Woodwork has been a handy skill for centuries, becoming part of the school curriculum in the 1800s. It was often a rite of passage for young men to take courses in subjects like woodworking and mechanics. Working with wood is not only handy for completing jobs around the house, but so many can make a living through becoming joiners and carpenters.
If you are hoping to try your hand at woodwork, or you need a little refresher, here are some of the top skills that you should master before undertaking a woodwork project.
Before you even pick up any woodwork machinery, it’s important to have a good understanding of the wood you are working with. This can help you recognise what direction to plane the board, and what direction the grain is.
Wood can expand and contract in the heat and humidity throughout the year, and you must take this into consideration when embarking on your project. The factor behind expansion and shrinkage is the amount of moisture.
If a piece of wood has less moisture in it than its surroundings, it will take in water from the atmosphere and expand, causing cupping. If wood has more moisture than its surroundings, it will release water and cause shrinkage. This can cause cracking. Either way, it can render the wood unusable.
If you find woodworking to be particularly hard work, check your tools! Dull tools can make things very difficult, so be sure to sharpen your tools before beginning your project. As many in the industry will tell you, you need to let the tool do the work, and this only happens smoothly if they are sharpened effectively.
Working with dull machinery or tools can also be dangerous and increase your risk of an accident.
Hand planes are very handy when you know how to use them. Most woodwork machinery is straightforward to use, but the hand plane can take some getting used to. Using a hand plane can be incredibly helpful in shaping wood.
Of course, you can also invest in machinery such as planer thicknessers to help you obtain the right shape, length and thickness of your wood.
There are some fundamental joints that can help you a lot when embarking on a woodwork hobby or career. A mortise and tenon joint can help you join a horizontal piece to a vertical piece, interlocking them at a solid right angle. It can take careful practice to ensure a tight fit that is stable, but once you’ve achieved it, you will be able to create so much more.
Similarly, a dovetail joint is another popular one. This is useful when you are making a box, with jigsaw-like edges that fit together to avoid the boards sliding.
Once you have finished a woodwork project, don’t forget to finish it adequately! Finishes can add style and protect your new piece of furniture, so do some research on the different types of finishes available and which will look best on your wood.