Wood Working Primer




Introduction: Wood Working Primer

I grew up on a farm where we had to be very self sufficient and DIY. Hard work and making and fi...

This is a humble Instructible covering some wood working basics. These are all self taught methods I have learned and used to create many things with wood. I know this wonderful website is full of guides on how to make things in great detail. Often times before I had done many of these things myself though, I felt some things are glazed over or skipped altogether. Sometimes skipped because it is just too basic, or too difficult to explain through words. I hope to touch on some of those things here.

Step 1: Most Folks Start With a Plan...Then Materials

I have a good friend who when faced with a large,difficult task always says "Start with the beginning" For most any project I create that is a plan. Plans can be anything from a solid, concrete idea that exists only in my minds eye, to an extremely detailed 3D model formed over weeks in Google sketch-up.

For any plan to be helpful it must answer some fundamental questions... I start with a need to be fulfilled. What does this object I want to create need to do? What does it need to look like? What special functions can it provide beyond it's original purpose? How much lumber and what types/dimensions should I choose? How much money do I want to spend? How quickly do I need it finished?

Very philosophical do one become if left to ones own thoughts Yoda may or may not have said.

Not every project needs to be super deep or even well planned out. In fact simplicity can be a great ally most times. For a shelf in the garage just thinking and some measuring will usually be plenty. Designing something that moves, like a Murphy bed i would recommend some drawings on paper or my favorite paper replacement, Google sketch up.

If you haven't had a chance to use sketch up, do it. Open a new tab and download it now. Its possibilities are immense. I can draw pretty well and i even took some drafting classes in high school. Given enough time with pencil and paper I can accomplish a lot. But computerizing the paper speeds the whole process up while making everything more accurate. On paper you can only work in one dimension. In sketch-up it is 3D. That means to see exactly how the back is going to fit or the bottom will look its all there.

Sketch-up can be a little overwhelming to begin with, but there are tons of tutorials and help guides out there. Sketch-up's own website has a lot to offer and you tube has even more. My personal favorite it so take stills of my models and export them as jpegs then print them out to take to the shop to use as reference while constructing.

Once you know what you need, what you want it to look like, some measured dimensions, and hopefully some kind of visual aid, next is a material list. Woodworking materials come in a large variety of choices. There are so many that I can only give a breif rundown.

Pine Lumber: Standard deminsions (remember they are smaller than they actually say by approx. 1/2 inch) 2x4 through 2x12 is standard at most lumbar yards. Possibly smaller stuff. It usually starts at 8ft length and goes from there. This is what most houses are made of. Its not too heavy and when oriented properly can be very strong. Also not too expensive.

Sanded Pine Lumber: Nonstructural pine that is 3/4 inch thick (called a 1 by) up to 12 inches wide. This stuff makes great shelves and is easily stained to look like hardwood but dents and scratches much easier. It is not very expensive and can be worked to look great. A personal favorite of mine for projects.

Hardwood Lumbar: This is your cherry, oak, poplar and generally comes planed and sanded. Sizes here can vary intensely from store to store. Much harder and looks way better than pine but much more expensive.

Wooden Dowels. A dowel rod is a piece of wood that is cut into a round rod or pole. Think closet hanger rod. These round dowels are very useful for lots of things such as replacing screws to hold wood together.

Plywood: There are literally hundreds of varieties and thickness of plywood used for all manner or applications. Plywood generally comes in 8ft by 4ft sheets and thicknesses from 1/4 to 3/4. The thicker the plywood the more strength. If you want to build with it and need to to hold weight go 1/2 or 3/4 inch thick. A few common ones types are:

OSB or Wafer Board: this is what the outside of a house under the siding or under the shingles of a roof. It is chips of wood pressed and glued together. It has a smoother side but is not considered sanded.

CDX: This is a higher grade of plywood than OSB. This type can be great for structural support but is not generally aesthetic enough for even mediocre woodworking. It can be useful if a veneer is placed over it.

AC or sanded plywood. This is the beginning of the good stuff. The name of this grade will vary from lumber yard to yard. Some places call it paint ready plywood. This grade also will take wood stain fairly well if sanded properly.

Hardwood, oak, Baltic birch plywood. This is top of the line stuff. Often used in custom cabinetry work. Usually very expensive but worth the money for fine projects.

Floor underlayment plywood: This is very thin (Usually 3/16th inch) and natually flexible. Makes for good panels or back pieces. Also inexpensive

MDF Medium Density Fiberboard. This is very flat and smooth. It is sawdust that is glued and then pressed into sheets. Often used under Formica counter tops. Cannot get wet or it swells and breaks.

