Techniques and projects
HOW DO I CUT A DOVETAIL?
If you are a beginner, we recommend our sister site, Common Woodworking, which takes you through how to make a dovetail step by step.
We also have a video on How To Make a Dovetail Joint on YouTube.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO HELP CUT CONSISTENT, EVEN DOVETAILS?
WOULD YOU EVER GANG CUT DOVETAILS?
We tend not to use the coping saw method for the majority of fine woodwork and furniture making, as it is not as precise and it takes quite a bit of practice to get as accurate, there is also risk of tear-out. For fine work we would use the method as seen in our making a dovetail video above. Paul might use a coping saw for rougher carpentry, but the cuts are consistently finer when done with the chisel.
How do I edge joint boards?
We have made a few videos on edge jointing, which are available on our Woodworking Masterclasses website with a free membership:
HOW DO YOU APPLY SHELLAC?
Below are a few videos we made on finishing projects with shellac:
WHAT BRUSH DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR APPLYING SHELLAC?
Paul uses a 1” hake brush which is widely available from craft shops, see Pauls blog on 'How to apply shellac as practical wood finish'.
You can find out more about shellac and the hake brush on Common Woodworking here.
HOW DO YOU ADD COLOUR TO SHELLAC?
There are various shades of shellac, from bleached blonde shellac which has had all natural colour removed, through to naturally red and brown shellac. Paul sometimes uses a leather dye (Fiebings) to add colour in a controlled fashion. Add a little at a time to the shellac and test it on a test piece of wood. Each subsequent coat will darken it. Just stop when you have the right colour or add more dye if not.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO PREPARE A PROJECT FOR FINISH?
We usually plane all surfaces, or if there is contrary grain that can not be planed, us a cabinet scraper/card scraper. We then use 120 and then 240 grit sandpaper to roughen the surface, before dusting. This is usually but not aways before glue up. Once the glue has set, remove any access, usually with a chisel. Then apply the finish in accordance to the instructions.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR PAINTING PROJECTS?
WHAT IS MILK PAINT?
DO YOU EVER USE CHALK PAINT?
You can find out more about Chalk Paint here.
HOW DO YOU CUT A MORTISE AND TENON?
For a beginner friendly guide, see How to cut a Mortise and Tenon on Common Woodworking.
We also have a YouTube video on How to Make a Mortise and Tenon.
Here are the blog posts on how Paul made his workbench. Have a look at the technique for cutting the mortices and tenons:
DO YOU RECOMMEND USING MORTISE CHISELS
Here is a blog post/video on cutting a mortice with bevel edged or mortice chisels. It also clearly shows the progression when cutting a mortise:
Here is some information on the different types of chisel and where they are useful, focusing on the usefulness of mortice chisels:
HOW DO YOU CUT ANGLED MORTISE & TENONS?
A few of the projects we have filmed for woodworkingmasterclasses.com use straight tenons and angled mortices for angled legs. That is definitely worth considering and is what we used for the bench stool:
For angled mortises, you can use a block with the relevant angle, clamp it to the surface and use it to align your chisel for chopping the mortise and for pairing the walls afterwards.
HOW DO YOU CUT ROUND MORTISE AND TENONS?
You can also use wedged round tenons as used in the Foot Stool project as well as a larger Shaker-Style Bench Seat:
DO YOU USE BRIDLE JOINTS?
People often use a bridle joint as a corner joint which is not as strong as the haunched mortice and tenon which we recommend and use in most of our projects. The haunched mortice and tenon is fully enclosed.
WHEN DO YOU USE DOUBLE AND TWIN TENONS?
Double tenon: Two tenons side by side. Used for thick stock.
Twin tenons: One above the other. On a large bottom rail for a door, a continuous wide tenon can remove too much material from the the stile and therefore compromise the integrity of the door. Therefore you can use a twin tenon.
What do you do if your nickel plating has flaked off?
Flaking is pretty common for nickel plating. Sand it smooth, so it’s nice to hold. It probably doesn’t matter whether you get all the nickel off or not, as long as it’s comfortable. Do keep an eye out for rust on the revealed surface in future.
