Building confidence with hand tools

Have you ever associated using hand tools with gaining confidence? If you haven’t, I would like to suggest to anyone thinking of taking up woodworking seriously, that they consider the confidence issue.

Most newcomers lack confidence in their ability because they have little or no experience. This condition was common to us all! The first experience of woodworking is therefore the most important. Much the same as the idea that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression, primary experience leaves an indelible mark.

hand tools

Cutting dados & grooves on the table saw

Dados and grooves are one of the most basic joints you can use when constructing furniture projects. They provide a mechanical connection that can be reinforced with glue and screws, making a structure much more rigid than had it been fastened together with butt joints. While not as decorative as dovetails or finger joints, they are much easier to cut and are ideal for housing panels such as drawer bottoms.

dados and grooves

Mortise and tenon

Mortise and Tenon joinery is both attractive and structurally solid. Because of that it is one of the most widely used joinery in woodworking, with uses ranging from traditional frame and panel doors to furniture. 

There are a wide variety of M&T joints, with the most common being the ‘stopped’ (blind) joint. Other frequently used joints include the through, wedged, pinned, haunched, double (twin) and offset (barefaced). All of these joints share two common features: a ‘mortise’, which is simply a square or rectangular recess into which a tongue, the ‘tenon’, is inserted. The typical configuration is that the mortise is cut on a stile, and the tenon on a rail. The tenon itself is typically smaller in width and thickness than the rail on which it is cut. Once you know how to make a stopped mortise and tenon joint, you can apply the principles to any kind of M&T joint.

mortise and tenon

Coopered doors

A coopered door is simply one that is curved: concave, convex or, when you combine the two, serpentine. Adding a coopered door can make an amazing difference to a common square cabinet.

There are a few ways to achieve a coopered door. The easiest is to find a board that is naturally cupped. Since most of us aren’t so lucky, a second way is to cut the curve out of a thick piece of stock. With this method, the height of your door will be limited to the resaw height of your bandsaw. As well, when removing more wood from one side than the other, the wood may move or check. The most effective method is to cut several strips out of a single board and join them back together again to form a curve. This method is ideal for making any size of door, and for preserving grain graphics or colour.

coopered doors

Building big things in a small space

Just because you have a small space to create doesn’t necessarily limit you to small projects. There are many things that can be done to push those walls apart from each other and get the most from your space.

The first thing needed to succeed is the proper mindset. Don’t let yourself be intimidated into passing up the opportu­nity to tackle something huge in your home workshop. Most large pieces of furniture and cabinetry can be broken down into sub-components, each small enough to be worked on individually and assembled outside the shop. As long as you are realistic and plan carefully before starting out, even the smallest of shops should be able to handle large projects.

build big