Hardboard Paneling. This is glorified cardboard. It can also be used for backs or panels but has little strength and for how little it is good for it can be expensive.

I prefer to stick with the cheapest stuff that suits my needs. With proper prep and finishing pine and AC plywood can look just as good as the hardwood equivalent at a fraction of the price.

Anytime you buy lumber inspect each piece carefully. Look for obvious things such as unstreight or bowing, dog legs or when one end of the board is curved, knots, dents, stains, cracks, splinters. I have worked in a lumber yard and there can be terrible things in brand new lumber including dry rot, wet rot, termites, and other bugs. Never let someone just put what ever lumber into your vehicle without checking it first.

Step 2: Tools of the Trade

I love tools. Can't ever have enough tools. To do wood working there are so many tools. There are the basic hand tools. Simple enough: hammer, screwdriver, handsaw, and the list goes on. These basic devices are generally simple enough to use. Most people have moved on to power tools. That is where I will start. A general guide and a few techniques and what not to do tips. Knowing what to do is sometimes impossible, but knowing what not to do is often a good start.

Step 3: Drill/Driver

Woodworking aside, anyone who plans to try DIY anything, life will be easier with a drill. This picture shows two drills. One is battery powered the other corded. I prefer the corded as most the work I do is in the shop. Extension cords become cumbersome but much less annoying than weak/dead batteries. TIP: If your cord end is loose and it keeps coming unplugged, tie a knot using both cords and it will not pull out.

The corded drill on the left is a key chuck which needs a special tool to change bits. This is great for holding but terribly slow if you need to change bits often. TIP: garage sales and estate auctions will sell decent quality drills for a fraction of the price of new cordless drills. I have found name brands for $5 to $15. If you have enough drills you don't even need to change bits. Plus there is more power in an old corded drill than most decent cordless ones.

Step 4: Drill Bit Holders and Fasteners

These are a real game changer for me personally. They allow quick changing of bits on a keyed chuck drill which is nice, but the major advantage come from extending the bit away from the chuck a few inches. This extra space allows a lot more room to use fingers to hold screws onto the bit. It allows more clearance in tight spots or corners. It makes it easier to countersink, or place the screw head beneath the surface of the wood. Finally it keeps the drill from contacting the work peice. Also I prefer to use a long bit. Most bits are around 3/4 of an inch long where as the one I use 95% of the time is about 1 3/4 long.

Next thing I have learned the hard way is to buy the "Impact Ready" driver bits. All puns aside these are made out of a more hardened steel and they last much longer. I have thrown away countless #2 Phillips bits due to the metal just stripping away, and once the bit strips, the screws you are trying to insert strip too. This can ruin a project or at least leave you cussing as it. Look for them on sale in a box kit and go name brand. This is a tool that will save you money because buying the cheap stuff to throw it away it a waste. Main point, buy the black impact ready bits.

EDIT: Since first writing this I have bougjt a set of self counter sinking piolet bits. they are amazing and I strongly recommend them. They are a two in one tool and they make things easy.

Finally, the fasteners themselves. Most good hardware stores will have a huge aisle devoted to these, but for 95% of most projects one screw is king. They are known as drywall screws. They are black colored Phillips head that is meant to auto counter sink. They are named drywall screws, but even on the package it states they work great for any wood, plywood, even cement board. They come in coarse and fine thread, but I always go with the coarse because it drives faster.

I worked at a hardware store and am very familiar with all the different types of available screws and fasteners. I have tried many. The so named cabinet screws, which are usually a brass color, and made for wood, don't work well at all. They are made of soft steel and strip easily. Actual wood screws are useful if you don't want to countersink the screw heads. If you are countersinking its easier and cheaper to just get the drywall screws. Drywall screws are even strong enough to join 2x4 or larger lumber if you get long enough screws (dry wall screws are commonly available up to 3inch length). Main point stock up on drywall screws.

To choose what size screw is to pose the question of how thick of wood you will be using and now much weight will be placed on the screws themselves. For example if attaching two 3/4 inch pieces to make one 1 1/2 piece, use a screw that will not go clear through. The screws will counter sink some, possibly up to a 1/4 inch or more, so keep screws a little bit smaller than the total thickness of the work piece. So go with 1 or 1 1/4 inch long screws.

