Let’s look at some of the best woodworking tips and tricks for beginners and experienced woodworkers alike. These are ones that I use myself so you can rest assured they are tried and tested.
I will add further articles with more tips and tricks from time to time so watch out for them in the future.
1. Safety First
This is the number one tip because it is the most important one of all. You can have all the fancy tools in your workshop (or garage in my case) but if you don’t exercise caution when using them they will hurt you. Many woodworking hand tools are either very sharp or very abrasive (and sometimes both) so please take care when using them. Always wear the required PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as safety goggles, dust mask, gloves and hearing protection (if using power tools or machinery).
Your enjoyment of your craft will be very much diminished if you injure yourself while creating your latest masterpiece. So each and every time you pick up a tool please think ‘SAFETY FIRST’.
2. Flat Side Your Pencil for Accurate Marking
This is a simple little trick but it will make your marking out so much more accurate. At the tip of the pencil, shave half the side of the wood away so that you are left with a nice flat surface on one side.
You will now be able to draw around templates or shapes right up against the side so when you make your cuts they will be spot on.
3. Hand Plane Hack (keep your fingers clear!)
For small pieces or very delicate work you can clamp your bench plane in your vice (or portable work bench if that is what you use) and instead of moving the plane across the material, you move the material across the plane. Much easier to control and allows you to hold the small piece in your hand instead of trying to clamp it in your vice.
So the previous pencil hack becomes very easy to do, just run the pencil across the plane until one side is flat. Just take extra care not to get your fingers too close to the blade of the plane!
4. Strengthen Your Sandpaper with Duct Tape
Something that always used to irritate me was how the sandpaper would often tear when sanding awkward pieces or edges and curves. I would be merrily sanding away and the sandpaper would suddenly give up and tear effectively rendering that sheet to the bin!
By adding duct tape to the back of the sheet you make the sandpaper much stronger but it still remains flexible enough to accomplish most tasks. I usually tape an entire sheet at a time and simply cut the size I want when I come to use it.
5. Dowel Sanding Sticks
This tip requires a few off-cuts of dowelling or you can simply purchase some short lengths from your local hardware store.
If you’ve ever tried to sand internal curves or small curves pieces you will know how difficult that can be. Sure, it’s easy if you are lucky enough to own a nice spindle sander but for most of us it has to be done by hand.
The diameter of the dowel will depend on what size of curve you are sanding; my most used size is 19mm or 3/4″. Spray it with adhesive and wrap your sandpaper around it, cutting off any excess, so the whole diameter is now covered with sandpaper. Now you have a nice strong handheld sanding ‘spindle’ for those difficult to sand curves.
You can literally make these any diameter or length you want, leaving enough for a handle or covering the entire length with sandpaper, it’s up to you.
6. Mark Your Work with a Pencil Before Sanding
And still on sanding. Here’s an easy way to make sure you sand the whole area you intended. Take your pencil and lightly mark the area you want to sand. This doesn’t mean you have to shade in the entire area, just mark it with some squiggles or whatever design you like. Then when you sand it make sure you remove all the marks and you will know you did the whole area.
You can also use this method for any high patches on your work. Just use the same technique; mark any high spots and then just sand them away.
7. Tape is a Great Assembly Assistant
When it comes to assembling your creation for glueing and clamping it is pretty common to discover you just don’t have enough hands! You find yourself fighting with all the different pieces and getting frustrated because you can’t hold them all!
That’s where a nice roll of tape comes in handy. Tape your pieces together so that you don’t have to try to hold them all individually. Once you have them taped the way you want, apply the glue, fit them all together and clamp them firm.
8. Hot Glue is Another Great Assistant
If you happen to own a glue gun, then you have a ready-made assistant right there in your hands.
Instead of battling with small pieces just glue them to your bench (or even some scrap wood) and it will hold them steady while you work.
However, be careful when removing the glue afterwards. I use a sharp buck knife and gently separate the two parts that way. If you try to just prise them apart, you can get tear-out on your wood. Definitely not what you want and I’m talking from experience here!
9. Use Tape Before Gluing to Protect your Wood
When you are glueing and assembling your project you will often find that the excess glue extrudes from the joints when clamped. Generally, it’s a fairly easy job to just wipe the glue away at the time with a damp cloth and all is well.
However, an even easier way is to tape up the joint first. Start by dry assembling your project and run masking tape along the full length of all your joins. Then carefully cut along each join with your utility knife and disassemble again. When you glue and clamp all the pieces together the excess glue will be on the masking tape which is easy to peel off.
Two things to make sure; DONT remove the tape before you clamp but DO remove the tape before the glue dries.
10. Two Easy Circle Drawing Tools
If you want to create perfect circles and don’t own a proper jig there are two easy tricks to help you.
For the first you need a length of light chain, easy to find at your local hardware store, and a screw to anchor it to your board. Screw the chain to the board where you want the centre of your circle to be and place you pencil tip in one of the links at the size you want your circle to be. You can now draw a perfect circle by rotating the chain around the anchor screw. Just be sure to keep the chain nice and tight while you mark your line.
The second method is even easier. Prepare a slim length of wood with a hole in one end to allow it to be fixed to your board with a screw. Again, the size of circle you want will determine where you make your pencil hole but just follow the same procedure as the chain method; screw the ‘stick’ to your board at the centre of your circle and rotate it around while marking your line.
11. Easy Division Measuring Technique
A nice easy way to mark up a board into equal widths is to use the ‘angled tape’ technique (or angled ruler if that’s what you use).
Let’s say you want to divide your board into 3 equal widths but it measures 5-11/16″/144mm wide (see picture). That’s a pretty difficult number to get exactly right when marking. Instead of setting your tape measure across the board at right angles, just angle it until you read a nice easily divisible width.
For example, keep angling the ruler until the 5-11/16″ becomes 6″ then mark your board every 2″. For those who prefer millimetres, just angle the tape until you read 150mm then mark the board every 50mm. These numbers are just an example using the board pictured so just adjust depending on your particular piece of material.
12. Sawdust & Glue Wood filler
One of the best ways to get your wood filler that exactly matches the wood you are using is to make it yourself. Sounds difficult but it’s actually incredibly easy; all you need is wood glue and some sawdust.
While you are working with different woods, it’s worthwhile keeping some of the sawdust in a ziploc bag and labelling it with the wood type. Next time you need a matching wood filler just mix the sawdust with some glue to form a nice consistent paste. The paste can then be used to fill any small cracks, imperfections, screw & nail holes.
So there you have it, some of my favourite woodworking tips and tricks. I’ll definitely add more of my most used hacks at a later date but for now, hopefully these will make things just a little bit easier for you when you are working on your next creation.
And as always, take your time, believe in your ability and enjoy your woodworking.
If you enjoyed this article or if you have tried some of these tips yourself or if you have any questions or suggestions please let me know in the comments box below.