Drilling holes is a part of the job in almost any DIY project. Cutting a mortise and tenon joint. Industrial arts” classes were first introduced in high schools in the 1880s, and for the next century, taking a course in woodworking, mechanics, drafting and printing was a common educational rite of passage for young people. Today, in our age of plastics and factories, woodworking has gone from being a common and necessary skill to something almost mysterious or awe-inspiring.
Given that most 21st century consumers are accustomed to driving to the department store to buy another mass-produced replacement when their desk falls over or their chair breaks, any man today who can approach a pile of wood with a saw and planer to shape a beautiful and durable replacement is revered as a “true craftsman”. With many woodworking tools, the basic technique is self-explanatory. But not all are so intuitive. The correct use of hand planes requires a little instruction and practice to develop the feel for adjusting the cut from coarse to fine.
Also, the cutting edge may be crooked or the end plate may be in the wrong place. While these things require a bit of research to figure out, using a hand plane correctly is an undeniably attainable skill. I encourage you to grab an old brush and go on YouTube and search for “tune an old hand brush or “how to use a hand brush”. There will be more than enough hours of video to make up for what you missed in the workshop class.
Today, in our age of plastics and factories, woodworking has gone from being a common essential skill to something semi-mysterious or impressive. Because most 21st century consumers used to drive to the big box stores for another mass-produced alternative when their desk collapsed or their chair broke, any man today can get into a pile of wood with a saw and planer to form a beautiful, durable shape that the replacement reveres as literally real. Many people shy away from woodworking projects simply because they haven’t done it before. Here’s a rundown of the 5 most important woodworking skills to help you get started.
Milling is the process of taking raw wood and turning it into geometrically precise blocks. Milling starts at the jointer, where one side of the board is first flattened. Next, it moves to the planer to smooth the opposite side of the board. Finally, it uses the table saw to cut (or “rip”) the remaining edge so that it is parallel to the other.
Milling prepares the wood for assembly. Joining is the process of flattening a face and edge as part of the milling process. In special circumstances, the jointer can also be used for rabbeting, bevelling and rabbeting. The sliding compound mitre saw, also known as a chop saw, is generally used to cut rough timber to dimensions useful for subsequent milling.
It can also be useful for making angle cuts, although it does not have the precision offered by the table saw jig. The bandsaw is generally used for making rough and curved cuts, and is also useful for making “stop cuts”, as well as for resawing. Bandsaws make relatively rough cuts, especially compared to a table saw. They are available in many sizes and are very versatile saws, depending on the size of the material you are cutting and the complexity of your project.
Before we delve into the top 14 woodworking skills you need to know as a woodworker, let’s consider some of the basic skills you’ll need to keep as a foundation for the rest of your career. As any woodworker knows, framing your project first paves the way to success. Let’s look at the top 14 woodworking skills you need to know if you plan to become a carpenter. Learning to measure makes or breaks you as a woodworker.
If you can’t measure and cut a project to the required specifications, it doesn’t do you much good as a carpenter, unfortunately. The ability to measure comes into play in almost every aspect of carpentry, from designing and executing a simple workbench or birdhouse to planning the layout of a house or office building. Measuring accurately is the framework on which you should structure your entire carpentry knowledge. Most of the cutting you will do as a carpenter will be done with saws.
There are many types of saws, such as bow saws, table saws, circular saws, mitre saws, scroll saws, band saws, chain saws and many more. You can also cut wood with chisels and planers. The type of cutting tool you use depends largely on what you have on hand and the type of project you are working on. Detail work requires hand tools such as chisels and planes, while framing work is much faster if you have a table saw to cut those large pieces of wood.
Basic carpentry skills encompass the use of a multitude of hand tools. While power tools help speed up the process and offer a little more precision when it comes to large-scale projects or mass-produced designs, hand tools provide those finishing touches and make each product truly unique. In fact, this is why hand tools are widely used in the woodworking field. Practising the use of hand tools is like any other dexterity skill.
You have to use the tools constantly to understand how they work. Starting your woodworking career with hand tools will help you build an appreciation for early woodworkers and also help you understand how wood behaves and responds when handled. Incorporating power tools should come later. Painting and finishing are final steps involved in almost every project.
Carpenters should be aware of the different ways to paint and finish their projects because the overall appearance is as important as the viability of the construction. Painting and finishing work can be found almost everywhere, from furniture and decorative items to exterior structures. Restoration is important for the communities that appreciate these historic structures, but more importantly for the families that live in or own them. However, restoration is not limited to historic structures.
In fact, restoration carpenters often also work on the restoration of homes damaged by natural disasters. Wherever there is a structure in need of restoration, you will find a carpenter nearby. To find out more about restoration, tune in to This Old House. It is, as we said, a good example of a day in the life of a restoration carpenter.