There are a few other types of fasteners worth mentioning. In the picture on the left is a power pro outdoor screw. These are treated to withstand moisture and dig very well into wood without drilling a pilot hole. On the far right is a carriage bolt, which will pull into the wood without leaving an unsightly bolt head visible. carriage bolts, regular bolts, and all thread (which is a long rod with bolt thread running its length) are great for strong connections but often look tacky if left visible. On its left is a lag bolt, these are very strong like regular bolts but they dig into the wood and don't need a nut on the end. These are great for things like mounting a gate to a post.

An alternative to screws and bolts is to use wooden dowels. More on that later.

Step 5: Making Holes

There are several different bits for hold making. Standard twist drill bits are common and nothing complicated. The only draw back is that the bigger bits may not fit in all drills as the hole size enlarges, the bit shaft becomes bigger also. Most common drills have a chuck that will accept up to 3/8 inch shafted bits. That means they can only use a standard bit to drill a 3/8 inch hole. There are bigger drills that go up to 1/2 and 3/4 inch chucks but there are better alternatives.

Spade bits. The second picture with all the blue is a set of spade bits. These bits have small shafts but large drilling heads that come to a very sharp point. These come in handy for a ton of things even beyond woodworking. For example an 1 1/4 bit works great to making a hole big enough for a 3 prong cord plug to go through. The second most used bit in my shop after a regular Phillips but, is a 3/8 spade bit. I use it as a combination countersink/pilot hole bit. I know its not technically long enough be a true pilot bit, and I do use real pilot bits when working on thin materials that need to turn out perfect every time. But for the projects that wont be seen or don't matter if they split a little but the 3/8th bit is generally plenty to get the job done.

The next photo is Forstner bits. These work a lot like spade bits for making large holes. They generally work best in a drill press. The last to pictures are masonry bits, then a small counter sink, and a glass/tile bit. Obviously none of these are used directly on wood, but they can be useful in combination to wood projects. For example hanging a shelf on a cinder block basement wall would need the masonry bits. Also with the masonry bits, those blue screws are made for going directly into concrete.

Step 6: Clamps and Measuring

This is a small collection of clamps and measuring devices I use often. Clamps squeeze and hold things in place while glue dries, or to keep things aligned while putting in screws or dowels. You can never have enough clamps.

Possibly more important are the measuring tools. The most basic is a tape measure. I have a ton of them. Harbor freight stores have coupons that will get you a free tape measure with any purchase. Find these in Sunday newspapers and horde them. Leave a tape at every work area, every saw, every floor of your home, keep on in the car. Trust me if you don't already know, they are indispensable.

Next are the squares, these are very useful for aligning things straight or scribing square, straight lines.

Near the top of the picture is a level. This is a small level of about 8 inches. Bigger levels are more accurate. I would recommend one this size, a 24inch and 48inch level. The idea behind a level is to make sure things don't have slant or tilt. There is a bubble immersed in liquid that will float between the two lines marked on the level when is it straight with the earth.

On the far right side is a sliding bevel, T-bevel, or angle finder. It is like a square but it pivots. It is used copy one angle to another surface by swinging the arms to match the first, tighten the screw, and then scribe it to a board.

Step 7: Cutting Wood

Wood has been cut by handsaws for 100's of years. Maybe 1000's. Its a back and forth process that is often filled with sweat and less than perfect cuts, but its cheap and effective, and less dangerous than a high speed spinning blade.

There are two main terms when speaking about cutting wood. If cutting a board on the short axis its known as a cross cut, or just a cut (I also use the wold slice but its not the technical jargon). When cutting on the long axis of wood it is known as ripping the wood. Ripping is much more complex and should be done on a table saw if available.

But thanks to electricity there are much easier ways. The two most common ways to cut lumber are the Miter saw (1st picture) and the skill saw (2nd picture).

The pictured Miter saw is know as a 10 inch compound slide miter saw. It has a 10 inch blade and the whole cutting head can slide forward about 12 inches. The blade can also rotate and bevel to cut complex angles, known as miter cuts. This one tool will save hours of time to make cuts in any piece of lumber that will fit in it. Even mildly large pieces of plywood can be cut (up to 28inches) if you cut as far as possible on one side, then flip it over to cut the rest. This is the tool that got me started in wood working. It made cutting so much easier that wood work went from a difficult unsafe chore to an enjoyable hobby.

The Circular Saw. This is a great tool for cutting wood but its very noisy and can be unsafe without proper saw horse support. If one (sadly like me) Doesn't own a table saw this tool is your choice for ripping wood down to proper size. There are special straight edge clamps that help make accurate cuts. Notice in this shot the eye and ear protection. These saws are loud and don't be a champ now just to be deaf later. You may have one spare eye but don't risk that either.

