Woodworking Skills By Expanding Your Library
Whether you're a Pro or an Enthusiast,
woodworker hopes to get better with each project. New
opportunities to experiment with different techniques, hone
methods and expand your skill set. British Design
Pye, in his book The Nature and Art of
Workmanship (200597), defines skill as
dexterity and judgment. As people interested in well
care is probably a given. We want to do a good job or at
reasonably satisfied with the results. Dexterity comes
through the repetition of doing a certain task over time.
is a little more elusive. We can talk to other woodworkers,
on-line to chat groups, experiment in our shops or we can
masters and their methods. By studying the methods of proven
you reduce the learning curve and save valuable time
wheel. The easiest and least expensive way to learn from
craftsmen is through books and videos.
acquired over time, allow you to revisit your woodworking
reference information without having to remember every
of a given task. Compared to the cost of private lessons or
at a technical school, print and video media is cheap. Plus
information is usually close at hand just waiting for you to
the index or pop a disc or tape into the player.
If you really
down, there are just a few basic woodworking joints; the
edge, the dovetail joint and the mortise and tenon. Most
joints are a variation or combination of these classic
problem is that most of us spend our time trying to avoid
simple joints. Just look at the plethora of jigs, fixtures
alternative fasteners that come out each year, attempting to
the mortise and tenon joint. Not that there's anything wrong
these products, but they generally remove you from the
prevent you from furthering your skills and often rob you of
mind, body and spirit pleasure that woodworking affords.
why we got into woodworking in the first place?
attempt traditional joinery, we convince ourselves that we
expensive equipment or an impossibly complicated production
jig. When you consider that the electric motor did not exist
most of human history, and that the great examples of period
furniture were constructed with little more than saws,
hand planes, then your perspective changes.
tenon joint is arguably the most misunderstood and feared
question I get most often is what machines or jigs do I need
mortise and tenon joints. My answer is : You don't need any.
need is a mortise gauge, a mallet, a chisel and a saw. In
Mortise and Tenons Made
Simple (220593), master of apprentices Jim
Kingshott shows you how to effectively make this joint with
few rudimentary tools. If the average table has just eight
and tenons, then it is perfectly reasonable to chop a few
holes with a chisel and kerf down a handful of tenons. All
take for you is to watch Jim Kingshott do it a few times and
practice until you achieve proficiency. It is just like
ride a bike, and soon you'll be riding with no hands and
These hand tool skills will put you physically
emotionally closer to your work. You will grow more intimate
the processes of woodworking and your "fingerprints" will
appear on your projects, making them uniquely your own.
Dovetails are another source of contention
woodworkers. We know when, where and why we're supposed to
dovetails, but we're convinced we don't have time to learn
make them. So we resign ourselves to purchasing an expensive
jig. But by the time you uncrate the thing and read through a
lengthy instruction manual, you could have watched Dovetail a
Drawer (220446) with Master Cabinetmaker
Klausz. Frank Klausz explains how he hand cuts dovetails for
and accuracy in a production environment. Yes, even in this
era, pros like Frank Klausz still cut dovetails by hand.
engaging approach and encouraging attitude will have you
out through dovetails in just an hour or two of practice.
his video Handmade
Dovetails (220105), the great Dane Tage Frid
demonstrates with his usual humor, how he makes half-blind
with under $ 100.00 worth of tools. The point is that by
the work patterns of these masters, you can internalize
rhythms and begin to develop your own techniques. You can
the same level of proficiency as Frank and Tage. Joinery is
skill set, not an art. You are certainly not born with it.
joinery has to be learned. Don't be lazy.
Now, with all this talk about hand tool
don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not a hand tool purist. If
Chippendale had had a table saw and thickness planer, he
definitely would have employed them. What I'm advocating is
to get out of your comfort zone, expand your woodworking
and further your enjoyment of the craft. Once again,
supposed to be fun. Fun might not always include hearing
dust masks and a death grip on a noisy power tool.
The second most asked
or group of questions I get is about Finishing. What
I use? How do I apply it? What's the best….? Whoa! Finishing
complex subject. You could spend a lifetime just mastering
wood or top coating. Fortunately, there's Bob Flexner's Understanding Wood
(200513P). It's one of my favorite finishing
books and I
highly recommend it. Bob's no nonsense voice is a welcome
the information fog on wood finishing. Bob gives you the
practical advice you need to make good judgments about
selection and application procedures. Of course, a book
guarantee success. As with any skill you must practice. If
easy there would be no reward and your level of satisfaction
If I had to pick a favorite finish, it
have to be French polishing with shellac. I'm not talking
shelf stabilized shellac that comes in a can, but shellac
freshly dissolved in alcohol and applied with a pad.
premixed, canned shellac does have its place, it doesn't
same properties as fresh shellac. In fact, for most
cabinets, I can't imagine why you'd use anything else. Fresh
dries instantly, builds quick, it's easy to repair, lasts
centuries, and it is inexpensive. If mixed fresh and used
couple of weeks, shellac is tough and durable in spite of
may have read. So why doesn't everyone use shellac if it's
wonderful? The answer is because shellac requires skill to
skill takes care, dexterity and judgment, not to mention
Practice doesn't conform with our microwave, instant
world. The practice is worth it because there is no more
finish than a French polished shellac finish.
So how do you start? Jeff Jewitt's video French
(220104) will give you the foundation for
ancient art. As with all hand skills, French Polishing with
will add to your woodworking repertoire, giving you options
projects and making you a better woodworker.
skills are tangible techniques. Some skills are attitudes,
principles and general philosophies that guide our approach
work. Sometimes we just need a new outlook, a refreshing of
or a renewal of the spirit. As mentioned earlier, David Pye
excellent books The Nature and Art of
and The Nature and Aesthetics
Although Pye does not cover the 'how-to' of woodworking, he
elegantly discuss the why and what for of craft and design.
confronts our presumptions about the way things should be.
Krenov's A Cabinetmaker's
(200504) expands on Pye's ideas and creates an
philosophy towards woodworking. Krenov transforms the
into the practical. Along these lines is The Woodwright's
Shop (200511) by Roy Underhill. Not only will
Underhill teach you new skills, but he will confront your
surface quality and texture. Roy tackles the question: Does
have to be glass smooth and highly polished to be considered
craft? The book A Reverence For
Wood (202694) by Eric Sloane is a
favorite of mine. It's more than an essay about wood as a
material. It is a treatise on the awe and mystique that make
such a joyous part of our lives.
Finally, Toshio Odate's Japanese Woodworking Tools:
Their Tradition, Spirit and Use (290426) will transport you into the rich and fascinating
world of traditional woodworking in Japan. Steeped in
spirit, Toshio Odate will open many doors and paths you
have considered before.
Our sincere hope at Highland Hardware is
to help you
become better at your craft and for you to enjoy your
in the shop. We believe the resources listed here will
your thinking and inspire you to expand your woodworking