Real Value in Creating Fine Woodworking

In creating fine woodworking, I look back on my life and see where the real values and highpoints in life have been and what have been life lessons that have helped to make me what or who I am today.  At this point I would usually start a discussion on spiritual things but not this time.  I believe everyone born has the ability to create something when given the opportunity to exercise that gift in them.  On a larger scale, see what man has accomplished just in my lifetime (middle 1930’s) because of man’s ability to mentally explore.  Marvelous works have been done in medicine, communications, transportation and many other things all throught up and created by men and women who put their pants on one leg at a time.

I have not created woodworkig projects that would on a scale survive the test of public scrutiny outside of my family and friends.  My pleasure came in mentally starting with a woodworking project that seemed achievable to me and then putting a rough drawing on paper.  I woud gather the tools and materials that I needed to complete what I planned to start.  It would be in the mind that the started project would take on new form and shape and the longer the project took to complete the greater the changes would be.


Trial & Error

Lessons can be painful when the mind isn't engaged


The true value that I found was in the exercise of the mind and training the body to use tools carefully.  When full mental attention is paid to a project, the cares of life seem to diminish.  It is my belief that all have some artistic abiity and as long as this ability is put into play to some degree the better a person’s life is.  I like creating fine woodworking projects because it teaches me I can do woodworking, not to professional standards, but pleasing to my family and me.

Types of Wood for Woodworking Projects

When creating fine woodworking pieces the outcome is often determined by the choice of wood used in the making if it.  Many choices are made according to the characteristics of the wood; determined by whether it is soft, hard or manufactured wood, its color, grain, durability, and whether or not it is readily available.  Also, it would seem reasonable to believe that the cost, skill level of the woodworker, the project itself, and woodworking tools on hand would also influence the choice of wood.  Some woods are only to be found in larger lumberyards, not in your local home center.  Most hardwoods can only be found in specialty stores.

Some commonly used soft woods are cedar, fir, pine, redwood, spruce and hemlock.  For the most part, soft woods are used in home construction and for some furniture pieces and outdoor projects.  Soft woods are generally less expensive than hardwoods, are easy to work with and don’t require expensive woodworking tools for good results; making it a good choice for the beginning woodworker.  One thing to remember when using soft wood in making furniture is that, being soft wood, it can be easily damaged.

It is more difficult and time consuming to work with hardwood than it is to work with soft wood.  Hardwood lumber requires drilling a pilot hole before driving a screw into it.  Extremely sharp cutting and planning tools are necessary for cutting into hardwood.  This adds to the already high cost of the hardwood and takes up more time in the construction.

Finding certain hardwoods is becoming more difficult, Brazilian rosewood as an example, because it is being cut down without regard for its sustainability.  Thus the cost of the wood is so high that many woodworkers can’t afford it.  Ash, birch, cherry, mahogany, maple, oak, poplar, teak and walnut are all commonly used hardwoods.  Out of all these hardwoods only red oak and poplar are stocked in home centers and lumberyards as a general rule.  Ash, birch, cherry, mahogany, maple, teak and walnut are more likely to be found in specialty stores.

There are numerous exotic woods which are imported from other countries.  Lace wood, granadillo and African mahogany are three examples of exotic woods.  Lace wood comes from Australia.  Its unusual grain structure creates a hammered copper appearance.  It’s used mostly for accent or in veneered tabletops.  Granadilo is from Mexico and is suitable for all furniture applications.  African mahogany is imported from Ghana and is also used in making furniture.

Plywood is made of an uneven number of alternating layers of wood.  Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) and particle board are both made from wood particles combined with glue and bonded under pressure.  MDF has finer particles; therefore it makes a smoother and stronger product.  The problem with MDF is that it is very heavy.  Hardwood veneer is used to hide the edges of plywood and manufactured woods.  Since the veneer is so thin, care must be taken when cutting or sanding it.

This article discusses the more commonly used woods and how they are used.  Generally speaking soft woods are easier to work with and less expensive.  It is best used for outdoor projects.  Hardwood is not so easy to work with but because of its durability it is often used for making furniture.  So, think carefully about the characteristics of the wood, the project, your skill level, etc. before choosing the wood for your next fine woodworking project.