Step 8: Curves and Angles

These two power tools are called a jig saw, or sabre saw (Left) and a reciprocating saw (Right). In general woodworking the reciprocating saw will be rarely used. It is generally a demolition or carpentry tool. There are times when is can be used for carving though and can be handy to have around.

The jig saw is often used in wood working. It's main purpose to to cut curves into wood. With practice very intricate shapes can be cut into wood. It is possible to convert a jig saw to a scroll saw by mounting it to a table to cut even more accurate, intricate shapes using a scrap wood frame, like this person has done:


One big tip about using these saws, especially cutting circles with a jig saw, PAY ATTENTION TO THE CORD. Its a really bad day when you cut your own tools cord, which could possibly result in shock or fire, not to mention shame and lost money/time.

Also, don't try to cut long straight lines with a jig saw. It can be done but its much more accurate to just plug in a skill saw.

Step 9: Sanding

Sanding is everyone's favorite thing in the world. Sanding takes rough wood and makes it smooth and soft. It almost gives it a glow. There are many different ways to sand, starting by hand using sanding blocks or sponges, and moves to power tools that save lots of time and sweat.

Sanding should be a back and forth motion that moves with the natural grain of the wood. Going against the grain will leave unpleasant scratch marks in the wood. There are multiple grits of sand paper ranging from very rough(small numbers: 40, 60, 80 grit), medium roughness (100, 120, 180 Grit) Fine grit, or smooth (200-400 Grit) and then extra fine (800-4000 grit). The rough sandpaper will remove a lot of material very fast and can really cause deep gouges if not careful. The medium range and fine grits are less dangerous and really make wood feel nice to the touch. Most furniture is only sanded through 220 to possibly 400 grit to produce nice results. The super fine stuff is more commonly used in automotive painting or high gloss finishing.

The Tools from left to right are a palm sander, belt sander, and a belt sander on a stand. The final shot is a disk sander. Also the green thing is hand held sanding sponge. Not pictured is but very useful is a random orbital sander.

The palm sander uses rectangular sheets of paper cut into 1/4s. It vibrates while you slide it back and forth over the workpiece. These make quick work of finishing work. They are gentle enough to generally not cause gouges or deep scratches even if you accidentally raise it onto an edge. As with all sanders, the flat portion of the sander needs to stay flat against the work piece or the sander will dig in creating a gouge.

Belt Sanders have a belt made of sand paper that spins on the wheels. It is kind of like the tracks on an army tank or bulldozer. If you don't hold tight it can drive off on you. This tool is great for rough grit paper and removing a lot of material. For example if a joint has a bit of a ledge that you can feel when you run or finger over it, a few strokes with the belt sander will cure this quickly. Be careful though, it is very easy to take away too much material with a belt sander and cause as many problems as it solves. Also be cautious when starting the tool up. If it is in contact with the wood when you hit the power button it will often jerk and scratch against the wood grain. Also if you hold the tool in the air and start it up be very careful to keep it level and gently set it down. If it comes down at too sharp of and angle it will dig a small ditch.

The belt sander stand was made of scrap wood and is useful to shaping small parts to help them to fit proper. The disk sander is used for the same thing. They are rough grit paper used for quick shaping of parts. These are not completely necessary for most wood working but for niche work can be super handy. For example the disk sander was very useful for tuning square 2x2 into round handles for tools. I used the same method to make some neat stilts for the kids as well.

There is no perfect way to sand, just use or hands and feel the wood, look at it closely. If you are satisfied it will be good enough. Practice is also the most helpful part, the more you do it the better it gets. If you are on your first project or been doing it for years, sanding is much better after its started than worrying about how it will turn out before you start.

Step 10: Joining Wood

This is where wood working can take many different paths. There are whole text books devoted to single methods and there are other books just to illustrate how many different methods there are to join 2 pieces of wood. Some of the more common methods are: Butt, Miter, Dovetail, Mortise, and half lap. Of those the most simple is the butt joint. I use almost 100% butt joints because they are simple, but they are not the most aesthetically pleasing. During the design stage I make sure that the joints are hidden so that its not possible to see the ugly joints.

So what is a butt joint? Simply when you put one piece of wood next to another. If the wood is more vertical orientation it's called a lap joint, like sitting on someones lap. When doing lap joints make use gravity in your favor. Place the wood that is horizontal on top of the vertical leg so that the screws are not bearing the load.

The quickest way to make a butt joint is to start with a counter sink hole. I use the 3/8th inch spade bit so make to countersinks, then go through with a small bit for pilot holes. Then use wood glue, a line on each side of the joint,and stick the wood together. Use the drill to put in two or more drywall screws until tight. Sometimes hand tightening with a screw driver will save the wood from stripping out.

