The 10 F’s of Joinery

I like words as much as the next guy, but when I’m in the middle of a build – especially if it involves noisy power tools – I find that my brain doesn’t really process long articles or essays. I keep my drawings and cut list nearby, perhaps with a few extra notes. I also keep a couple stock phrases in mind, such as “safety first.” Other than that, the workshop becomes a completely language-free space. That’s part of what makes it enjoyable.

So today I decided to assemble a short, easy-to-memorize list on one of the core topics in woodworking – joinery. I’m calling this list “The 10 F’s.” I hope it propels you to greater productivity in the shop!

joinerygroupOne note before we get started with the list. “Farnbach” is not one of the 10 F’s of joinery. I am, like many of you, a mostly self-taught woodworker and not a joinery expert. If you want some really in-depth expertise on the topic, buy our big book on the topic.

The 10 F’s of Joinery

1 through 3. Forget fine furniture. It’s not that you don’t want to make fine furniture, it’s just that if you begin with such a hard-to-define goal in your head, you’re going to be disappointed with the process.

4 and 5. Focus on facts. Joinery is mostly about some basic facts. You are trying to join pieces of wood together, and wood is a dynamic material. Get familiar with the directions in which wood expands and contracts (mostly across its width), and get equally familiar with the traditional joints that have worked best for centuries, such as the mortise and tenon.

6. Fairly well planned. I use the word “fairly” not because it starts with an “f,” but because I believe there is a limit to planning. You should definitely plan your work, but if you reach a point in the planning process when you are not making much progress, just head to the shop and start cutting.

7. Flexible. Along those same lines, try to keep your plans flexible. I’m working on a project right now that I thought would include a pair of ½” dados for a ½” vertical divider. After routing the dados, I discovered it was going to be better to use ¾” stock for the divider. That’s an adjustment I can easily make, since I used flexible planning and went conservative with my first cuts.

8. Fun. Don’t spaz out on the details! You’ll not only ruin the experience for yourself, but also for your kids or anyone else who is nearby during your joinery adventure. Think about the long-term value of making it fun for yourself and others.

9 and 10. Finish your furniture. I am an advocate for always finishing what you start, with certain rare exceptions. You’ll learn more about joinery by working through the challenges on each project than by starting fresh with new projects and ideas. And in this case, “finishing” also means applying a nice finish to the wood. That way you’ll enjoy having the project in your home for years to come.

Dan Farnbach

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Dan Farnbach

About Dan Farnbach

Dan apprenticed and worked in two professional shops during the years after college. But sweeping shop floors only goes so far toward learning woodworking. These days Dan is online editor for Popular Woodworking, and is learning new skills every day. He divides his time between Boston and Maine.

One thought on “The 10 F’s of Joinery

  1. Jimboz

    I especially like the first three. As you say, setting the bar so high means that the slightest drawback takes on major proportions rather than just being something to work around.
    Cheers,
    Jim

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