You’ll learn how to use the many tools that restoration requires, which honestly varies from project to project. But one thing to remember about old houses is that they don’t always line up as they should. For that reason, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with shims. These are small cutouts of wood that are often used in doorways and other areas to compensate for an extra inch or two.
Restoration and remodeling go hand in hand, although there is a slight difference between the two. When restoration work is carried out, carpenters often have to remove some components because of age or deterioration. Remodeling, on the other hand, is about improving existing conditions, whether or not there is damage. Learning to remodel, like most of the carpentry skills we have mentioned, takes lots and lots of practice.
Rather than approaching a job with an attitude of total readiness, the remodeling contractor must work with what already exists. That also means knowing building codes and permitting procedures. As in restoration carpentry, remodeling carpenters must know how to use a variety of tools, with each job being different from the last. Most flooring can be done with a chop saw, a tape measure, a pencil, a rubber mallet and a little creativity.
Flooring can be laid and fixed with nails or glue, while some floors can be joined together to float on the subfloor. Make sure you know what the subfloor material is before planning the flooring and the joining method you are going to use to achieve better results and make your customers happier. To trim a door, a room or the whole house, you will need a few tools at your disposal. The first is a mitre saw.
It will help you create the angles you need to create an aesthetically pleasing trim. You will also need a pencil, a tape measure, a square and a small file. Getting the measurements right will get you close, but sometimes you’ll only need to shave a hair or two off the grain to get it right. Look at the mouldings around the doors and floor of your house.
See the corners that meet at a 90-degree angle? They are created by miter-cutting the two boards and joining them at a diagonal seam. When done right, mitering can add to the sophistication and finish of any room. Learning to mitre requires a little patience and some critical thinking. You’ll also need a pencil, a tape measure, a miter box and some trim pieces.
Miter is all about angles, so test your calculations on a few test blocks before you pick up the pieces you’ll use for the final installation. Stay close to where you will be trimming so you can fit the mitred pieces and adjust the measurements accordingly. Some doors may not be completely square due to settling. So while exact measurements may seem like the right approach, it all depends on the final fit and finish.
Cabinets are found in almost every home. However, quality cabinets are not as common as you might think. Cabinet making is a basic carpentry skill, not only because cabinets are made of wood, but also because it takes much more than 4 sides and a door to create custom cabinets. Furniture making supports the woodworking industry as a whole because of the techniques and skills needed to produce a piece of furniture, no matter how big or small.
Assembling a table is much more than gluing 4 pieces of wood under a flat slab and calling it finished. Furniture requires the full range of carpentry skills to be brought into play to create something memorable and useful. Craftsmen all over the world continue to create individualized wooden furniture. Now that you know a little more about the skills carpenters must have, are you interested in a possible career in carpentry? There are a variety of online quizzes you can take to see if carpentry would be a good career for you.
There are even some that test your knowledge of terms and skills, along with some math’s problems. Think you already have a pretty solid foundation? Put it to the test with these 50 questions that can stump even the most experienced woodworker. You can still learn a lot about how to become a woodworker, even in the age of 3D printing. The element of customization and craftsmanship involved in carpentry cannot be so easily replicated by artificial intelligence.
It is worth investing in the best tools you can afford. Old chisels are often better than new ones and can sometimes be bought quite cheaply. I bought my best chisel over twenty years ago at a car boot sale, the steel has a bluish tinge to it. Good steel keeps a better edge, which is the secret of quality work.
You will have your tools for life and they do a lot for the job if they are a joy to pick up every time. Many people have perpetuated the myth that woodworking is really hard work, simply because they used a dull tool. When you learn how to fit this board correctly and how to cut it to fit properly, the world of woodworking opens up to you. Students who enjoyed making the mortise and tenon board in Carpentry I can delve deeper into the process.
Sharpening tools is a basic and fundamental skill because it is something that must be done regularly. Add a dash of physical strength, dexterity and a steady hand and you have a solid foundation on which to build your carpentry career. With knowledge and some practice of these woodworking skills, you should be able to create your own quality items. In fact, some basic woodworking skills can take the place of expensive tools, making possible the project you’ve always dreamed of.
The following woodworking techniques are essential for almost any woodworking project you will undertake. It is an axiom among woodworkers that, to get things right, you have to “let the tool do the work”. No matter how bad you think you are at woodworking, as long as you are careful and patient you can produce passable woodwork. When you learn how to fit this joint correctly and cut comfortably, the world of joinery will open up to you.
The Crucible’s joinery department works with sustainably sourced North American hardwood materials.