Types of Wood for Woodworking Projects


Five Ways to Safety Proof Your Fine Woodworking

Safety measures in creating fine woodworking are essential for preventing accidents.  Five ways to achieve that are the following:

1.  Use personal protective equipment:

  • Safety Glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • Proper clothing
  • Gloves

2.  Tool Maintenance

  • In good condition, clean
  • Safety guards in place
  • Push tool available for working with saws

3.  Work area

  • Proper ventilation when sawing and painting, staining, or stripping
  • Adequate lighting–overhead and task lighting to prevent shadows
  • Clean and uncluttered
  • Adequate space for work project

4.   Know your power tools

  • Proper training in using the tools
  • Know safety precautions concerning each tool
  • Understand which tool to use for each task
  • Check for frayed cords often
  • Use extension cords sparingly, if at al

5.  Make safety a habit

  • Make safety checks the first act when entering your woodworking area
  • Always use appropriate safety equipment and aids when working
  • Never skip safety measures; just this time, need to hurry, or for any other reason

Safety in Fine Woodworking

Evaluate your work place for safety.  You may find other ways to be safe that are not mentioned here.  Make necessary changes to assure your safety when creating fine woodworking.  Always Keep Safety in mind. Remember being cautious now may add days….years of contented, happy times while completing new woodworking projects.  Practicing  safety is always a smart thing to do.

Refinishing Fine Woodworking

Refinishing fine woodworking pieces that I find at garage sales and thrift shops is something that I enjoy.  My approach to doing this is not scientific and probably not what an experienced woodworker would do but so far it has worked for me.

First I clean the piece; using whatever cleanser I have on hand (usually soap and water) and on old rag.  Then I enlist my husband’s help in making any necessary repairs.  Actually he makes the repairs, he has the power tools, and I try to help by offering suggestions.  This is the time changes are made, if any.  After removing any hardware and stripping the old finish from the wood using liquid or gel stripper or sandpaper, and sometimes steel wool; it’s time to sand the surface smooth.  All the sawdust must then be removed with a tack cloth so the paint will go on smooth and even.  I can see some woodworkers cringe at the thought of painting wood projects, my husband does, but honestly some wood pieces just need to be painted.  And that is my favorite part.  Choosing the paint and design, then completing the project.  Now that’s exciting.  Once the painting is done, deciding what to do with it begins.  Do I give it away, sell it at a garage sale, donate it to a worthy cause or keep it?  So far, I’ve done everything except sell them.

No conversation about woodworking projects would be complete without discussing safety.  I know…women worry about being safe but men are made of tougher stuff and can’t get hurt.  Oh, yes you can!  So, think first of all the hazards involved in your project then take measures to prevent them.  Proper tools for the job and good ventilation in the work area are essential.  Proper gloves, safety goggles, ear protection, long sleeves, and proper respirator, especially when dealing with lead paint, are all important items in your arsenal of safety equipment.  This is a safety tip I read recently for properly disposing of rags and newspapers used in stripping: allow the solvent, mineral spirits or whatever to completely evaporate before discarding them.

I would say that in creating fine woodworking projects, repairing and refinishing fine woodworking pieces are the ultimate “green” in recycling.  What fun.

Refinishing Fine Woodworking



Public Domain Woodworking Patterns and Plans

Unless you design your own woodworking patterns and plans, one of the first things you will need when starting a new woodworking project is a pattern or plan to follow.  In today’s economy we look for ways to cut costs when we can and a free pattern or plan is a great way to do that while creating fine woodworking projects.  And thankfully there are thousands of free woodworking patterns and plans in public domain.

“Public domain” woodworking patterns and plans are those which are no longer protected by copyrights because the copyright has expired. They have no restrictions attached.   Any plan that requires payment is not in the public domain and cannot be redistributed.  Commercial use of copyrighted plans is considered to be an actionable offense.  So before using free patterns and plans be sure to check the status of the copyright.

