Advice for Beginner - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 02-04-2017, 06:40 PM Thread Starter
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Advice for Beginner

Hello community, my name is Jacob, currently residing in Florida

I'm an aspiring woodworker, having crafted many small things already on my own (small boxes, baskets, rocking horse etc.) I get along with creative intuition and guesswork alone and would like to learn finer points of the craft, mostly interested in finish work and custom wood projects (cabinets, tables, dressers). I'm looking into different apprenticeship positions, but I'm a little nervous to commit for one reason: I am the absolute worst at math. Obviously measurements and VERY simple math isn't too much of a problem, but I'm assuming the finer points of woodworking are pretty math heavy? Am I setting myself up to fail here?

-thanks for any advice!
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post #2 of 8 Old 02-04-2017, 06:47 PM
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Quick, what's 2+2? If you said 4, you'll be fine. Heck, half the projects I do don't even involve numbers, just building pieces to fit right with the other pieces. The most difficult thing, measurement and number wise, in woodworking is probably spacing, think things like spindles for a staircase handrail. Everything else is just addition and subtraction, mostly with simple fractions.

You'll do fine, don't sweat it. Besides, woodworkers calculators exist for a reason

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post #3 of 8 Old 02-04-2017, 07:54 PM
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Welcome aboard.
I have a couple of suggestions.

If you don't already have a good tape or ruler, get one that is accurate. Use it from beginning to end of the project. I have several tape measures and my old trusty Lufkin folding ruler. You would be surprised if you compare several different styles. Some aren't always accurate.

Bad at math, huh? Well Microsoft Excel helps me sometimes when I am building cabinets. Let's say I want the face frame to stick over on each side of the cabinet by 1/8th inch. Then the plywood is "almost" 3/4 but not quiet. And I have to take into consideration for the 1/4 inch dado I cut in each side piece. All I do is plug in each value. Then generate a calculation (mostly add, subtract, divide, etc) and the result will be the width of the bottom or top piece. Cut it and put it together. Works for me.

Also, Sketchup can be a very handy tool. Learn the basics and get after it. Even after a couple of years, I still double check my measurements before making the final cuts. You Tube has a lot of Sketchup videos. "Sketchup for Woodworkers" by Rob Cameron is a good one to start with. And Jay Bates has numerous Sketchup videos.

Good luck.
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post #4 of 8 Old 02-05-2017, 09:20 AM
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Great advice from previous posts! Also consider getting a "basic woodworking" book with easy projects, which may help in tools & material required to build. Calculating "board feet" can become a little confusing, but a good lumber supplier can help you. Pick a project, understand the procedure, and take it slow. You'll do fine, but do take notes & pics to use as a reference for future builds. Be safe.
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post #5 of 8 Old 02-05-2017, 10:17 AM
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No math woodworking .... well, almost

You can use a "story stick" which carries all your "measurements" in a line along the stick. The stick tells the story of the build and can be used again if more than one cabinet is needed. I use a simple method of "cutting to fit" when building. I make a mark on the piece longer than I need, then cut just to the far side and fit it again. It may take a few cuts to make a perfect fit, but even the best measuring may not be as accurate as a precision fit.

I made this Mission style headboard using very few measurement except the width which had to fit a Queen size mattress:
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The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #6 of 8 Old 02-05-2017, 10:41 AM
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If you have a good public library, that's an excellent place to start with the education piece. They should have a good selection of woodworking oriented books to learn from and it's free. See if they have the Time/Life series on The Art of Woodworking. It's a series of books with each volume devoted to a specific aspect of the craft. They are written for the beginner and should get you a good base to start.

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post #7 of 8 Old 02-05-2017, 10:42 AM
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If you have a "smartphone", you can get free apps that are useful for woodworking. A board feet calculator and a fractions calculator are two I use frequently.

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post #8 of 8 Old 02-06-2017, 03:18 PM
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I tried sketchup for a few weeks, but could never figure it out well enough to use it well. I finally ended up deleting and just drawing and writing everything down myself on paper. Like others said remember to write everything down and record how you built things in case you need to make the same thing again at a later date. It'll save you a lot of time and hassle the 2nd, 3rd, 100th time around.
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