Step 11: Hiding Screw Heads With Plugs

To hide your screws to make a much more professional, clean finished look is easy. Simply drill a deeper counter sink with the 3/8th inch spade bit, Be careful not to go too deep so that the screw head has nothing to grab hold of. Sink the screw in. Next cut a 3/8th inch dowel rod down to the point where it sticks out and 1/8th to 1/4 inch out of the counter sink hole. Apply some wood glue to the dowel and hold and gently hammer it into the hole. Wait for the glue to dry before moving on to prevent the dowel from accidentally coming out of the hole. If it protrudes a long ways you can use an oscillating multi-tool or hand saw to make it shorter. Honestly even if it does stick out a ways the belt sander will plow it down easily enough. Once the dowel is sanded flush with the work piece your done. The screw is invisible leaving your work with a very clean look.

Step 12: Using Dowels Instead of Screws

In many cases dowel rods and glue can be just as strong as metal screws. It is as simple to skip the screw from the last step and just the wood dowel as the fastener. I use this method to attach plywood or 1 bys to 2x4 frames for. The strength comes from the 2x4 frame and then I use thinner plywood that isn't thick enough to counter sink the screws and have room to plugs.

The first step is to very apply glue to the frame, or what ever you are attaching, then clamp it very securely. Next drill holes through the outer and inner layers. Use a bit the exact same size as the dowel rod you will be using. Apply glue to the holes and dowels and hammer them in gently. Don't try to hammer them in 100% because the could accidentally slide in too far. Leave them out a small amount and sand if flush, or smooth. Allow glue to dry and remove clamps.

Its different means to the same end. It has less steps and also with longer dowels than the plugs, there is less chance of one wiggling out over time. The short plugs with only a small amount of surface to glue can come loose over time, these should not.

Step 13: Pocket Screws Without a Jig

Pocket screws are a strong way to join wood and hide the screws. When using nails this method is known as toe nailing. Pocket screws on a butt joint go in the work piece at an angle in stead of going in perpendicular to the piece. Most people use a device known as a Kreg Jig. The Kreg Jig is a wonderful tool to keep the joints properly aligned and strong and are not too expensive. There are ways to do it without a jig but its not as pretty or accurate.

I use the 3/8th inch spade bit. First drill straight down into the wood about an 1/8th inch then gently start to lean the drill over at an angle will retaining pressure on the bit and keeping it spinning the whole time. Once the angle desired is reached apply more pressure into the wood until the depth needed is reached. The hole may be a little messy at the top but this has worked for me many, many times with no real problems. Be careful not to use too much pressure or angle to drill too quickly or the bit can break.

Step 14: Doweling Jig

Yet another way to use dowels to join wood is to use a doweling jig. This is similar to using dowels in place of screws but this method is generally used to in different situations. In the photo example I am using it to attach 1x4 perpendicular to a plywood base. Drilling all the way through the the 1x4 would not be practical and could easily cause the drill bit to come out the narrow side of the board. The answer is using a doweling jig to keep all fasteners hidden.

The doweling jig I have is very easy to use. It has four pegs on one side which are used to find the center of the wood being used. There are three metal bushings (holes) that are drill bit guides. The three bushings correspond to three different drill bit sizes, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8. Place the wood between the two pegs on the jig that match the bushing size needed and twist it (Pic 2 and 3) until both pegs are tight to the wood and the bushing will be perfectly centered in the edge of the work piece. Then using a drill bit that is the same size as the dowels, drill your holes. I use a drill stop to make sure all the holes are the same size. My drill stop is just a piece of wood that goes over the drill bit to allow it to only go so deep. Drill however many holes you think it will take to secure this piece to the next. I usually put one about every 10 to 12 linear inches.

Step 15: Doweling Jig Alignment

Once all the holes are drilled in the first piece, the next step is to drill holes that match it on its mate piece. These holes in the mate piece need to match perfectly so the dowels will fit. To do this we place a dowel into the original drilled piece, then place that dowel into the drill bushing hole, and slide the 90 degree aliment part of the jig (the bottom part of the jig in pic1) up to the side of the wood then screw it tight (there are two screws on the backside of the jig that cannot be seen in the picture).

