Learning from our woodworking mistakes

We learn and improve from our Woodworking Mistakes.

learning from woodworking mistakes

Many of us believe that our passion for woodworking is unbreakable, but isn’t that just because we’ve never really put it to the test?   However, there are many hardworking people who can attest to the fact that their love for woodworking was severely tested and fractured after investing a significant amount of time, effort, and money in a failed woodworking project.

Failure can be frustrating when you know it wasn’t due to a lack of effort on your part. It can happen to anyone, whether they are novices, weekend warriors, or seasoned woodworkers. The good news is that you are most likely only a few steps away from reaching your full potential and producing the amazing, high-quality results you want and deserve from your woodworking efforts.

Having to redo a failed project from scratch, whether it was a quoted or make-to-order job, is costly in two ways: (1) you’re likely to lose money on that particular job, and (2) the time you spend re-doing that failed job could have been better spent turning over a couple of small high profit items.

When things don’t go as planned, it’s always a good idea to figure out what’s causing the problem and how likely it is that it will happen again. Then, with this information in mind, revisit the way you approach each project.

1.     Preparation (clean up, organise and sort, dust extraction systems service, shop lighting, base materials, consumables, machine checks, tool maintenance & sharpening etc) Value Driver = 20%

Using dull blades and bits can cause a variety of problems. For example, saw blades accumulate pitch and gum from the resins in the woods you cut over time. This is especially true if you use a lot of softer woods, which contain a lot of moisture and resin. This build-up reduces the lifespan of your blade, reduces cut consistency, and may result in burning.

Worn router bits are more likely to chip wood than to cleanly remove it.

Wood will eventually be burned by carbide saw blades that have lost their edge, increasing the amount of sanding required. Send your blades to be sharpened on a regular basis, and consider purchasing a high-quality diamond sharpening system for bits.

Even though many woodworking projects are small and simple, you should plan any project that you expect to take more than a few hours to complete. Which means you really need ‘flesh out’ the larger projects, including all dimensions, planned wood joints, what material cuts are necessary, and anything that will be attached to it.

The majority of woodworkers will create a fairly detailed drawing as well as a few sketches because larger projects can be laborious to plan.

Although we probably don’t like to admit it, few of us are able to draw a straight line, much less a circle, a square box, or a triangle. Graph paper should be used all the time. Thanks to its perfectly aligned vertical and horizontal lines, we can easily draw an endless variety of geometric shapes by hand.

2.    How will I ensure quality and safety? (What will I ensure happens? What will I prevent from happening?) Value Driver = 45%

 Always adhere to the manufacturer’s safety instructions when using any tool or machine in your shop. When performing any type of work, always wear safety glasses. Guards should never be tampered with and should always be left in place.

When using stationary jointers, table saws, bandsaws, routers, or other power saws, always use a push block, push shoe, or push stick. A push stick’s primary function is to assist the user in moving a work-piece safely while keeping it flat against a machine table or fence while it is being cut.

Before placing power tools on the bench, ensure that they have completely stopped. Maintain your dust extraction equipment and wear respirators to protect your lungs.

Never rush the finishing process.

The last thing anyone should ever do after working on a quality project is rush the finishing process. Improper sanding will leave blemishes in the finish; take your time and sand down to a high grit and then be sure to inspect all surfaces.

If you plan to use stains, always test them first on a sanded sample piece, especially dark tones. Spend some time researching the best finish for a specific wood and its intended use.

Extend your research to how to perform a specific finish to the highest standard. Wood finishing is an art that requires practise, patience, and planning.

3.     How I will manage my time? (How much contingency should I allow for?   How will I minimise distractions? How will I measure my overall progress?) Value Driver = 25%

When you’re struggling to finish a task in the allotted time, how can you tell if you’re being productive?   You won’t get better at anything by juggling a bunch tasks at once. Having too many balls in the air will keep you from fully committing to your core task and making the right amount of progress.

To be productive, you must complete your primary task, whatever it may be, and you must not allow anything to distract you from doing so. Being productive entails carrying out actions that result in the desired outcome.

4.     How can I do better next time? (Were there any opportunities for improvement?  If I had to do 10 of those same jobs, how would I make it easier for myself?) Value Driver = 10%

When you have the time, try to broaden your skill set; sticking to one style of woodworking may be a mistake, and you may be leaving money on the table. For example, could learning about a few different types of carving add value to some of your projects?

Be sure to analyse each and every failure

If when you review the project that went badly, you discover that the underlying cause was directly related to using a ‘less than ideal’ tool for a part of the job, you can naturally avoid re-occurrence by just buying the right one now.   But, why didn’t you pick up this problem during your preparation in step 1?

Are there other tools that you’ve been persevering with lately that are not necessarily the right tools for the task?   Don’t wait for the next problem to happen, spend the money and get your hands on the right tools for the job now.

The cost of the tool does not determine which one is the best for the task.

The tools that have the features you’ll need for both your current and future projects are the best for your woodworking endeavours. For instance, because the size and nature of your projects will vary, think about investing capacity and ability when it comes to things like saws. Many woodworkers begin with an inexpensive saw only to discover that the cut capacity wasn’t quite what they required.

Although they are more expensive, bulkier, and heavier than a table saw, investing in a contractor saw now means you will almost certainly never need to replace it. However, if you stick with the table saw, you will eventually find yourself unable to handle larger jobs when they arise, and this problem may occur at the worst possible time.

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