieces from a single sheet of MDF. This is a pretty simple task that makes use of the circular-saw edge guide we made in the previous episode. The two pieces are glued and screwed together and attached to the bench base with tabletop clips.

    Once the bench top is attached to the base, we show you how to install a woodworking vise with bolts. Finally, we finish up by drilling holes for the bench dogs.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video by: Gary Junken; Editing by: Greg Gordon

    Related links
    More on Vises in The FW Tool Guide
    DOWNLOAD THE PLAN: A Simple, Sturdy Workbench
    Build a Plywood Workbench

    10 Ways to Use a Workbench

    Workbench viseIn this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, we put our new simple, sturdy workbench to work by demonstrating our 10 favorite techniques and accessories for the workbench. These shopmade and store-bought accessories will help you work more efficiently and safely with woodworking power tools and handtools.

    10 Workbench Tips:

    1. The Woodworking Clamp - The most basic accessory for your workbench is a woodworking clamp. Available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, clamps can be used to hold down work for a variety of operations.

    2. The Bench Dog - These workbench accessories come in all shapes in sizes and fit into holes (round or square) cut into the workbench. When used in conjunction with a woodworking vise, they allow you to hold work steady on the bench for handtool and powertool operations.

    3. The Holdfast - The venerable holdfast (also known as a hold down) is like having a third hand to help hold a workpiece against a bench for tasks such as planing, chiseling, and carving. It fits into round holes cut into your workbench, and it will hold any shaped piece, from flat panels or tabletops to curved and carved cabriole legs

    4. The Planing Stop - A bench stop is simply a piece of wood that is secured to the benchtop to prevent the workpiece from being pushed off the bench when handplaning.

    5. The Bench Vise - There are a few varieties of vises available for a workbench, including a tail vise positioned on the end of a bench or a face vise positioned along the edge. In addition to holidng a workpiece between the two jaws, they can be used to hold large workpieces in conjunction with bench dogs.

    6. The Board Jack - Similar to a bench dog but positioned on the bench leg, a board jack assists the vise when supporting a long board; one end of the board is captured in the bench vise while the other rests on the board jack.

    7. The Vise Spacer - A bench vise can become misaligned when clamping a workpiece on only one side of the vise. To compensate, insert a spacer of equal thickness on the other side of the bench.

    8. The Rubber Mat - To keep workpieces steady when using a power sander, you don't always need to go through the trouble of setting up clamps. Simply place the workpiece on a rubber mat to keep it steady under the vibration of a sander.

    9. The Bench Hook - The most common device for securing small workpieces to the bench is the bench hook. This can be made in a variety of ways and may function as a simple sawing support, a miter box, or as a convenient end-grain shooting block for planing.

    10. The Coffee Mug - No workbench is complete without a coffee mug to sip on while in the shop. Visit the store to purchase a Fine Woodworking coffee mug and other branded shop gear.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video by: Gary Junken; Editing by: Cari Delahanty

    Related links
    More Workbench Jigs
    All About Workbench Accessories
    Holdfasts in the Tool Guide
    Make Your Own Bench Dogs (FW Online Members Only)