If you’re new to woodworking, you likely know (or will soon learn) that there are many ways for your project to be just a little bit off. Whether a joint won’t line up or your measurements are just a little too short, it can be incredibly frustrating to run into roadblocks throughout a project. Here are some of the most common woodworking errors that beginners run into (categorized in before, during, and after the project), and how to avoid making these mistakes.
Woodworking Mistakes to Avoid
Prepping for the job at hand
Tools That Don’t Work Well
One of the best ways to avoid shoddy outcomes and frustrating work is to purchase a quality set of tools. While these can be expensive, especially if you’re purchasing many at once, high caliber tools will pay for themselves many times over. A good tool will make the job easier to do, as it is designed to function smoothly and efficiently. A well-made tool will prevent safety issues, such as the tool malfunctioning and causing injury. A quality set of tools will also last you many years, making the initial purchase a wise long-term investment for your woodworking projects.
Taking on Too Big of a Project
When you first take up woodworking, it’s common to want to jump right in to a complex and intricate project. However, it’s very easy to get in over your head quickly by using unfamiliar tools and attempting techniques that you have never tried. You can prevent frustration and burnout by starting with small and easy projects that will be reasonable for your skill level and enjoyable to work on.
Sustaining an Injury
The tools involved in woodworking require an abundance of caution. When you are a novice carpenter who is juggling new tools and techniques, it can be easy to accidentally hurt yourself. Avoid careless injuries by following proper safety procedures. Always wear goggles when there is a chance of debris flying up in your face. Keep your hands at a safe distance from the saw blade when pushing the wood across the table. Wear clothes that fit snugly to prevent them from getting caught, and take off anything loose or dangling. Taking precautions before you begin can save you from painful injury.
Starting the Project
The old adage “measure twice, cut once” exists to help woodworkers prevent this exact error. While you are likely to be very careful with precise measurements at the beginning, it is common to rush through this task as you get in the groove of your project and near completion. In order to avoid this type of error, take your time with every measurement to ensure that it is precise. If you measure from the 1 inch mark on your tape measure, make sure that you subtract that inch from the final measurement. Additionally, using a long metal ruler can decrease inaccuracies caused by a flexible tape measure. Every inch counts in woodworking, so precise measurements will save you time and frustration in the long run.
Discounting the Width of the Saw Blade
Another common mistake related to measurement is not factoring in the width of the saw blade. Most novice woodworkers will attempt to split their measurement line with the saw, which will actually shave off precious fractions of an inch. Instead, always cut from the same side of the blade. Align your pencil marks with the one side of the blade every time to ensure that you are only cutting into the waste area.
Cross-Hatch the Waste Area
Making a cut or boring a hold on the wrong side of the measurement line is also a very common error. Much like measurement errors, this mistake is often caused by trying to move through the project too quickly or working on autopilot. To help prevent cutting in the wrong place, draw cross-hatches in the waste area of the board. Although this is an extra step and may feel like unnecessary, taking the time to mark the board is preferable to wasting time and materials on repairing the hole or repeating the cut on a new piece of wood.
Finishing the Project
A Crucial Piece is Incorrect
Errors that occur or become apparent as a project is nearing completion are perhaps the most frustrating of all. In order to avoid getting to the end of your build and realizing that a critical component is too short, too narrow, or sits at an incorrect angle, make a spare part as you go along so that you can easily replace the incorrect one. While you are building the four legs for the chair you are constructing, create a fifth as well. That way, if you make an error later in the process while carving a design into the leg, you do not have to start all over with a new piece of wood.
Gaps in the Joints
One of the most common errors when aligning joints is to apply the glue and clamp without first inspecting the fit. To avoid getting this far without realizing there is a gap, use clamps to check the fit prior to gluing. That way, any errors in the alignment of the boards can be corrected prior to adhering them together.
Stain Colour is not Right
You have finally measured, cut, clamped, screwed and glued your project together. You applied the stain, let it dry, and returned to discover that it is not even close to what you had expected or envisioned. This very common error feels inevitable, but is completely avoidable when you are proactive. Using a sample board to test stain colors prior to application can save you a lot of heartache. Use a board that exactly matches the wood you are using for your project, and that has undergone the same cutting and sanding as the rest of the boards that will be stained. Apply several potential stains and the top coat to the sample board. Be sure to examine it in the room where the finished project will sit before arriving at your final color choice.
This article was written by Mark Thompson, a fellow tool lover, professional woodworker, DIY enthusiast and the founder of ToolsCritic.com. Tools Critic is on a mission to support their readers with thousands of hours of reporting and testing to help you find the tools you need with comprehensive and trusted reviews.
Eager to practice your new skills? Try these DIY projects: