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I wish someone had told me that when I started!

5 overlooked tips for new (and experienced) woodworkers

Simply upgrading the blade that came with your power tools can spare years of frustration and save piles of wood from unnecessary tearout.

Recently, I asked my Facebook followers to think back to their woodworking beginnings to answer this question: What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you early in your woodworking journey that would have saved you hassle and frustration?

I imagined I would hear about perfecting handsaw techniques, or crafting tight-fitting joints—perhaps wisdom about the importance of buying premium tools. But as the replies rolled in, I got a completely different sense. The things people really wished they’d learned at the start were simple and, for the most part, free. So although the advice aims at brand-new woodworkers, it serves as a wise reminder for all of us:

1 Don’t get hung up on tape measures. Instead, rely on story sticks or simply cutting pieces to fit. Sneak up on cuts, testing on scrap first and fitting along the way. If you mark your cuts with a pencil line, leave the line showing and sand to it.

Story Stick

A story stick ensures marking accuracy, especially when laying out multiple parts or transferring measurements among workpieces.

2 Use sharp tools. Tear-out and chipping caused by dull blades frustrates all woodworkers. Besides, sharp tools cut with less effort, so they’re safer. And because they cut cleanly, they’ll save you lots of time sanding. Learn basic sharpening skills and spend a few minutes honing your tools before each use.

3 All woodworkers make mistakes.Acknowledge them. Learn from them. But, most of all, shut up about them. Most people won’t notice mistakes, so stop pointing them out when you show off your project. It will do wonders for your confidence.

Fixing a Finishing Goof

Fix your goofs—such as slicing away a dried-on finish drip—and then bask in your new-found woodworking confidence.

4 Remember that woodworking is a hobby. It’s supposed to be fun and relaxing, so take your time, and enjoy the process. Josh Phillips, one of my very talented viewers, told me that he has “no mania for perfection.” I love that line. Build to the best of your ability but don’t drive yourself crazy.

5 Ask for help. Woodworkers are a helpful bunch, eager to share advice no matter what your struggle. And we live in a time in which we can quickly get answers to anything. Get actively involved in online communities such as woodmagazine.com, Facebook, WoodworkingForMereMortals.com, etc. For my videos, I rely heavily on the help given by woodworkers who continually supply solutions and inspiration that I wouldn’t have thought of.

—Steve Ramsey’s quirky woodworking videos and prolific musings can be found at WoodworkingForMereMortals.com where his goal is to reclaim the woodworking hobby for the average guy.

11 Responses to “I wish someone had told me that when I started!”

  1. Regarding number three: I have heard it said and I think it holds a lot of truth. The difference between an experienced woodworker and a not so experienced one is the ability to make mistakes faster.

  2. MY FAVORITE OUT OF THE FIVE IS NUMBER 5. IVE BEEN AN AVID FAN FOR THE LAST YEAR AND BOY DO I EVER NEED HELP. FOR AWHILE NOW IVE PROMISED A FAMILY MEMBER (WHO LIVED OUT OF TOWN) AN 8 FOOT PICNIC TABLE, AND WITHOUT PLANS I TURNED TO Laney Shaughnessy OF A SIMPLE DESIGN INC. AND SURPRISING TO ME HE HAD ME A SET WITHIN MERE MINUTES. (DID U SEE THAT I USED THE WORD MERE IN A SENTENCE)KEEP UP THE GREAT THINGS YOUR DOING AND OH BY THE WAY CAN YOU GIVE ME ALL YOUR JIGS WHEN YOU RETIRE???

  3. More articles from Steve Ramsey please! This article alone reminds me that I should get a subscription to Wood magazine. Thanks.

  4. Steve’s videos have been very inspiring to me for building projects. Some of the projects, such as the recent miter saw sled, were very clearly and wonderfully easy to follow and understand. This is a great article! Thanks Steve!

  5. Oh boy, number three. So true. I learned over many years to quit pointing out mistakes. Shoot, some people will see what you consider a mistake and look at it as an enhancement to the piece.

    Steve’s videos are some of the best entertainment on the net, and on top of that, they provide real help to people wanting to learn woodworking.

  6. All good points. I really like the story stick idea. Tape measures can be hard to read, and forget it if you use multiple measures during one project!

    I really enjoy Steve’s work. He is a go-to-resource, and his Friday videos are appointment watching. I have built his work bench and clamp racks. He is great to watch and I learn quite a bit.

    Thanks Steve!

  7. #4 for me. Even if I only have time to work on something over a weekend, I don’t care how much needs to get done, I always take my time. It’s actually relaxing to me.

    And Steve, your videos are fantastic. Thanks for the lumber cart in particular.

  8. Thanks for the tips, Steve–very helpful for a true novice like me! Already I can see the wisdom in #1, and I’ll take the others to heart also.

  9. I call my mistakes ART. Some of my mistakes are even Dali-esque!

  10. “Remember the Kerf”.. LOL.. don’t know how many cuts I made early on that came up 1/4 inch short because I cut either on the line, or on the wrong side of the line..

  11. Hey Steve and all. I was just musing about how so many wood sites no matter how frugal always seem to have very good ideas for tools etc. yet always seem to involve cash which is in short supply. So when it comes to story sticks two pieces of scrap and a rubber band can accomplish a great deal when it needs to be more precise look for something that can clamp and not move, whether it is permanent like a screw or glue a simple repurposing of something out of the left over hardware box.




 
 
 
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