Top 10 Woodworking Tips for Projects

Various woodworking tools
Various woodworking tools
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This article was updated on 01/12/21.

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Whether you’re a professional carpenter or a hobbyist woodworker in the evenings or on the weekends, one thing is certain. You can’t have too many woodworking tips. They might make completion of your project easier, or more precise, or just save time. In this sense, tips are a lot like woodworking jigs. Let’s take a look at some of these tips.

  1. Make your own wood putty. Using wood putty is often inevitable. The problem with store-bought products is that it is difficult to get a good color match. The manufacturers can only replicate so many shades and the store can only dedicate so much shelf space. The solution for a perfect match at almost zero cost is surprisingly simple. Check out how to make homemade wood putty.
  2. Keep your work bench clean with wax paper. We’ve all done it — glued up and begin clamping all or part of a project only to see glue oozing out and dripping on your work surface. Clean-up will not be fun. The solution? Put wax paper under your project before you start. It’s cheap and disposable.
  3. Invest in a pneumatic nailer or two. There will be times when these tools come in handy. Say, if you are doing a repetitive task that requires fastening with nails, either 2″ ones or very small 23 – gauge pins this is much easier than the hammer-and-nail set approach. In fact, driving the smallest with a hammer is impractical. They bend; you curse. The solution is a battery-operated pin nailer.
  4. Know your lumber grades. Every project is somewhat unique. Most people go shopping for lumber and base their selection on straightness, no warping, no checking, no knots, etc. They don’t also evaluate by National Hardwood Lumber Association lumber grades and so sometimes overbuy. For example, if only one side of the project is going to be visible, your best choice might be FAS 1F or F1F.
  5. Select the right finish. Varnish or “polyurethane varnish” is only for interior use. It will not stand up to outdoor elements. Spar varnish on the other hand is excellent for for outdoor furniture, boats and exterior doors. It dries slowly and so it stays more supple. Because of this it accommodates the movement of the wood so it is not likely to crack and fail. Tung oil is also suitable for exterior use.
  6. Draw a line on a long board with your combination square. Drill a 1/16″ hole in the middle of your combination square at the 1″ mark. Now you can set your square so that the hole lines up with where you want the line to be. Insert a sharpened pencil tip into the hole and draw down the length of the board.
  7. Use the 3-4-5 method for squaring. There will be times when laying out large projects and it is not practical or accurate to use small tools. In this case you can use the 3-4-5 method for squaring. It’s quite simple and accurate as it’s based on the Pythagorean Theorem. Remember that from math class?
  8. Hassle-free screw insertion. In many cases it is a good idea to pre-drill screw holes to minimize the chance of splitting the wood. However, the further the screw has to penetrate, the higher the possibility that the screw will stall or the slot (standard or Phillips) will strip out. My favorite solution is to rub the screw threads on a bar of soap first. This lubrication minimizes insertion issues.
  9. Remove the plug from a holesaw with ease. The holesaw is a great invention. The drawback is getting that darn plug out after you cut the hole. Here’s a workaround. First, drill a pilot hole completely through the work piece with a twist bit the same size as the diameter of your holesaw’s drill bit. Next, insert your holesaw’s bit into that hole and cut more than halfway through the work piece. Next, pull out your holesaw, flip over your work piece, and saw the hole from this side, using the pilot hole to guide your second cut. After completing the cut and pulling out your holesaw, the plug will be sticking halfway out of the saw, giving you something to hold onto, making it a snap to remove.
  10. Cutting small pieces on your tablesaw. This can be a major hassle at a minimum. Altogether too often the piece either flies away or splinters up. Save yourself the hassle. Set you blade just shy of the thickness of the wood so you don’t saw all the way through. Now just finish the cut using your chisel.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

4 Replies to “Top 10 Woodworking Tips for Projects”

  1. Here’s my tip. When drilling a through hole on finish wood, always put a scrap board below it to get a clean hole with no tear-out.

  2. My tip is this. Use a cheap spray bottle for stain. You still have to rub it with a cloth but this makes it easier and it gets in cracks better.

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