Learn the basics of Woodworking

learn the basics of Woodworking

woodwork power tool use

Woodworking encompasses carpentry, cabinet making, joinery, woodturning, pyrography, carving, whittling, and other wood craft skills.

What are the different types of Woodworking?

What is Wood Carving?

wood carving picture

Wood carving is the generally the process of shaping something from a block of wood by scraping away portions of the base material with a sharp handheld implement until all that is left is the desired creation.

Wood carving encompasses any type of sculpture made of wood. Woods used for carving vary greatly in hardness and texture. Hardwoods are more difficult to shape but have a higher lustre and endurance, whereas softwoods are easier to shape but less durable.

A chainsaw is used in a popular new type of wood carving. This art form dates back to the 1950s, and it is highly competitive, with regular competitions held where artists put pit their skills against one another.

What is Whittling?

what is whittling

Whittling, also known as knife carving, is the practise of carving wood with straight or hook knives. The most common application of this technique is whittling wooden spoons.   Whittling is the oldest type of wood carving and is typically done with softwoods because hardwoods are difficult to cut and add tiny features to. By cutting wood with a knife, you can give it a large variety of different shapes and designs.

In the majority of whittling projects, the knife lines are not sanded to hide them; they are a feature, not a flaw, and whittled projects look much better with the lines exposed.   You can whittle attractive items such as a rabbit, wooden flowers, and many other miniature figurines with a lot of patience and small pieces of softwood.

Whittling does not require the use of large, expensive tools and the majority of carvings require only a pocket knife and a piece of softwood and it’s advised that you wear cut resistant gloves.

What is Pyrography or Wood Burning?

pyrography or wood burning

Pyrography has been practised for hundreds of years and involves burning wood and other materials with a heated metal pen, leaving behind a decorative pattern. Pyrography, also known as wood burning, is a free-hand art technique used by skilled sketchers to decorate wood or other materials with burn marks created by the controlled application of a heated object, such as a poker.   Maple and Poplar are the two most commonly used woods for Pyrography.

What is Wood Turning?

wood turning picture

The goal of turning is to make round objects. This could be spindles or discs by turning between centres or on a faceplate. Turning differs from other woodworking techniques in that the wood turns while the cutting tool remains stationary. Beech, hickory, ash, ebony, sycamore, yew, cherry, and rosewood are among the easiest woods to turn. These woods are simple to work with, have a fine grain, and are very flexible. Depending on the project, a Hardwood might be preferred over a softwood and the most common hardwoods used are birch, ash, maple, cherry, and walnut.

What types of wood are used for Woodworking?

Maple is a great option for Pyrography

maple trees

While maple is not the cheapest wood for Pyrography, it is likely the easiest to work with. Maple is a hefty, fine-textured hardwood that is second only to Hickory in terms of strength. Due to its naturally light colour and fewer grains than other hardwoods, scratches and marks are instantly visible on maple’s smooth surface. 

Maple wood is used to make high-end furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and kitchen items.     There are over 130 varieties of Maple trees, and most of them are sluggish growers, requiring 20 to 30 years to reach full growth. However, a few Maple species grow rather quickly, needing just 10 to 15 years to reach full size.

Poplar, also known as Aspen or Cottonwood is also good for Pyrography

poplar or cottonwood trees

Poplar is the second most popular Pyrography wood; it is similar to Maple but less expensive. Poplar has light colour tones and a subtle grain pattern, making it great for working with and allowing the burn patterns you produce to stand out. Poplar trees come in 35 different varieties, and they are fast-growing trees that frequently grow to be fairly tall. 

Poplar trees can grow to reach between 15 and 50 meters tall when fully established and grow at a rate of approximately 1.5 meters per year however, the Lombardy Poplar Tree can grow as fast as 3.6 meters per year and will grow to a height of around 20 meters. Poplar is used for construction plywood, wood pulp, construction lumber, woodworking projects, as well as cabinets and drawers, in addition to wood burning.

Pine is the most popular wood for general woodworking.

pine trees

Pine is a low-cost softwood that is strong and resistant to shock, making it great for furniture, especially if you desire a rustic look like a farm table. Pine is a great wood for painting as it doesn’t shrink or swell. Despite being a softwood that is easily chipped and dented, the rustic beauty that so many people like from Pine improves the more you use it and as it matures.

