Are you someone who loves being creative? Is building new things and craftsmanship a part of your dream career? If any of these describe you, chances are you’re interested in woodworking. You might be wondering how to kick start your career as soon as possible.
But like in any other field, the skill of the craft is a major step towards success. You’ll hear people talk about how you’ll need a woodworking bench, a perfectly put-together tool kit, and the best wood moisture meter out there to start. But that's not what we'll discuss today.
For you to become proficient in woodworking, we've crafted a step-by-step set of instructions that'll entail all the practices and qualities you'll need to adapt. Let’s take a quick look then!
Learn the Basics
Don’t go rolling your eyes just yet. You’ll be surprised just how many people lack the basic knowledge about woodwork but decide to start their business anyway. While it’s completely possible to get to work without it, the basics are what help your work quality standout in the long run.
So what are the basics? Well, it means knowing about wood identification, how to cut wood, studying, and experimenting with different techniques, and know what the best wood lathe is, etc.
When someone says woodworker, the stereotypical picture in our mind is a person sanding or burnishing a long plank at a workbench. Nowadays, however, the scene is quite different.
Today you’ll need skill in operating some highly technical machinery like CNCs. CNC means computerized numerical control machines. No matter how traditional of a worker you are, you’ll need to use this one way or another.
Knowing how to measure the dimensions properly and which wood is suitable for which environment will let you understand how to execute a project with ease. When to use cedar or redwood or OSB and which wood is more prone to retain moisture- you’ll have to know it all.
But don't get the wrong idea that you can't start without learning every little thing. The best way to increase your basic skills is just to keep studying as you progress as a woodworker.
Learn Wood Identification
Your ability to identify which wood is best for what will determine how far you’ll go as a craftsman. Sometimes, the wood itself is more important than the design you put out or your technique.
Many masters learn to identify the woods through years of experience. And experience truly is the key here. So you need to experiment with pieces now and then. Pay attention to the details, and you'll realize just how much you can grasp at one go.
With so many amazing wood species out there, it might seem overwhelming. But don't try to cram names and types of thousands of woods like you've got a test coming up.
The best way to learn, according to experts, is to study organically. As you work on different projects, you'll pick up the minute details about the properties different woods have-how well it sands, how it smells, and how it can be maneuvered.
One of the best ways to learn how to identify woods is to learn about at least one new species each time you go to the woodshop. So the next time you go pick out the pieces for a project, ask about that one other piece that caught your eye.
Pick it up and try to get an idea of how you might be able to use it. Even if you don’t use it now, you might be able to use that knowledge later. Some other ways you can learn more about wood types is by buying new pieces now and then. But first, you need to know what you have at hand very well.
Don’t just look at the colors. Observe the weight, smell, changes it has depending on heat and all the other nuances. You’ll find yourself deciding on what to use based on these very details later on.
As woodworking isn’t a light job, it requires one to have certain skills and training. It’s best if you can find yourself a mentor or have an experienced person show you the ropes first.
There was a time when woodshops were quite common in high schools all over the state. But nowadays it's not as common. So you can either look for a class on woodworking near your locality or take up a short course or internship at college. It all depends on how passionate you are.
Training yourself also means teaching yourself. Wondering what you're supposed to train on? To start, you need to develop your understanding of your project's demands.
You need to train yourself to work with various types of equipment- drilling machines, multi-purpose saws, CNCs, milling machines, etc. Learn how to safely set up the machines so as not to make a mess later.
There are different ways of wood cutting that you should practice. Knowledge of these cuts can help you make joint pieces and structure the product properly. Learn about cutting mortise, tenon joints and dovetail. From grain patterns, warping, knots, and hardness to moisture retention- there's a lot to discover first hand.
Try working your way from small projects like building a wood stool, wall planter, and media box to more complex items like a birdhouse or table slowly.
A huge mistake many beginners make is not measuring the pieces accurately enough. Many don’t even bother trying. But remember this- your finished product will not be perfect if your measurements aren’t.
While taking a bunch of pieces that fit and nailing them together might seem easy at first, it’s only a matter of time till you get a screw poking out here and a wood piece sticking out there.
For the measurement of pieces, you must have a flat ruler, which is of 6, 12, or 36 inches length. If you have a variety, it can help you work better. Is it not comfortable trying to measure something the size of your pinky with a 36-inch ruler, right? You should get a retractable measuring tape as well.
If you want to invest a bit more, get a dial caliper, a combination square, and a flat square. Buying measuring tools is never a loss since you can use them for a lot more than just woodworking.
A combination square helps you mark out 90 degrees and 45-degree lines. Since most of these have a wider stock than the blade, you can line the blade up with the mark on the wood while the stock fits against the edge. Tools like this make sure your dimensions are perfect.
Prepare Your Workspace
Only after you’ve checked out the other requirements, you should get to prepare your workspace. Because, a well-organized workspace with a nice bench and router table can help you improve, but nothing matters if you don’t train up first.
Your work area should include a nice sturdy woodworking bench, a wall of tools, and enough storage space. It's good to work in a garage since it's separate from the living area and the mess doesn't have to be cleaned again and again.
Your purpose and passion will determine how you shape your work area. Do you do woodwork as just a hobby? Is this something you want to make a career out of? Ask yourself these questions.
Plan out how to maintain equally your daily works and DIY projects. Make a workbench for yourself if you can. Nothing puts one in a working mood like a hand-made bench meant just for the purpose.
Usually, woodworkers start with a milling machine, drillers, woodscrews, and some basic types of saws. Just knowing how to operate the tools won't be enough. Take care of them and polish them regularly. Rusted machines will only add to your troubles if you don't take care of them.
Know the Work Environment and Types
As there are various types of work in this sector, your work environment will vary accordingly. For example, if you do heavy work like building furniture and handling/cutting large pieces, you might have a factory setting as your workplace.
Again, people who do lightweight woodwork usually get jobs in small manufacturing plants or woodshops. There are mainly four types of woodworkers-
- Machine Operators- The ones who specialize in running the machines.
- Finishers of Furniture- The craftsmen who burnish and do the finishing works on wooden furniture.
- Cabinetmakers- These are the ones who design custom pieces and get creative with small projects like installing cabinets and drawers.
- Woodwork Tenders- Another group that also deals with machines to get the job done.
Knowing what you're getting yourself into is a big part of starting and gaining proficiency in woodworking. It's a sector that requires both skill and awareness. Besides, if you know what you're interested in, you can work toward that one skill more than anything with ease.
Mastery in any craft is not easy to acquire. Woodworking is no different. But with these tips, now you have an idea of how someone can become proficient in woodworking in a gradual, systematic way over time.