Advice- Newbie to Newbie
Here are some random things I've learned in my short career as a woodworker/router table owner, some technical, some attitudinal. These probably will not be of any interest to the more experienced members of the forum, but might be helpful to other inexperienced woodworkers/router users.
1. Wood. Take the time to find wood that is as straight, non-cupped, non-twisted, and perfect as possible. It may be possible to correct defects, but it's a lot easier if you find some good wood to start out. Avoid wood with dark streaks along the edge. When you plane it down later, the dark streaks may open up to reveal pockets of sap. It is messy to clean up, so just avoid those boards.
2. Amount. Mill more wood than you think you will need to complete the project. That way you can have some test pieces to try out your set ups.
3. Test Pieces. Definitely use them. If you try to get the setup right on a piece you intend to incorporate into your project, you may have to either rework it, or may even have to discard it if you really honk it up.
4. Measuring and Marking. Use a ruler or other marking device that is either tapered at the edge or is thin enough to allow you to acurately mark the cut. A thick ruler can introduce significant error when you try to transfer the dimension from the ruler to your stock. Even better, look for ways to do your woodworking that require no measurement. If you do need to measure and mark, use a sharp pencil (I use a 0.7 mm lead mechanical pencil) or other precise marking device to mark the cut (marking knives are probably more accurate, but I have a hard time seeing the mark so do not use one). A dull pencil has a line thickness wide enough to introduce error, so don't use it.
5. Jigs and Fixtures. They make getting good results a lot easier and more likely. Consider using a jig or fixture whenever accuracy or repeatability is important.
6. Haste. Don't hurry. Every time I get in a rush, I screw something up. So, I decided that since woodworking is a hobby for me, not a job (see #10 below), I'm going to gear it down and go slow every time I get in the shop. I have more fun and less frustration if I don't push.
7. Safety. It just has to be the number one priority. My woodworking will not be fun if I do myself some damage, so I try to look at every task and decide how I might get hurt and then plan it to eliminate that possibility. I'm sure I miss some, but I'm a lot better off than if I didn't think about it at all.
8.Set-ups. I've come to believe that any set-up that relies upon friction between two parts that can move relative to one another, for example, my saw's miter gauge, is suspect and must be checked constantly. If it can move, it will move, and usually at the most inopportune time. I've come to really like setups using jigs and fixtures that have fixed geometric relationships, like the cross-cut sled, and mitering sled which both have no moveable parts. Once a setup is perfected, don't change it until you have run all the stock that requires that setup. I have found that it is very difficult to exactly recreate setups once I reposition anything. Maybe once I develop more skill that will change, but for now, that's the way it is.
9. Tools. If accuracy or good appearance is required, a sharp tool is required. Sharp tools are also safer because it takes a lot less muscle to move them through the wood. Also, for a low skill newbie like me, it is a lot easier to get good results when I use a good, high quality tool, so I've determined I will pay the price and get good stuff, even if I have less of it as a result. I'm sure that most of the skilled folks can make a Queen Anne highboy using just a pocketknife, a rusty screwdriver and a pair of vice grips, but I'm not very skillful yet and so I need tools that don't require years of experience or lots of hand-eye coordination to adjust and operate. Such tools are usually a little more expensive, but, for me, it is necessary to get the best. That said, I find it helpful to read the reviews, because sometimes the best is not the most expensive.
10 Attitude. I'm going to hang a sign on the entrance to my shop "Remember, this is a hobby, NOT a job!" and try to incorporate that approach into everything I do once I walk through that door. Hobbies are supposed to extend one's lifespan by providing relaxation and a change of pace. I've got to try and leave the Type A elements of my personality outside the door if that is going to happen. If things aren't going right, its probably time to quit for awhile, or at least take a break.
I hope these hints will help the other newbies to get better results and have more fun getting them.
Last edited by rstermer; 05-14-2008 at 02:24 PM.