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There are 10 genuine truths to woodworking, and they will save you a lot of grief.
#1 Do Not Rush
Do not mistake working quickly with rushing.
The best artisans, after years of practice, seem to work very fast, but they do not rush. When you focus on getting the job done in less time, you rush. We all fight this impulse. Pros have deadlines. Hobbyists have limited shop time, because of work and family.
Rushing causes more injuries than nearly all bad habits. It results in more mistakes. When you focus on the completion time, you are less thoughtful to the work in progress.
#2 Learn to Sharpen
Sharpening is a skill that you need to learn. Dull tools do not work well, and some won’t work at all. This makes woodworkers resort to clumsy and difficult ways.
Knowing how to sharpen is a necessary skill. Better results come from sharp tools. Sharpening and honing are part of the tempo of fine work. It connects to Rule #1.
#3 You Get What You Pay For
Most of us have limited woodworking budgets. We think a long time about over-paying for equipment or materials. However, quality machines and hand tools normally are expensive. Buying the low-end brand or lower-quality materials, is cutting corners. You set yourself up for disappointment!
#4 Woodworking Is Half the Battle
When you finish the woodwork part, you are only halfway complete. We enjoy working wood. We do not look forward to finishing. We take pleasure in being precise with our project. Most of us loathe the sanding and the cleanup required for a perfect finish. However, when we cut corners, we get poor results. Glue squeeze-out shows up promptly when you apply finish. On the other hand, you find defects in surfaces that you believe flat.
The irrefutable truth is that finishing is as important as woodworking. It may take almost as long.
#5 Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
When we decide to start a new project, we can’t wait to get to work. However, woodworking is a collection of skills that are refined by practice.
Didn’t your parents and teachers tell you, practice makes perfect. The truth is that “Perfect Practice makes Perfect.” You should not learn new skills on the job. The quality of your project suffers. Try new skills first on some scrap.
#6 Dry-Fit Prior to Glue-Up
This step is skipped when we rush. Over confidence breeds this result, as well. Sometimes we simply forget. No matter what the excuse, dry fitting saves a lot of heartache. Tight joints lock up when we apply glue. They freeze before coming together completely. You do not want to race against the glues set time, trying to hammer apart a piece. That normally results in damage or broken parts.
A dry-fit helps you, figure out which components to put together first, which clamps to use, and where to put them. You do not want to scramble around or discover any unpleasant surprises after you spread the glue, and the clock is ticking.
#7 Glue Will NOT Rescue Poor Joinery
When we put two pieces of wood together, we want the joint to look good and stay that way for many years. Nothing replaces a proper fit. There is no glue so strong or gap-filling that it cures sloppy joinery. Because we are human, things will go wrong. While there are tricks for correcting mistakes, you should never think of them as a way to get around good workmanship.
When a joint isn’t right sometimes there is no sound and easy way to fix it short of doing it over. Do not let laziness come back to haunt you.
#8 No One Machine Will Do Everything
It is an inescapable truth that our craft requires a wide range of skills, techniques and tools. We may wish it different. But there is no universal wonder tool that does everything perfectly and effortlessly.
In an attempt to use one machine, woodworkers wind up working in awkward and slow ways. They end up wasting precious shop time. Some woodworkers spend hours making tenons on a table saw. They may spend hours on a router jig to cut curved, tapered table legs, when a bandsaw and a well-tuned spokeshave do the job in less time.
#9 Use Both Hand Tools and Power Tools
Woodworkers tend to come in two extremes.
The first are those who only use machines. Others do everything by hand. You cannot do it all by machine, but working only by hand wastes time. If you perform an operation only once or twice, it might be faster and easier by hand. The same applies to work like fitting joints. On the other hand, some regard woodworking as an alternative to the gym.
Who wants to spend an afternoon thicknessing 1″ planks to 3/4″ with a jack plane just because they did it that way in the old days? It is better to spend 20 minutes at the thickness planner and save your valuables shop time for the fun and essential parts.
The real truth is that an efficient, effective woodworker knows how to use both machines and hand tools.
#10 Keep Your Shop Clean
Think of your shop as a tool. Keep it well maintained. We all get so involved in our work that our bench top and every other flat surface quickly have clutter. A messy shop is dangerous for you, your tools and your projects. It is also very inefficient.
You can develop a habit of cleaning up as you work. When reaching for a tool, look at the bench and see if you can put anything away. It is a lot easier than forcing you to stop and do a general cleaning.