Next clamp the first piece to the second piece so that the dowels point towards where they will be ultimately going into the second piece(Pic 3 & 4). On the jig there are slots that align with the bushing(Pic 5). Use the slot to line up the jig up to the first piece's dowels and then slide the jig until the 90 degree piece meets the work piece and then the bushing will be exactly where the hole needs to go for the dowels to meet up. Drill through the bushing in that spot (pic 6)

Once all the holes are drilled in the second piece, apply glue to the exposed dowels and holes and hammer the first piece into its mate holes. (Pic 7) Then your finished!

Step 16: Staining & Finishing

This is my favorite step after sanding. This is where the final look of the project become reality. I have no good pictures of me actually staining because it is just too messy of a process to risk the camera. There are three main ways to finish wood. First is to not finish and leave it naked and natural, or a coat of varnish over natural wood, leaves it looking very nice. The next option is to stain the wood. This method can create dramatic color while still leaving the natural grain look of the wood. This is my favorite way to go. The third method is to paint the wood, this may be the easiest and there is unlimited color options, it removes the grain look of the wood.

Painting wood is common and even with little experience good results are not hard to obtain so i won't get into details. True wood working, I believe, should still look like wood which is the result of staining.

To stain wood is an organized slow motion mess. Or maybe a mix of mess, then clean, mess then clean.

I like to stain wood with polyurethane foam padding. The same stuff that is in pillows, or used as packaging material or the business end of a foam paint brush. The restaurant I work at gets ice cream cones shipped in it so I will take home the material and cut it up for reuse. The foam brushes is where i began using this material for staining, but the flimsy plastic bits always fail during use, then one day I was using one and the foam fell off the handle completely. It was a blissful accident, i was frustrated with the brush for failing and i grabbed the foam pad and then kept using it with my hand and the results were great. I invested in some gloves and take "finger painting" to a new level. Unlock the inner 5 year old.

My staining method uses two foam pads, one in each hand. I keep one mostly clean and the other I dip into the stain. I put a thick coat across the wood, spreading it until it becomes even across the whole piece. Any thick, or heavy soaked bits I dry up with the second clean sponge.

Every coat of stain will darken the piece. It is best not to try to hit the final color in one shot if you want it pretty dark, but rather creep up on it with multiple light coats.

Once the stain is the right shade the final step is varnish. Varnish is a broad used term used to describe many different products that seal wood and give it a glossy shine. I tend to use three main one products: Polyurethane, Spar Polyurethane, and Shellac.

Polyurethane, and spar polyurethane are almost the same thing. The major difference is that regular polyurethane is for interior, and spar is for exterior. They are both very strong against wear and very water resistant. The spar polyurethane has added protection from UV rays making is ideal for use outside.

The bad side is that polyurethane has serious nasty fumes. It is very recommended to use a respirator in a well ventilated area when applying polyurethane. It is also very difficult to clean up off hands and brushes. For the fumes and clean up I actually almost never use this stuff anymore. After I had kids I did research to find something that was less toxic where I discovered:

Shellac. Shellac is a natural excrete from bugs in the rainforest. It is scrapped off trees and then made into liquid by mixing in rubbing alcohol. It dries very fast with only alcohol fumes that dissipate as quickly as it dries. Clean up is easy with alcohol or ammonia. Looks wise it will produce a gloss as quality as polyurethane, but the bad is that it's not as durable against wear, water or heat. But it's easy to repair. If it gets worn, put a coat back over it and its good as new and you can do it inside the house due to practically nontoxic makeup.

The best way to apply shellac is to use a piece of foam with cloth wrapped around it. The shellac dries so quickly it can cause the foam to begin to break apart leaving little chunks on the work piece. When wrapped in the cloth this doesn't happen. I apply one or sometimes two coats then let it cure for about and hour, sand it with 220 grit sand paper and then apply more coats until there is a high gloss. After sanding it usually helps to wipe down the sanding dust, but even if you miss some the alcohol will redissolve the sanded shellac and reapply it.

Step 17: How to Fix a Screw Boo Boo

Being I started out my DIY in my Dad's metal shop, cutting metal was always common to me. One day while working I came up with a simple technique, or shop hack, when I accidentally put a screw that was far too long all they way through a work piece. I was left with a sharp point sticking a half inch out of the board. Thankfully this want a project that was to be beautiful. I grabbed my 4inch angle grinder. Put a cutting blade on it and quickly cut off the screw tip. This was much easier than trying to redo a wet glue joint. Any fine project where the screw would be visible after its cut won't be ideal for this trick, but it's worth storing away for when it does become handy.