There are over 110 different varieties of pine trees, which grow at a rate of around 1 meter per year on average and reach a height of about 30 meters, with the Eastern white pine reaching over 60 meters.   Pine trees are disliked by some because they emit gases that react with airborne chemicals (created by us humans mostly), causing air pollution, and because many huge pine plantations are known to deplete groundwater levels and create declines in vegetation diversity.

For outdoor applications, Cedar is a very popular choice.

cedar trees

This beautiful and well-known softwood is a little harder than Pine and is well-known all over the world for its beauty, adaptability, and spicy aroma. Cedar has a number of advantages for woodworking, including being significantly more weather resistant than other commonly accessible wood species. Because of this, cedar is ideal for outdoor woodworking projects such as benches, window boxes, decking, fencing, siding, and door/window trim. Among other things, Western red cedar is used for cladding, linings, joinery, windows, doors, and roofing shingles. 

It is resistant to fungus and insect attack due to its natural preservatives, and its low density makes it a good insulator. Atlas cedar, Cyprus cedar, Deodar cedar, and Lebanon cedar are the four species of cedar. Cedar trees grow slowly, about 50cm per year on average, and can reach a height of 30 to 50 metres when fully grown. As difficult as it is to admit, not everyone appreciates these lovely trees. The main reason for this is because they are considered a major fire threat due to the combustible oils they produce combined with the vast surface area of their leaves.

Redwood is another very popular outdoor material.

redwood trees

Redwood is a high-quality building material that is relatively soft and easy to deal with. It possesses a chemical inside the pores that makes it resistant to the elements, insects, and decomposition. When exposed to the outdoors, redwood will last significantly longer than just about any other sort of wood. It’s suitable for practically any outdoor use, but it may also be used indoors. Because of its water resilience, it is commonly used for outdoor furniture.   

Although I would never advocate for it, you can paint and stain Redwood, but honestly, it is such a lovely colour that nothing should be done to detract from it; all you need to do is protect it from water and mildew. Redwood trees are members of the Cypress family and come in three varieties: Dawn, Giant Sequoia, and Coast. Redwoods can reach heights of 50 to 70 metres and grow at a rate of 1 metre per year on average, but if they are deprived of water and sunlight, they can grow as slowly as 25 centimetres per year.

Which wood should I use for Wood Carving?

Basswood Trees

Basswood (Linden/Lime), Aspen, Cedar, Butternut, Black Walnut, and Pine are ideal for generating high-quality wood carvings with minimal effort.  

They’re simple to carve and will only cause very minor carving tool damage. Harder woods can be used, but depending on your selection, they can be tough to work with and can harm your carving tools if not handled correctly.   Basswood is the most popular for carving but for me, I love Cedar, I think it’s so beautiful visually, very durable, smells great, and doesn’t rot easily.

Oak is an excellent choice for general woodworking and construction.

Oak tree

Oak is one of the most popular and dependable wood species. It’s a hardwood that’s one of the most durable building materials on the market, and it’s a popular choice for woodworking projects. Termites, bugs, and the elements have a hard time destroying oak frames and constructions. Oak is a slow-growing tree that can live for hundreds of years, growing 30 to 45 cm each year and reaching a height of around 12 metres. Oak is a member of the beech family, and there are over 500 different species of oak on the planet.

Two applications of oak stick out to me: the use of oak barrels in winemaking to age the wine and the use of oak as an outstanding flooring material. Oak flooring can withstand a lot of abuse and are resistant to fungus, termites, and splitting. Because white oak does not absorb fluids, it can be used in wet regions of the home. Give your oak floors the highest possible polish, and they’ll last a lifetime.

What are the common types of wood joinery?

What is a Butt Joint?

butt joint

The butt joint is the most fundamental type of wood joinery; it is a method of joining two pieces of wood by simply putting their ends together without any shaping.   The butt joint is the easiest to build because it only requires cutting the material to the proper length and butting it together. A strong butt joint is secured with a combination of glue and fasteners (screws or nails)

What is a Tongue & Groove Joint?

tongue and groove

Tongue and groove is a means of connecting comparable objects together edge to edge, and this connection securely joins two flat pieces to produce a single flat surface. The tongue and groove junction is much stronger than a butt joint and it provides greater adjoining surface area, which is particularly useful if the connection will be glued. The tongue aids in the alignment of the two parts for gluing, resulting in a clean finish. Tongue and groove construction is most typically used with wood in flooring, parquetry, panelling, and other related projects.