How do you remove rust from tools?
We almost always sand tools to remove rust and are happy with the results. You can use a rust removal compound and we have had satisfactory results with that in the past, so that is an option.
Do you ever remove rust using electrolysis?
We tend not to use electrolysis as it can be messy and extra work to set up.
If you are a beginner, the following guide from our beginner site, Common Woodworking, may be useful to you:
- Using a Plane– This guide shows you how to use your tool
I AM STRUGGLING TO GET AN EVEN SHAVING/EVENLY THICKNESSES BOARD. WHY?
People tend to bulldog the plane to the piece of wood with two fist grips. If you ease up on this and look how Paul holds his hands you should be able to feel after the shaving. It is also worth considering the thickness of shaving you are taking off if you are ending up with an unevenly board thickness.
As far as planing action is concerned you may be pushing down on the nose of the plane at the end of the stroke. As the start of the stroke, you should be registering the nose of the plane and put more weight on the front of the plane. As you go through the stroke you transfer the pressure so that by the end of the stroke you are pushing down more on the rear hand. However, you should not be pressing down too hard to take a shaving, it is merely where the pressure is applied.
WHY AM I GETTING GROOVES AND RIDGES WHEN PLANING?
Grooves and ridges in the wood can be caused by a number of issues. To name a few; a mis-set plane, a nick in the blade, a nick in the sole, and non-continuous rounding on the corner of the blade. Have a look at the following video to see the process Paul goes through when preparing a plane for use:
HOW DO I AVOID GETTING MARKS AT THE END OF MY PLANE STROKE?
WHAT CAUSES TEAROUT?
Tearout is usually caused by planing against the grain, whether that be where the grain is consistent all across the board or where there are areas of reverse or rising grain. Sometimes tearing out this grain can be avoided by reading the grain accurately and going in with a shallow set where you expect problems, but not always.
HOW DO I DEAL WITH TOUGH OR REVERSE GRAIN?
Here are couple of things that might help apart from making sure your plane is sharp and set. You can try planing the board at an angle, anything from 45 to 90 degrees of what you would normally, especially when planing to thickness.
Make sure you plane is taken a very fine shaving and push some shavings into the mouth of the plane from the top as you take a shaving. This stops the grain from having anywhere to break out to.
Also, you might want to try sharpening your plane to a York pitch, or doing this with a spare iron if you have one. Paul describe how to do this here:
The other method which I would probably revert to as soon as I saw there was troublesome grain, is to use the No.80 cabinet scraper, although that would be to get a smooth even surface, not for getting the board to thickness. The card or cabinet scraper don’t work very well with soft woods.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR PLANING LONGER PIECES?
If you are planing longer boards, you start at the far end of the board and work backwards. At the end of each stroke you need to slightly lift the heel of the plane with you dominant hand which acts to feather the stroke so it doesn’t leave a mark.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR PLANING MY STOCK?
See the stock preparation section.
HOW DO YOU CUT WIDE BOARDS TO LENGTH?
There are a couple of options, which all rely on some element of stock preparation. We have a few videos on stock preparation on our YouTube channel but also have a few on Woodworking Masterclasses which you can access with a free subscription.
HOW DO YOU LAY OUT BOARDS FOR CUTTING?
If your board is under 24″ wide, which it is in most situations that we deal with, and you have a parallel board with square edges (which is the norm once you have gone through the process of prepping your stock) you can use your 12″ square from each edge and check that the knifeline is in line in the central overlap region.
If you have one square end, you can also measure up from there to the required length, make a knife or pencil mark towards each edge which you can use to line up a longer steel rule or a wooden straight edge to mark on your knifeline.
You can also align a wooden straight edge (which is much quicker to make than a square, so wear is not such a big deal) with your 12″ square and then use that to get your knifeline.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH OR REDUCE WARP/BOW/CUP AND WOOD MOVEMENT?