Detailed diagram from Woodworking pattern

Anyone can use the woodworking patterns and plans from the public domain in any way they choose.  Some believe the best plans can be found in the public domain while others think they have more errors and are more difficult to understand than the ones you buy.  Therefore when using woodworking patterns or plans from the public domain, it is important that you carefully check them over before you start.  It’s a good idea to read the whole plan for step by step instructions, diagrams and drawings, making sure you understand everything first.  Remember the saying “measure twice, cut once”.  That’s good advice.

The good things about woodworking public domain are that there are so many woodworking patterns and plans available, endless different types and styles and best of all they’re free.  So gather as many plans from the public domain as you can and go forth creating fine woodworking projects and spreading happiness along the way.

Free Woodworking Patterns and Plans

One way to cut the cost of fine woodworking projects is by using free woodworking patterns and plans.  These can be found on websites of large or local home improvement stores, websites of home improvement TV shows, in books and magazines, and through searches at Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Patterns and plans from large home improvement stores, such as Lowes, are of good quality with diagrams and instructions that are easy to follow.  The patterns and plans from well known TV DIY shows are also of good quality with the added advantage of having been made and tested in the making of the program.  Generally they will also include wood and power tools required, estimated time of completion, difficulty level and woodworking tips.  Check out for a list of magazines offering good quality free woodworking patterns and plans and some will offer free back issues of magazines and how to videos.  To avoid getting cheap or shoddy plans or patterns when using search engines, it is best to be very specific about the project name, using exact keywords in your search for a project pattern.

There are thousanda of free woodworking patterns and plans found on public domain but there are some wood workers who feel that these patterns and plans have more errors in them due to having been copied and passed down through the ages.  So care must be taken with regards to measurements and instructions if you choose to use a pattern or plan from the public domain.

Whether you choose free woodworking patterna and plans, purchase patterns and plans or make them up, have fun.  Receiving a fine woodworking project for Christmas would surely be a wonderful thing.

New Woodworking Projects

Starting new woodworking projects can be hard.   I admire people who decide on a project, gather the materials needed and BAM! They’re on their way to creating fine woodworking projects. I comfort myself with the thought that they already have plenty of experience in starting and creating new projects and are confident that they will succeed.  I also tell myself that there are many who, like me, have no idea of what they are doing but are determined to try anyway.

Starting a new project is like hard labor to me.  In fact, hard labor sounds like a lot more fun.  I usually know what I want to do but convincing myself that I can do it is where the trouble begins.  I agonize over all that can go wrong.  My imagination goes off in all directions.  Even when I have a pattern and instructions I hesitate and allow the smallest things to interfere with taking that first step.

Some things that interfere with starting new projects are cost of materials, having a clear picture of the finished product in mind, does the level of expertise match up with the skill required to do a good job, how much time will be involved in completing the project, and the space and tools needed to do the work.

The cost of materials is mostly dictated by the family budget.  Getting the rest of the blocks to starting new projects out of the way is easier taken on one by one.  That being done, I am well on my way to starting on a new fine woodworking project.  And the real fun bigins!                                                                 


Choosing a Woodworking Pattern


Choosing a woodworking pattern can be an important step in creating a fine woodworking project.  There are several things to consider in making that choice.  If you are making something for yourself, you probably already have the object to make in mind.  You are a step ahead.  If you are making it for someone else and they made a request, you are still ahead in the game.  If not, you must consider the person who will receive the gift; what their interests, likes and dislikes, and their wants or needs are.

Once you have figured that out, look at your experience and skill level.  A beginner should choose a simple woodworking project that is easy to accomplish.  Save the complex projects for a time when you have more experience.  Be sure the pattern you choose matches your skill level whether beginner, intermediate or advanced.

Now is the time to decide on your project and start looking for plans or a pattern.  Woodworking patterns and plans can be found on the internet and in woodworking books and magazines.  Look for these things when selecting you pattern:  instructions that are easy to read, understand and follow, logical sequence of steps, drawings and diagrams that are of good quality, and detailed list of materials and tools needed.  Make sure you have the necessary tools to complete the project before getting started.

And all that is left is to purchase the needed materials, grab your tools and get started.  Soon you will have created that fine woodworking project and made someone very happy.  Congratulations!