Some mistakes can guarantee lessons, some can also ruin a project. Woodworking is intimidating enough, and while all mistakes aren’t avoidable, here are a few for beginners to remember and a quick way to get yourself out of them.
1. Proper Measuring
Measure twice, cut once. This “back to the basics” way of thinking is crucial when woodworking. Because the craft can be expensive and time consuming, it is always best to double check yourself. A common mistake amongst woodworkers, seasoned included, is thinking the numbers are right the first time.
While it may seem mundane or inefficient, not skipping this step will save you time or a project. If the measurements aren’t accurate, after your recheck, get a second opinion. Only when you’re comfortable with your measurements should you give that wood a cut.
2. Know Your Wood
Wood is alive and its characteristics change depending on many factors (species, cut, drying time, etc). Allow it to become a common part of your practice to know everything you can about the current wood that you are working on. Understanding its properties will aid in preventing mishaps; especially when it comes to picking what wood for which specific project. The mistake here is underestimating the organic material you’re working with. Don’t. It will continue to surprise you if you do.
SIDE TIP: Wood moves; it breathes and contracts and changes with temperature and humidity. It also can be any easy thing to manage and fix. Allow your wood to always acclimate to its environment before working with it; and remember to give it some room to breathe, especially when storing — spacers will help!
3. Stop Rushing
Whether it be for excitement or a deadline never allow pressure to cloud your mindscape. Woodworking is tough as it is, rushing will only allow mistakes to be more common and sometimes irreversible. You don’t want to rush around machinery that can harm you. So, anytime you feel overwhelmed or moving beyond your comfortable speed — take a step back and regroup; a project to be proud of is a project done right. If it happens to take a bit longer, let it. You’ll find your speed with time.
4. Remember to Account for the Kerf
Beginners are quick to forget about the kerf or saw blade width when adjusting to cuts; this absence can usually lead to cut pieces that happen to be short an 1/8 of an inch or more. A tip to ensuring that doesn’t happen – mark an “X” on what will be the scrap of your wood and cut on that side of the line.
5. Safety First
When dealing with sharp blades of metal set at high RPM’s it’s imperative to think about safety. Unfortunately, this equipment, if used improperly, can cause permanent damage. Novice or not buy some safety equipment – safety glasses, gloves, a push stick – and allow yourself to use them.
Something as small as wearing the proper clothing – no baggy clothes, no dangling jewelry – can keep you safe in the shop.
If you happen to be guilty of one or all of these mistakes don’t be too hard on yourself. The great Albert Einstein one said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” The true is the mistake of all mistakes is never starting at all. So, allow yourself to make ‘em and remember to be careful in the process. Sure, a few projects may get ruined along the way – but nothing can stop the train of skills that are being created with every step or misstep you take.