Woodworking basics begin with visualizing a woodworking project, the work flow and the specific items needed to complete the project. A good rule of thumb to follow is draw out the plans of the project prior to beginning. A perfect drawing is not necessary but a generalized front and side view helps when planning the amount of wood required. Write down the dimensions of the project along the corresponding sides. Use these figures to determine the amount of lumber needed for the project.
Proceed to the lumber yard after determining the amount of lumber needed for the project. Look for lumber void of defects. Common wood defects include bowing, crooking, cupping, twisting, spalling, knots and checking. Look for wood with good grain pattern. Hardwoods (walnut, oak and cherry) are more expensive than softwoods (pine, ash and popular) but offer better grain pattern and more durability for a woodworking project.
Square the edges of the wood prior to beginning any woodworking project. A piece of wood is square when adjacent faces of the wood are at a perfect 90 degree angle to one another. Measure the edges of the board with a try square to check for squareness. Use a jointer, table saw or radial arm saw to square the lumber. Make sure the blades are at a perfect 90 degree angle to the cutting surface.
Square the project during the building project. This means make sure all like pieces are cut to the same length. An example of this is building a book shelf. The shelf is designed to be 60-inches tall. One side of the shelf is cut at 60-inches while the opposite board is cut to 59 3/4-inches. The 1/4-inch difference in height will cause the book shelf to sit crooked and unstable. Make sure all measurements are correct. Measure twice and cut once.
Another typical problem with square woodworking projects arises with clamping. Clamping holds glued pieces together until they are dry. A book shelf that has the bottom shelf clamped into place may be clamped too tight and cause the book shelf to become out-of-square. Correct this problem prior to the glue setting. Measure the diagonal distance between opposite corners of the book shelf with a tape measure. The book shelf is square if the measurements are the same. If the measurements are different, readjust the clamps until the distances are the same.
Dry assemble the finished project together before gluing. This means fit all joints together to make sure they fit properly. This is the time when adjustments to cuts are made. Clamp the pieces together if necessary to ensure the completed woodworking project aligns properly.
It is time to glue the project together once all adjustments have been made to the project. Have an adequate amount of glue available before beginning the process. Running out of glue could cause the loss of the entire project. The gluing process places glue on the wood joints. The capillary action of the wood begins and the glue is absorbed into the wood pores. This causes the wood to expand and shift shape. Work quickly and concisely with the glue. Clean off excess glue with water and a clean sponge. Clamp the pieces together and let dry the appropriate time period before sanding and finishing the project with stain and sealer.
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