Another time this helped was when I was putting in pocket screws to toe hold 2x4s down to a base and the screw head stuck out about 1/4 inch. Over top of those screws I needed to put a piece of plywood. Whipped out the grinder and off the heads came. Problem solved using a tool that has little use in a wood shop. Also (pic 4) shows the difference between a grinding wheel and a cutting wheel for a grinder. The cutting wheel is much thinner(Right) than the grinding wheel(left)



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    24 Discussions

    Good Instructable... except for the (bad) advice about having "a ton of Tape measures" or "Leave a tape at every work area, every saw, every floor of your home, keep on in the car..."

    Maybe you have been very lucky, but it happens more and more frequently (now that previously acceptable quality brands have sent their production to China): using a different tape measure in precision work is a bad idea. Sooner or latter it will bite you. And I have seen at least an example of a pair of tape measures that almost perfectly matched their length at the 10 feet mark, but one of them had irregularly spaced marks at other shorter lengths! At one time this discrepancy made me waste a perfectly cut but wrongly measured window glass panel. The 10' Stanley tape measure was the culprit, and the much longer 25' old Craftsmas was OK. Maximum error of the bad 10' Stanley was in the order of 3/32" (!) Amclaussen.

    4 replies

    If a tape gets me within an eighth of an inch I'm usually happy enough. If I need more accuracy than that I don't use a tape measure, or I intentionally cut stock oversized, then trim it to fit.

    kudos pfred. over cutting and trimming or transferring dimensions is the best way I've found to be accurate. even with a perfect measure cutting tools or fences may also cause a cut to be off

    What would you use to measure a glass pane for a large window? Sometimes 1 mm of precision is really needed. 1 mm is less than 1/16"... And glass is difficult to trim fit too. At one time I needed to cut about half an inch from existing sliding windows, because builders of cheap Condos purposefully make those windows "a tad" longer than the exact fit, because they work way too fast and in that way, the sliding windows WILL close, but as those are too long, the trailing part won't seal properly, allowing noise and dirt to enter. In a couple of windows, less than 1/4" was needed to be removed from the glass edge, making it impossible to get, needing complete glass replacement.

    My point is: beware of tape measures, having more than one on the same job is an invitation to error.

    I have folding rules with sliding extensions that can be very accurate. I find if I want things to fit I am better off not using measurements at all, but rather transferring dimensions. Even the best measuring instrument can be misread. Sizes are sizes though.

    When I worked in a machine shop the foreman demonstrated that we can feel 0.0015 of an inch step in a block of steel, but it is very hard to see. Make of that what you will. I know I've made plenty of it in my lifetime.

    The point where you can see it is around 0.003, or about twice as big as you can feel.

    FYI if it is plain plate glass you can sand, or grind that down. It goes kind of slow, but it does work.

    My Bosch jig saw can cut a nice straight line. It might even give your circular saw a run for its money. But you really have to use a Bosch jig saw for yourself to know what I mean. They're just that good. I also have a Porter Cable jig saw too. It isn't half as good as my Bosch is. My PC looks as good, but doesn't cut nearly as nice. I've no idea why either. If someone told me that Bosch had magical leprechauns making their jig saws I just might believe them. It is the only rational explanation that I can think of.

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    I am too impressed with the performance and overall quality I've got from my 14 years old Bosch AVS-1587 Jigsaw. The best from them was the "barrel grip" model 1584, which gives you better close control in comparison with the top grip 1587. (I had to buy the 1587 as Amazon hadn't the barrel grip model. Some people will tell you that the barrel grip is uncomfortable because the motor gets too warm, but that can be bearable and the (for me) much better handling of the barrel grip is much preferable.

    In the years that I've been using the Bosch, I have seen a better jigsaw (at a higher price): the Festool has even better side guides that maintain an even more precise blade travel, and another German one meant for metal work, but I'm still satisfied with my old but trusty Bosch. I found a rare accessory for the Bosch jigsaws: a 55" long straight cut ruler that makes long and very straight cuts that rival a circular saw cut, exactly like you said. The secret is because of two things: the precision of the jigsaw and the very high quality of the Bosch jigsaw blades.

    BUT BEWARE: I recently went to an Authorized local repair shop that sells Bosch saw blades and chatting with the repair technician I told him that I was planning to replace my old Bosch with a new one, as the latest are more powerful... and he stopped me, saying that I would regret that, as he has repaired a lot of the latest ones and finds the legendary Bosch quality has been lost, he said. He even showed me some badly worn out parts he replaced from not that heavily used new models. At least my old Bsch was made in the USA by S&B Tools, but now they are making most in China and Brazil, and the quality of design and strenght of materials have gone down. Amclaussen.

