Woodworking can be a challenging but highly gratifying hobby, partly thanks to the fact you end up with something tangible for your efforts. Nonetheless, it is always essential to take precautions to ensure your safety and the quality of your woodworking project. Mistakes are inevitable, yet luckily many common errors can be avoided with some preparation and diligent practice. There’s an old saying that “experience is the best teacher,” and that certainly holds true for the craft of woodworking. It is possible to hone your skills over time if you are willing to learn from your mistakes. However, those lessons can come at a hefty cost if you don’t know where to begin!
Not Prepping Or Finishing The Wood Adequately
One of the most heinous (OK, that might be slight hyperbole) woodworking mistakes you can make is not prepping the wood. If a piece of wood isn’t adequately prepared, chances are it won’t turn out the way you want it to, making it vital to spend some time to prep and condition your wooden surfaces pays off in significant ways. Anyway, most people get into this hobby for the satisfaction it provides, and preparing your lumber is part of the overall process that leads to woodworking nirvana! When prepping a piece of wood, pay attention to its grain pattern since this will affect how it takes stain and paint. You will also need to sand any rough spots that could cause splinters or unsightly bumps, which can ruin your project’s overall aesthetic. Depending on what kind of sealant or finish you plan on using, you may also need to lightly use sandpaper or steel wool in order to ensure your surface holds up over time.
The other side of this coin is ensuring that you finish the wood correctly so that it not only looks fantastic but won’t cause you to keep over! What does that somewhat cryptic last sentence mean? Well, one of the most popular first projects that most beginners initiate is to make a chopping board. However, not using food grade mineral oil when creating pieces you will use with food can be a recipe for disaster, both health-wise and aesthetically. For instance, if you don’t use the correct oil to finish off your board (or whatever might come into contact with water), you’ll find that it begins to rot pretty rapidly, turning your pride and joy into something resembling a rotting forest floor!
Not Wearing Safety Gear
Have you ever seen a woodworker with all their fingers and other various appendages intact? If so, they were likely the smart ones who invested some money and effort into ensuring they used the proper safety gear for the job. You must ensure your eyes, ears, skin, and all of the soft, exposed parts of your body are thoroughly protected no matter what project you’re working on in your workshop. This means having a good quality pair of eye protection goggles, a dust mask, and some earplugs, at the very least. Moreover, avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing, as baggy clothing can get caught in machinery or tools, causing the kind of havoc you really don’t want to deal with. Last but not least, a decent pair of overalls won’t necessarily be a safety item, but they can prevent your regular clothes from getting stained as you work your timber into something spectacular.
Not Pre-drilling Holes
A rookie mistake that all novice woodworkers tend to commit is not pre-drilling before driving in nails or screws. Pre-drilling your holes prevents splitting, cracking, and other undesirable outcomes that can occur when you don’t make an effort to simply drill a hole before driving. This is especially true for hardwoods, where screws and nails cannot be inserted easily without a pilot hole (if you don’t believe this, then go out and try and drive in a number 12 screw into a piece of Black Ironwood without stripping the head). It also helps to extend the life of your tools since they won’t have to work as hard. However, the type of bit you use will make all the difference, so for the best results when pre-drilling your holes, make sure to choose the right size of drill bit for the job. If the bit is too small, it won’t be able to handle large screws or lag bolts, while a bit that is too large could result in weak connections or wood splintering.
Not Sanding Properly
Sanding is a tedious but extremely necessary job. While some woodworkers find it kind of therapeutic to spend hours sanding away until they achieve a perfectly smooth finish, they are the peculiar exceptions to the rule (just kidding, all you zen sanders out there!). Nevertheless, it’s important to do it correctly so that your finished product looks smooth and professional and to prepare it for finishing, as discussed in the first section. The first step in proper sanding is choosing the right sandpaper for the job. You need coarse grit paper for rough work and consecutively finer grit paper for finishing touches as the wood becomes smoother. The type of sandpaper you use should also depend on the type of wood you’re working with, as harder woods require coarser grain sandpaper while softer woods need finer grain.
Measure Once, Cut Twice!
Just to be clear, that heading is the wrong way around, but since this article is about the wrong things to do when working with wood…well, you get the point. Consequently, any woodworker worth their salt will have the actual phrase (measure twice, cut once) firmly embedded in their heads. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to decipher this saying, but you’d be surprised at how many beginners will get gung-ho with the bandsaw before they’re confident they’ve taken the correct measurements. Don’t be like that. Instead, take pride in your work and respect the material instead of wasting it recklessly. The best aspect is that it’s so simple to get used to as long as you actively make an effort to do it. The best part is that as you become more experienced, you will eventually revert back to measuring once because of the intuition you will build up over time.
Woodworking is a satisfying hobby to take up, and quality craftsmanship tends to be its own reward. Making sure you avoid these common woodworking mistakes will help you create lasting pieces that you can proudly display and show off to your long-suffering partner who has to put up with the sound of a bandsaw ripping through timber!