What is a Mitred Butt Joint?

mitered butt joint

A mitred butt joint is similar to a regular butt joint, except that it connects the two boards at a 45 degree angle (instead of square to one another), the two ends come together to create a 90-degree corner with no exposed edges. The advantage is that the end grain is hidden by the mitred butt joint, making it more aesthetically acceptable. The disadvantage is that the mitred butt joint isn’t very strong. Commonly used for door and window construction, cabinet building, box construction, picture frames, and many forms of mouldings.

What is a Half Lap Joint?

half lap joint

With the half-lap joint, half of each of the two boards being connected is removed, resulting in the two boards connecting flush. Although this method of wood joinery weakens the two neighbouring boards, it is a stronger junction than butt joints. 

In a variety of situations, the half-lap joint can be used to boost strength and aesthetic appeal. Half-lap joints are widely used when dealing with framing lumber, especially on long lengths and at 90-degree crossings. They maintain a uniform wood thickness and flush mating surfaces.

What is a Mortise & Tenon Joint?


The mortise and tenon method is a traditional way of joining two pieces of wood by inserting one end of one piece of wood into the hole of another piece of wood. These connections have been used for thousands of years and are still one of the most elegant ways to join wood. They are sturdy and stable. It’s quite popular because of the flush fitting end product. 

It takes some talent to accomplish well, but it’s aesthetically attractive if done correctly.

What is a Biscuit Joint?

biscuit joint

The biscuit joint is a more advanced sort of butt joint that requires cutting slots in both sides of the wood pieces and then employing beechwood wafers/plates (known as biscuits) to hold them in place with the aid of glue.   When the glue is applied, the wafers swell and hold the boards in place with good strength and durability.  This is a very useful modern woodworking joint, particularly for making table tops. A biscuit joiner tool makes notches in both pieces of wood to be joined, and the biscuits are then inserted and glued in place.

What is a Pocket Joint?

pocket hole joint

A pocket joint involves cutting a slot and pre-drilling a hole at a 15 degree angle into one work piece and then joining it to a second work piece with a self-tapping screw. The pre-drilling needs to be very accurate, so it is typically accomplished by use of a jig. You can use it to join two pieces of wood in just about any configuration and common uses include assembling structural frames and cabinet face frames.

What is a Rabbet Joint?

rabbet joint

A rabbet joint is formed by cutting recesses into the edges of both pieces of wood to form a lip and then joining them together into a groove. Glue, nails, or screws are commonly used to fasten rabbet joints, which are much stronger than basic butt joints.   A rabbet joint is frequently used to build shelving, cabinet boxes, and furniture with panels, such as a small dresser.

What is a Dado Joint?

daddo joint

A dado joint is when we cut a square grooved slot or trench into the surface of one wood piece where the other wood piece is intended to fit.   Often used for cabinets and bookshelves.   Dado joints are easy to make using a table saw or router.

What is a Dovetail Joint?


A dovetail joint is a joinery technique most commonly used in woodworking, popular due to its resistance from being pulled apart, the shape of the “tail and pin” in the joint make it nearly impossible to break and is commonly used to join the sides of a drawer to the front as well as cabinets, boxes and timber framing.   Glue is used to strengthen the joint but no fasteners are necessary.  

There is a few different types of dovetail joints such as:   (1) Through dovetail, (2) Half-blind dovetail, (3) Secret mitred dovetail, (4) Secret double-lapped dovetail & (5) Sliding dovetail.

What is a Half Blind Dovetail Joint?


A half-blind dovetail junction allows the woodworker to hide the connection from the front end and a drawer front is an excellent example of when one is utilized because you don’t want to see the end of the through dovetail on the drawer face.    So that their ends are hidden, the tails are stored in sockets in the ends of the board that will be the item’s front.

What is a Through Dovetail Joint?


A through dovetail joint is where the end grain of both boards is visible where the joint is assembled, creating a nice dovetail effect from all sides of the box and is very strong.

What is a Sliding Dovetail Joint?

sliding-dovetail joint

Sliding dovetails are assembled by sliding the tail into the socket and is a method of joining two boards at right angles.   The sliding dovetail is a versatile joint with a lot of possible uses and provides the interlocking strength of a dovetail. Used for making furniture and cabinets.

What is Box Joint?


A box joint is a solid wood corner joint produced by cutting a series of complementary, interlocking profiles in two pieces of wood and then joining them at right angles, generally using glue.    The huge bonded surface area of the glued box connection results in a strong binding.   It can be used to attach larger slats, boards, and complete wood panels.   The box joints are cut parallel to one other and they are noticeable open joints.

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