Canadian Woodworking

Project articles vs technique articles and free chisels

Author: Rob Brown
Project vs Technique Articles

Our magazine always includes plenty of project-based articles. I try to run a mix of beginner- and intermediate-level project articles in each issue, as well as an advanced-level article a couple of times a year.

Over the years we’ve found these project articles get lots of views on our website, and generate lively discussion online or via email. We even have readers tell us about the projects they’ve completed from the magazine when they see us at woodworking shows. This is why we’ve always included at least two or three –  sometimes as many as six –  projects in each issue.

I’ve always thought project articles were great, but I also like technique-based articles. To co-opt a common saying, a project-based article is like giving a woodworker one project, while a technique-based article teaches a woodworker how to design and build any project.

I understand the simplicity and comfort of project articles. Having all the steps in a project in one spot and knowing the article will guide you from design and breakout right through assembly and finishing is a comforting feeling. This is especially great whether you’re a beginner woodworker or have been working wood for some time, but don’t have the time or interest to take your skills to the next level.

Right now, we’re doing some long-term planning for the magazine and one of the things we’re talking about are the types of articles we run in our pages. Do you prefer project-based articles or technique-based articles? And why? Leave a comment here or send me an email with your thoughts. As always, I love hearing from our readers.

Project vs Technique Articles
This is an image from a recent project article the wonderful Steve Der-Garabedian wrote for us detailing how to make a bonsai stand. Looking at it now, it could also be a technique-based article on the many uses of masking tape, how to work with veneer, how to master the router table or how to incorporate the primary colours into a nicely composed woodworking photo. Steve’s a master of many trades!

Project vs Technique Articles


Free Chisels

A few weeks ago, I wrote a weekly column titled “Doing Bad Things with Good Chisels.” I got more comments on that column than I recall getting on any other column I’ve written. Thankfully, the comments were all pretty gentle on me and my approach to chisel use.

Mark Salusbury, who often writes for our pages, read the column and took pity on me. He gave me a call later that day and mentioned a large set of chisels that he’s had stowed away in a bench for some time. A friend gave him the set about 30 years ago and he’s literally never used them. “Would I like them?” he asked. “Yes, please!” I said. A few days later Mark was in town and I met him to take those chisels into my care. They came in metric sizes ranging from about 3mm to 35mm. They were nicely tuned from the factory, and have yet to be carefully honed in a shop setting. Their oval cross section handles won’t roll around on the bench and they’ll provide a positive grasp on each chisel for decades to come.

I have to admit, it’s pretty kind of Mark to freely give up a large set of quality chisels like that, even if he doesn’t think he’ll ever use them. There’s something about tools that cause most of us to hold onto them, even if they will most likely never see use in our shops. It’s the same sort of reason why we keep the tiniest scraps of both domestic and exotic wood around for decades. One of these days we will use these scraps, right? Well, once in a blue moon we do use one of those scraps, but for every one piece we use there are dozens of pieces that will eventually be burned in a campfire. One thing is for sure: that will be one blazing hot (and fancy) campfire. Dense exotic wood that’s been air-dried for four decades burns really well, and it looks ultra-sleek while piling it on the campfire.

If only it was always as easy as just hinting that a new tool is needed for that tool (in this case 13 of them) to show up at your door free of charge. On the other hand, maybe I’m onto something with these columns. Just ask for what I need and maybe it will show up a week later.

On a completely different subject, if only I had a CNC router, my shop would be complete. I have some curved templates to make for a table next week and a CNC router would make quick, accurate work of that task, not to mention a thousand other jobs around my shop in the near future.

It’s worth a shot, right?

Nicely Wrapped Up
Mark Salusbury wrapped the chisels in a pillowcase to ensure they weren’t damaged en route to their new home. The least I can do is wash it up and return it to him.

Nicely wrapped up

A Wide Range
With a wide range of widths, this set will surely be busy in the future.

A Wide Range

An Easy Hone
Both the backs and fronts are ground a bit heavier toward the handle to reduce the amount of material that needs to be removed to flatten and hone them.

An Easy Hone
Published:
Last modified: September 8, 2022

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

10 Comments

  1. Project articles often teach new techniques. To me this means that project articles are important. Pure technique articles are also a great teaching tool. I think that a balanced approach is important.

  2. Hi Rob,

    I haven’t given much thought to article types, but like a mix of both types of articles. Usually project articles have techniques buried in them. So sometimes there may be a project I have zero interest in, but I still read the article because I know I’ll likely pick up a tip or technique from the build.

  3. Both project and technique articles are much appreciated. I would like to see an occasional hand tool based project article too.

  4. I enjoy the project articles where everything is laid out for us but I find that the technique articles
    may help me complete my own projects easier.
    I think at least 1 technique article per issue would be a good mix.

  5. Personally I like both project and technique type articles. One option may be to occasionally have a related technique sidebar in a project type article.

  6. I, too, favour project articles and find that they often provide technique tips and instruction. A possible improvement would be to highlight interesting techniques, perhaps in a sidebar, that are used in a project. The Steve Der-Garabedian article is a good example of such a project.
    I think combining project and technique instructions enhances learning. I realized long ago that the best way to learn new guitar techniques is to utilize them in song accompaniments.

  7. If I had to choose between the two article types I would definitely say “both”, but with this caveat. I think I learn the most from a project article that uses certain techniques which are described in adjoining technique articles. Tackle a project and learn the techniques (skills) to do it – two for one, that helps me get it done.

  8. Although I never make the projects, I scan those articles for any techniques hidden within. Perhaps the previous suggestions for a sidebar or other means of highlighting techniques would please everyone.

  9. Balanced. Projects that exercise a more complicated technique or design promote skill growth. If the technique can be sufficiently described within the article, great. Otherwise, definitely have a complementing article.

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