In Arts & Mysteries, Shop Blog

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I’m focusing on basic skills in PW. Know that this isn’t news from the mountain top, but rather my very real commitment to fundamentals in my own shop.

“Fundamentals” could mean different things to different people. Here’s what the word means to me: My goal is to:

1) Be able to measure and mark rough stock to allow me to get the most project out of a piece of wood.
2) Process rough stock into acceptably finished boards QUICKLY. “Acceptable” means different things to different people. Certainly it’s got to function. Mating surfaces need to be good enough to not drive other parts to be fettled. As for speed, hand tool work will never be as fast as power tool work. But I strive to produce work in reasonable amounts of time. This is part of being craftsmanly in my opinion.
3) Execute joinery that is fit for purpose. Doesn’t have to be picture perfect. But it should be neat and above all, functional.
4) I’m learning more and more about wood, how it works, moves, and lives on. Part of preparing stock and executing joints is selecting the right bits of wood for the right jobs. Of course keeping only the fillet and discarding the rest of the beef is wasteful. This applies to marking and waste as well.

I dislike the corporate sounding “goals and objectives” here, but it probably is a decent idea to think about your own goals. Have anything to add to my list? Of course there are 1000 skills inside each of my fundamentals above. But what about design? finishing? Would you add those to fundamentals?

I never understood why we don’t see more of this in print. There must be machine tool fundamentals. I’ve never seen articles about how to safely push tools through machines. Is this just something that’s amazingly obvious? Are there great manuals that tell you all the tricks that come with the machines from Grizzly? You could write volumes about hand tools and not cover it all.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Ixzed13

    I am interested in doing more with less. Less tools, less work and less finishing. It might sound anti-crafty or lazy but there are numerous examples of simple functional furniture that I don’t want to make too fancy because it is going to be abused by use.

  • msiemsen

    I was just musing on this question this morning. What is the primary skill a woodworker should learn? I decided it was, ironically, metalworking. If you can’t file, grind, hone, whet, strop or otherwise sharpen your edge tools you are dead in the water. Being able to make and modify and repair tools is also a major advantage, especially if you refurbish old tools.

    Learning how those tools work is of course essential, as is learning the properties of our material, wood, as those two go hand in hand.

    Then comes layout. I have been actively working with wood for a good 40 years and there is always more to learn (or unlearn) than you can shake the proverbial stick at.

    I hope this finds you well,

  • GunnyGene

    One of the things that should be on your list is building a library of woodworking related literature. Chances are that anything you want to do has been done by someone already.

    If you’ll forgive the link to another site, here’s a list of downloadable free books to choose from. All were written prior to 1929, so copyright protection is not an issue.

    I have everyone of these on 5 CD’s . As well as many being enjoyable reading, they are a terrific reference. Of course, supplementing these with modern books that discuss the use of modern tools and techniques is an ongoing adventure.

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