    Oh my goodness, I could kiss you. I have just learned volumes upon upon volumes from you.I have recently inherited loads of tools that I wasn't sure of their function. Not anymore! Thank you! You're awesome :)

    The combo counter sink & pilot hole bits are handy. You can even loosen the tiny hex nut to put in whatever size bit you want. With that and the toolless chuck on the dewalt I never use my second drill.

    I enjoyed the article, however, you should mention that the sizes of wood are mostly nominal. A 2x4 is actually 1.5x3.5; similar changes occur for all woods due to the drying and planing unless you are using green unfinished wood. With this difference in sizing, designing for real sizes (through sketchup, cad, or some similar program) can become a little easier.

    Great post! Been in the Joinery and cabinetry trade for 25 years, still learned something. Thanks for sharing

    While Skil abuses their name, and calls all of their circular saws Skil saws, technically when someone says Skil saw what they mean a worm drive circular saw. What you have there is a plain circular saw, sometimes called a sidewinder.

    I almost picked up a real Skil saw myself last year. But I really don't need one. What is cool about a real Skil saw is they can sink their blade deeper into wood than a sidewinder can, so you have more depth of cut. Some run a bigger blade than 7 1/4" too. In fact the 7.25 inch Skil saws are kind of not the real deal themselves.

    One tool I don't have yet is a miter saw. I'm holding out for a 12" compound bevel slide model. Some of those can be pricey though. I want to buy one and be done. For now I have an old radial arm saw I use. It does most of what I want to do too.

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    If there is a harbor freight tool store near you check out their coupons. I know there are a lot of people who bash harbor freight, but a lot of their stuff is decent and price cannot be beat. Plus the no questions asked 90 day return policy is almost unheard of for power tools. My Dad has a great radial arm saw, can't beat if for heavy duty stuff.

    I beat Harbor Freights prices all of the time. No return policy buying used though. If it is a dud I'm stuck with it. That doesn't happen to me very often though.

    Good catch on the circular saw. I actually edited to fix that. Thanks.

    Screws driven into pilot holes are actually stronger than screws just driven into wood. The wood gets damaged less if there is a pilot hole for the shank of the screw. Either that or drill bits just make cleaner holes in wood than screws do? In any event it always pays to drill a pilot hole for a screw. There are no shortcuts to good craftsmanship. Well, maybe there are, but skipping drilling pilot holes isn't one of them. I usually use three drills when I am setting screws into wood. One to drill the pilot hole, one to countersink the hole, and one to drive the screw. Beats changing bits for me.

    I usually measure the shank of a screw to pick what bit I am going to use with a pair of calipers. But if you have a good eye you can just put a drill bit in front of a screw, and see if it covers the shank, but doesn't cover the threads. Some wax on screw threads makes them drive a lot easier too. I have some slabs of canning wax in my shop I use to lube screws with. I use the same wax on saw blades to make them cut a bit easier too. Wax is just some handy stuff to have in the shop.

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    I agree with the not shortcuts to good craftsmanship, and I drill pilot holes for a lot of things, and often regret it when I don't. For me it's more of a time based thing and where/who is going to see the finished work. Something that goes in the living room will have a lot more vested time than something that goes in the storage room of the basement. And I know how it feels to be tripping over 3 or more power tool cords at a time.

    Also yes, pilot holes do help make stronger joints by keeping the pulling force of the threads more focused on the bottom piece of wood, while the screw head applies the pressure to the top piece. All reasons I also depend of glue/screw combo.

    I agree with the not shortcuts to good craftsmanship, and I drill pilot holes for a lot of things, and often regret it when I don't. For me it's more of a time based thing and where/who is going to see the finished work. Something that goes in the living room will have a lot more vested time than something that goes in the storage room of the basement. And I know how it feels to be tripping over 3 or more power tool cords at a time.

    Also yes, pilot holes do help make stronger joints by keeping the pulling force of the threads more focused on the bottom piece of wood, while the screw head applies the pressure to the top piece. All reasons I also depend of glue/screw combo.

    I like my shellac too. I will use cut shellac as a pre-conditioner before I stain. You do know about ammonia and shellac don't you? It's the way to clean up your brushes. Stinks though. After ammonia you should use warm water and soap. Once you start getting a finish built up try wet sanding. That is how I get high gloss finishes.

    If you're using plain dowels you should crush them a little with serrated pliers jaws. The indentations will give the glue a place to lay, and let air escape when you assemble. Don't go crazy crushing your dowels, just little indentations will suffice. Slip jaw pliers are ideal with the big serrations. See, you always knew slip jaw pliers had to be good for something.