Raw Materials

Few magazines and web sites cover the raw materials that we build our projects from. We like to learn about the trees we use and the processes that make them into lumber. In fact, a deep understanding of the materials used in woodworking is absolutely essential to mastery of the craft. Here you’ll find tips on what kinds of materials to use for different kinds of projects, as well as get the skinny on woodworking supplies of all kinds.

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The Simple ‘Dirty Mahogany’ Finish

Here is one of my favorite finishes for any wood that is ring-porous or diffuse-porous. I call it “dirty mahogany” or “creepy janitor.” First a warning: I think this finish looks like crap on woods that have a closed pore structure, such as maple or cherry, and on softwoods. It looks great on anything...

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Beware of Australians Bearing Softwoods

Among us old-school newspaper cronies, we have a saying: If your mother says she loves you, check it out. Meaning: Don’t believe a word anyone tells you. So when I arrived in Australia earlier this month I inoculated myself against some of the most common Australian practical jokes. (Out of respect for this beautiful...

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Australian Woods? We’re Not There Yet

My biggest fear when traveling to Australia wasn’t the 16-hour flight, the change of hemispheres or the spiders that would make my *deleted* fall off. It was the timber I’d have to work with. Australian woods have the reputation of being the nastiest, hardest, most interlocked and silica-choked timbers on the planet. One stroke...

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How to Stock up on Traditional Fasteners

If you build traditional casework with traditional joints and fasteners then you already know the local hardware store is of little use when you need some 4d rosehead nails. Lucky for us, there’s the Internet, which can be a pretty good hardware store. Several readers have asked about what fasteners they should keep in...

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A Pencil from the Tailor Helps Sawing

For me, one of the biggest challenges when working with dark-colored woods is marking them out for sawing and chiseling. Knife lines and pencil lines disappear into the tangle of growth rings and – if it’s a porous wood – pores. I’ve been dovetailing teak this week for a campaign chest I’m building and...

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Strip Zinc with Citric Acid

Sorry zinc, I am not attracted to you. Yes, you keep the elements at bay, but your non-stop shiny countenance is irritating. It looks out of place on my traditional projects. And you do not age well. Zinc, it’s over. I’m going to go get me a stripper. </stupidliteraryexercise> There are lots of ways...

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Quick Review: Whitechapel Crab Lock

OK, so let’s say you are too cheap to purchase a blacksmith-made lock for your next tool chest or blanket chest. Wait, that wasn’t very kind of me to call you “cheap.” Instead, let’s put it this way: Let’s say your spouse just ran off with the village blacksmith, so you are looking for...

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Improve the Clinching Power of Your Cut Nails

Here’s a tip from Tim Henricksen, a fellow woodworker who has been building some six-board chests with me as I research this important early form of furniture. One of the trickiest things to do when building a chest with nails is to clinch the nails’ tips so they bend back into the work and...