If you take wood into a new environment, there is quite often movement. This can be greatly reduced by putting the stock into a bag or airtight contained and only removing it when you are working on it. Once the joinery is complete and you can leave, for example, the dovetails and therefore the box assembled as the joints often constrict the wood stopping it from warping.
Sometimes, if you leave the board to fully acclimate making sure that air can get at all sides of the wood, the warp can even out, but there is no guarantee.
If you only have a small amount of twist or bow/cup then tight joinery, particularly in the case of dovetails, will actually pull the piece square. Sometimes you would have to brace the piece with a straight block and clamps to hold it straight when laying out, fitting and assembling.
SHOULD I CUT MY BOARDS TO SIZE BEFORE OR AFTER I PLANE THEM FLAT AND SQUARE?
We usually cut boards to length before planing. Whether you cut it to width depends on the amount of spare width you have. If the stock is a lot wider than you need, then rip it to rough width. You may want to leave a little material on to plane off later is the board isn’t very flat. This reduces the amount of planing to just the wood that you need. If it is close to width, then you can go straight to planing it flat and remove the the excess width as the last process.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A DOVETAIL BOX?
Dovetail Box (1/4) video on YouTube.
Dovetail Caddy (1/5) video on YouTube.
Keepsake Box on Woodworking Masterclasses.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO FIX A BASE ON A BOX?
It depends on the size of the box. A glued/nailed on bottom is perfectly strong enough for a lot of situations. In fact, many old toolboxes had bottoms that were glued and nailed in place so that they were easily replaceable when the time came to do so. They allowed the movement that was necessary in wider boards. You can see an example in our series on the Joiner’s Toolbox.
You can also make a mortise and tenon panel as shown in our Tool Cabinet series.
This is still glued and screwed in place, but the panel ensures that the grain direction of the bottom is in line with the sides.
The final option, is to plough a groove a little way up from the bottom on the inside of all four faces to fit a board or piece of plywood into. This is the method used in drawer making and can also be used in box making.
HOW DO I MAKE A CHAIR?
Paul covers a lot of the concepts involved in his series on making the Bench Stool.
We have a series on making a dining chair which covers all aspects of chair joinery and upholstery.
We also have a series on making a Craftsman-style Rocking Chair.
WHERE SHOULD I START
Our beginner site, Common Woodworking, is the best place to start if you are new to woodwork or just starting out. It is a free resource which has tool guides, exercises and even beginner courses. We recommending reading this blog post to see where to start.
WHICH PROJECTS SHOULD I START WITH?
Once you have mastered the basics on Common Woodworking, we recommend the following projects:
When building the workbench, you will need a support so we recommend making some trestles first.
These projects build on the techniques learnt in the previous videos with some more exacting details. These are mostly only available with a premium Woodworking Masterclasses subscription.
These projects feature additional complexities, techniques or levels of accuracy that require some experience as gained by working through some of the previous projects. These are mostly only available with a premium Woodworking Masterclasses subscription.
WHAT PROJECTS WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO DO WITH CHILDREN?
There are a number of projects we have produced that we would recommend. Firstly, we have designed several courses on Common Woodworking which are ideal to help you get going with woodworking:
There are a few on YouTube that may be suitable:
The following projects are accessible on Woodworking Masterclasses with a free subscription:
Make sure children are supervised when working with sharp tools.
What do you look for when selecting your wood?
Here are some things to consider when picking your wood.
Should I use pressure treated wood?
It is worth looking into possible health risks which depends on what has been used to treat the wood. If it is wood for exterior use, then it will probably not be dried/seasoned for internal us. You would have bring it into your workshop and let it dry and it may well warp, twist and possibly split when it dries out.
We don’t give out the number of board feet required as it depends on the dimension of the stock you can get hold of, such as the length and width.
HOW DO YOU FIX TABLE TOPS TO THE FRAME?
Paul tends to use turnbuttons, which are screwed to the underside of the table top and slot into stopped mortice holes in the aprons. You can get an idea as to what this looks like in the following blog:
We have made a video on making turnbuttons, which is available on our website if you sign up for a free membership (we also offer a paid membership which gives access to all of our projects including several tables which feature turnbuttons):