7 Tips to Get Your Next Woodworking Project Off to A Good Start

Woodworking SectionIn my opinion, the best way to decorate your home is by making or buying popular woodworking products. Think about your home’s cabinets – would your house look or feel as warm with metal or particleboard cabinets? Of course not. Elegant real wood cabinets completely change the appearance of a room. The same can be said of wooden chairs, tables, dressers, and the like. It’s no wonder furniture magazines highlight beautiful wood furniture and woodworking products.

However, not everyone can afford  to rush out to their local furniture store and order roomfuls of real wood furniture. So, they turn to woodworking as an alternative. Yes, there are some expenses involved (dependent on many factors), but for the most part it is far cheaper to build rather than buy. So, if you’ve taken that leap of faith into the wonderful world of woodworking, these tips can help keep you organized and on-track for completing your next project. Enjoy.

1. Plan your work, then work your plan.

Planning is absolutely crucial to the success of any wood working project. Even the easy ones. Too many times I’ve start out wanting to build something, but never finished it because I really had no direction or goal in mind. And, not finishing is a good way to get a spouse irritated (you don’t want that). When planning, you need to take in to account what you really need to build (table, bench, cabinet,etc.), the availability of your time to finish it, how much it will cost, etc.  All of them play an important role.

Of course, your skill level plays into the plan as well. If you know exactly what you’re doing, or have done the exact same thing before, you may not require as much detailed planning. If it’s something brand new, or you are a beginner, you may need to go into great detail to define your exact path to finishing a project.

2. Write it down!

Swooshable Planning

You should write down or otherwise record requirements and the specifications. This may seem obvious, and a bit silly to emphasize, but you’d be surprised how often seeing everything on paper can reveal issues you need to address. Catching problems in your plan early on can save tons of time and energy later.

Also, sketching out the project is very useful in preparing plans. Proper sketches should include measurements and, if possible, multiple views. You don’t have to be an artist – rough sketches should suffice.

3. Choose your weapons – Part A.

Now that you have a plan, and it’s down on paper, the next step will be choosing and purchasing the materials you are going to use. There is a lot of variety of timber and wood materials available for making furniture. You should select what satisfies the requirements for cost, strength, and the look.

Tip: Wood dyes can be purchased in bulk kits that allow you to create a single primary color for your project, or you can mix and match to get blended custom colors.

4. Choose your weapons – Part B.

English: Assorted Woodworking Tools

It’s tool time. For wood working projects, it goes without saying that you will need tools. Hopefully, what you already have will suffice. If not, you may have to lay out some cash for some new tools, or perhaps good used tools if you can find them. You do need to factor the cost for tools into your project’s budget, but remember that once you buy a good tool, it is available for future projects down the road. That lessens the sting a bit.

If you do need to purchase tools, the first thought may be to check out the big box stores like Home Depot or Lowes. My suggestion – before you do that, check out Harbor Freight, eBay, and Craigslist. I’ve purchased some very good tools for cheap by shopping around first.

5. Preparation (or, baby your tools.)

You might be surprised at the number of people who start projects with dull or improperly maintained tools, and then waste hours on something that should take minutes to accomplish. Been there, done that! On one occasion I was using a drill on a piece, and could not figure out why drilling the holes was taking so long. Once I figured out my drill was working perfectly, and it wasn’t actually a super-hard species of wood, it was obvious the drill bit was dull. Replacing it got me back on track in no time at all.

You should check, condition, and/or sharpen your tools prior to starting your project. Especially note the status of saw blades in table saws and miter saws.  Use of blunt or dull tools can result in improper and rough cuts or damage to soft wood material, such as plywood, etc. (editor’s note)

6. Just do it!

Nike aside, the next step in wood working projects is their execution. This is the fun part. There is nothing like watching your project take shape from raw materials to completion.

It’s best to not try anything different from what you have included in the plans. Sure, there may be something that you notice after you start that may be better accomplished with a slightly different cut or fastener, but major changes require starting again from step one (re-planning).

7. Reaching the finish line.

The last step in your project is properly finishing your project. Choosing a proper finish can completely change the look of the whole piece, so choose wisely! You may want to keep a warm and woodsy rustic look to the project, or you may want a more classic finish. It’s really up to you and your “decorator” (probably a spouse :))

Whether you use a wood dye, a stain, or want a natural finish, the final step should probably be a clear coat varnish. It preserves the color of the project, and protects the wood fairly well from little dings and scratches. And, it just makes it looks “finished” when someone admires your work. I’ve skimped on this in the past, and wished I’d taken the extra step involved.

So there you have it. A nicely laid out checklist that can help keep you organized and on track. In closing, I’d like to note that I see furniture as much more than just something with a utilitarian purpose. It should be an expression of your personality and attitude – a reflection of you. Taking the time to build it yourself is not only rewarding, but it tells a story to visitors and guest about you and your lifestyle.

This article was sponsored by Keda Wood Dyes. They offer a 5 color wood dye kit that mixes with water and can be used to create 5 single colors or blended to suit any project your working on. Check out their great product at http://www.kedadyeinc.com/.

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