Woodworking projects - Top tips
Completing these woodworking projects has been quite a journey, and I've learned a lot along the way. So I'd like to share my top tips, as well as some of the surprises I ran into along the way.
I no longer compare myself to woodworkers on YouTube. I always wondered how their woodworking projects went so perfectly every single time. But after making a few videos of my own I realised that perfection can sometimes be an illusion. Some of those videos might have taken 100 takes before they got it right. Or they might have practiced many times before making the video. And some of them already have holes pre-drilled and everything cut to the perfect size. These days, as long as I'm learning from my mistakes I'm happy with that.
I had to re-learn how to measure things. In my early woodworking projects I noticed my measurements were usually out by a few mm. It turned out simple tasks like using a tape measure or drawing a pencil line are not so simple after all. For example I never imagined I'd need to decide which side of the pencil line to cut. And I never knew that the hook on the end of the tape measure sometimes has a bit too much travel which can introduce errors. And I'd never even heard of a marking gauge, which I now can't do without. I took the time to learn these basics and immediately saw the quality of my work improve.
For quick and dirty woodworking projects I now use dowel joints rather than screws. I like not having to hide screw heads, and I think the dowels can look quite attractive. You also get a super strong joint because the glue makes the dowels swell up inside the hole and hold it tight. I use these for a lot of my pallet projects and small scrap wood projects. And I'd highly recommend the Wolfcraft dowelmaster, as it provides an easy way to drill the holes accurately.
These days I dedicate a good amount of time to sharpening my blades properly. This used to be a quick 2 minute job, but once I started using the proper technique I was amazed at the difference it made. My planes and chisels started slicing through the wood like a knife through butter, which meant more accurate cuts and better quality work. It turns out I never knew what a truly sharp blade felt like.
I've spent a lot of time experimenting with different finishes on my woodworking projects, and now have a few products that I return to regularly. I love Colron wood dye, particularly the medium oak which I used on this coffee table. Boiled linseed oil is great for bringing out the wood grain, as you can see on these slingshots. And I get a nice deep colour as well as exceptional hardness with Ronseal polyurethane varnish, seen here on these scrap wood coasters. I also use Briwax on top of a varnished finish when I want a bit of extra sheen.
It can be tricky choosing the right paint for your woodworking projects, however I now have some go-to brands that I like to use. Fusion mineral paint is pricey, however it has a high percentage of natural pigment which gives it a lovely deep colour, and it's very easy to apply. I've also found that a little goes a long way, so it might not be as expensive as it seems. I also like using Little Greene. Again, nice deep colours due to the high percentage of pigment compared to other brands, and their eco-credentials are on point. One well known brand I've struggled with is Farrow & Ball. I've found it much more difficult to get a nice even finish with this paint. Sometimes you get oily or cloudy patches, and I've found that brush and roller marks are difficult to overcome.
When I'm working particularly hard, I get a lot of aches and pains in my thumbs, wrists and shoulders. I realised early on that woodworking can take its toll on the body, and I was having to spend time away from the workshop to heal up. I now stretch and exercise these areas every day and it has helped a lot. Also as my technique has improved, and my muscles have become better conditioned, I've found my body is coping much better. But do look out for any twinges or signs of injury so that you can deal with them early rather than letting them become chronic.
And that's all I can think of for now. Best of luck on your woodworking projects, and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.