Top 6 Ways to Become a Better Woodworker
.6 Don’t point out your mistakes. Most woodworkers always begin to show a piece by stating what’s wrong with his or her work. That immediately cues viewers that there are problems – that undermines your work. Professional woodworkers never point out their mistakes. They see the mistakes, learn from the mistakes and are disturbed by them, but they never make mention of them.
.5 Use the best tool for the job. Fully equipped woodworking shops have a mixture of hand and power tools. To be a better woodworker, you need to understand when to use what tool. My favorite story came about while building a Baltimore card table for the June 2005 issue (#148) (shown below at right). I needed to cut the ends of the brick-laid apron, so I rigged up a way to make the square cut at my miter saw. I spent 20 minutes getting the apron set exactly for the cut – I must say the cut was right, but I also have to say that all that set-up time was a waste. The next time I built that table I was a better woodworker. To make that same cut, I laid out my cut line, grabbed my handsaw and sliced through the apron in seconds. What a time-savings. As a result, I’m able to produce more in the shop.
.4 Have an attitude. When you believe something will work, it usually does. I used to struggle cutting restoration glass for the doors of my cabinets and cupboards. I scored the lines with a good glass cutter, but I was timid when it came time to snap the cuts. There was no telling where that line would break. One day as I watched a television show about stain-glass artists, I was amazed at how simple these folks made glass cutting look. Score. Snap. Done. The next time I cut glass I had an attitude. I scored the glass and confidently snapped the pieces. I knew it would work, and it did.
.3 Perfect practice makes perfect. Most people say practice makes perfect. If your practice is not perfect, however, then you’re apt to learn incorrect methods. Hence the addition of “perfect.” I’m always reminded of the woodworker who wanted to become excellent using a Japanese saw. He purchased an 8′-long 2×4, then set about slicing it into 1/4″-thick pieces. As he reached the end, his abilities with his saw had grown incredibly. It took only 384 slices. Practice your woodworking, but do it perfectly.
.2 Know how to fix your mistakes. My younger brother worked with my dad and me at the beginning of the business. One of the sage pieces of advice he let loose dealt with mistakes. He noted that the only difference between a woodworker and a good woodworker is that a good woodworker knows how to fix the mistakes. Every woodworker makes them. The key is to know how to fix them, and you learn that below.
.1 Read Popular Woodworking Magazine. This may sound self-serving, but there is more to it. The reasons are two-fold. Not only do we have in-house editors with more than 100 years of real woodworking experience (how’s that stand up to other woodworking magazines?), we have outside authors that are at the top of their game. Each issue is packed and stacked with great woodworking information. OK, here’s the real reason you should read the magazine – the entire magazine. Before I was a senior editor, I would read the articles that mattered to me. The columns and other articles were read if I had the opportunity, which seldom came along. After joining the magazine staff full-time, it was my job to read every article, sometimes two or three times each. I was amazed at what I learned as I read each article. The light bulb over my head didn’t just light-up, it shined so bright that it exploded. Today I read whatever woodworking information I can get my hands on. You have the subscription, read it. If you don’t have a subscription, click here. It will make you a better woodworker.
If you have another way to up your woodworking game, please list in in the comments.