I wish someone had told me that when I started!
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Wood Magazine

I wish someone had told me that when I started!

5 overlooked tips for new (and experienced) woodworkers

Man with evil eye look & bad board
Enlarge Image
Simply upgrading the blade that
came with your power tools can
spare years of frustration and save
piles of wood from unnecessary

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.


Pencil marking a board
Enlarge Image
A story stick ensures marking
accuracy, especially when laying
out multiple parts or transferring
measurements among workpieces.
End of chisel
Enlarge Image
Fix your goofs -- such as slicing
away a dried-on finish drip -- and
then bask in your new-found
woodworking confidence.


1. Don't get hung up on tape measures.
Instead, rely on story sticks (right) 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.

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.

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.



Wood Magazine