Techniques

Below you’ll find smart woodworking techniques including quick tips, advice for beginners and more advanced methods to improve your skills and allow you to get the most out of your workshop and tools. Whether you’re looking for traditional woodworking techniques using hand tools or power tools, finishing or sharpening advice, or just want to hone your woodworking basics, the advice below is from seasoned and trusted woodworkers and furniture makers working at the top of their field.

unfinished_try_squares_IMG_9360

Another Engine

I have lost track of the number of wooden try squares I’ve built in the last five years. At this time last year I had the parts for about 20 mahogany squares in my shop. Now I’m down to one (the rattiest one I couldn’t sell) and some special parts for squares that I...

honing_guide_IMG_9219

The Church of ‘Leave me Alone, Please’

During the last 17 years that I have been using a honing guide to sharpen, I’ve been approached (sometimes nearly assaulted) by people who want to teach me to sharpen freehand. My response: “I sharpen freehand all the time.” They don’t believe me, and so they spend an hour or so to show me...

sharpen_tray_IMG_9070

A Place to Call ‘Hone’

When I think of all the things that improved my sharpening skills, two things loom large. No. 1 is practice, of course, but close behind that is a dedicated sharpening tray. About 14 years ago I built a shallow tray from scrap plywood, nails and glue. No fancy joinery, no water-resistant materials and no...

DTA0288

What Hand Planes are Good For

The difference between school and real life is that in real life the tests come first and then the lessons. This is especially true of woodworking; you never know how far you should take one step of a project until you are knee-deep in the next step. That’s when you realize you didn’t fuss...

polissoir_ng_IMG_8771

The Redneck Polissoir

Whenever I teach a class that involves turning, I like to show them how well the French “polissoir” can finish off your work on the lathe. A polissoir (say it poly-swaar) is a bundle of broom corn that is used to burnish a wooden surface to produce a tactile, low-lustre finish. While the polissoir...

Bookcase

For Those Who Love Books, Travel & Joinery

When I was a kid, I used books to escape from my (boring) Arkansas upbringing. Today, I use books to escape from the drudgery of air travel. Every room in our house is full of books, and there is never enough room for them all. So as a woodworker, I’m always building more bookcases...

ChipBreaker

Improve Hand Plane Performance

There was a time when nearly even adult male in the United States owned a Stanley #4 smooth plane. The one I have was passed down to me by my dad (a chemical engineer) who got it from his dad (a tool and die maker). When I was a kid, dad dragged the thing...

IMG_8380

Restoring an Early Spiers Smoothing Plane

The first time someone showed me a photo of an infill handplane, it was bewilderment at first sight. “That’s a handplane?” I asked. All I could see were a bunch of odd lumps of wood and some steel. This was years before both the Internet and modern toolmakers made this form of tool a...

ebonized_kilnt_legs_IMG_8262

Dyed by My Own Hand

When I finish my pieces, I use restraint when adding stains or dyes. Most woods look best (to my eye) with some shellac, lacquer and maybe a little colored wax in the pores. But when I do color wood, I’m a fan of the W.D. Lockwood dyes, which are usually found packaged as J.E....