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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm not exactly new to woodworking but I'm definitely still a novice. I make a lot of little projects, and with them a lot of little mistakes that I'd like to learn from before they happen. I've made some small boxes, a coffee table, a butcher block, some book cases (simple open frames-not cabinet style) some photo albums and similar projects.

So what is my question? Simply, from some of you more experienced folks, what would be a good apprenticeship as far as project progression. So far I've built things I wanted or needed or things I wanted to give as presents to other people. I've definitely learned some things and I'm learning more by reading several magazines and woodworking books, but nothing beats training under a master craftsman. Unfortunately I don't have one of those handy and even if I did, he/she probably wouldn't tolerate my odd schedule.

So for someone that likes to build things, all things, what would be some good projects to build essential skills? Obviously boxes with different joinery are great to build the most basic and fine skills alike, but what else?

I have plans to build a bed, a dining table, some cabinets, and several other things. Right now I've been treating all my pieces as training pieces and all are in reasonable states of presentability, but I'd like to make something that really "shines".

Any "learning" project suggestions?

I make everything from my own plans and drawings but I don't really have any idea how to do proper lay-ups for cuts and often find myself changing my designs mid project for things I think will work better, or because I have no idea how to really do (properly) what I want.

So for us true novices how did you masters start? I've already jumped into the deep end, now I want to learn how to swim.
 

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I make everything from my own plans and drawings but I don't really have any idea how to do proper lay-ups for cuts and often find myself changing my designs mid project for things I think will work better, or because I have no idea how to really do (properly) what I want.

It's an interesting topic, but not that easy to give an answer. I found that once I became proficient in all kinds of joinery, and figured out what worked and what didn't, I worked on my drawing abilities.

I found that doing a full size drawing (1:1) enabled me to see the piece like it would be done. Any furniture can be designed that way and the problems solved even before the first piece of wood is cut. I use the brown paper on a roll, or white, that is 36" wide. It's pretty cheap. I will draw the piece in different views in order to draw the joints and see how everything fits. I can take that page and tack it up on the wall and see the piece in its entirety. I may make many different views and at times do a cut through view.

This type of drawing will allow the pieces of wood to be placed right on the drawing and the joints can be planned. Getting proficient at drawing costs you nothing except for the paper and your time. What it will do is give you a perspective for your work.

IMO, just starting new projects may be carrying old bad habits. Many of my bad habits got cured by the use of good drawings. It developed a step by step priority on what should be done and in what order. It's much easier to understand that with full size drawings. Those drawings can be saved (mine are), as they be of benefit on later projects. If I came up with a brainstorm on a project, and I have it on a drawing, I won't have to figure it out all over again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
IMO, just starting new projects may be carrying old bad habits.

This is exactly what I'd like to avoid. Hence my questions for good starting projects that can kind of build my skills a little at a time.

Many of my bad habits got cured by the use of good drawings. It developed a step by step priority on what should be done and in what order. It's much easier to understand that with full size drawings. Those drawings can be saved (mine are), as they be of benefit on later projects. If I came up with a brainstorm on a project, and I have it on a drawing, I won't have to figure it out all over again.

Thank you for that. I make fairly detailed sketches but I've not considered doing full scale drawings unless I'm trying to get boat panels or something. Even then I do it mostly by eye and measurements, without actual drawings. My small scale drawings are generally pretty good but I've found I didn't think certain things through as clearly as I originally thought I had, hence my mid project modifications. I think full size drawings will help this.
 

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IMO, just starting new projects may be carrying old bad habits.

This is exactly what I'd like to avoid. Hence my questions for good starting projects that can kind of build my skills a little at a time.

Many of my bad habits got cured by the use of good drawings. It developed a step by step priority on what should be done and in what order. It's much easier to understand that with full size drawings. Those drawings can be saved (mine are), as they be of benefit on later projects. If I came up with a brainstorm on a project, and I have it on a drawing, I won't have to figure it out all over again.

Thank you for that. I make fairly detailed sketches but I've not considered doing full scale drawings unless I'm trying to get boat panels or something. Even then I do it mostly by eye and measurements, without actual drawings. My small scale drawings are generally pretty good but I've found I didn't think certain things through as clearly as I originally thought I had, hence my mid project modifications. I think full size drawings will help this.

When I started to do the full size drawings, and had the ability to place the pieces right on the drawing, and have the joints visible, the quality of my work dramatically improved. It also gave me a knack for "seeing" the finished product, and envisioning the project. I feel it develops an innate sense of perspective that you just don't get from the smaller scale drawings.

So, don't poo poo the idea too quickly. In the woodworking classes that I have taught, this method got more raves than I expected. I suggest you try this on your next project and you'll see what I mean. Then make a post here and tell us what you think.
 

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I don't want to sound like I am trying to over-simplify this, but given the restraints on your schedule especially, the answer seems obvious to me. There is no end to learning on youtube woodworking videos alone, much less the other 99% of other resources avaialble at your fingertips.

In one sense, it cannot replace an apprenticship with a master craftsman but in another sense, no single craftsman can possibly know everything a collection of thousands of accoplished woodworkers share online everyday. Sure, you can get some "bad" or questionable info but for the most part you can judge that for yourself.

If you cannot take a college course or a enroll in a trade school - the internet is IMHO practically endless in its ability to teach.

Don't be afaraid to just jump in and make mistakes. Don't look at mistakes as bad. i am certainly not a "master" but I am accomplished, and competent, and even confident in my abilities and i still make mistakes. They don't bother me at all. I just try and make sure not to repeat them. Also remember in our craft, mistakes are often "fixable" or at least "salvageable". It isn't like we are defusing bombs. ;)
 

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I'm biased. Try a guitar kit like the one from Stew Mac.
http://www.stewmac.com/
Nothin' like werkin' down to the thou at a VERY slow pace.
Even if you don't play the guitar...there's one in every family that does.

I agree that the internet is a vast source of info but a book...[remember those???] will be around for reference after the web site disappears.

Sorry, can't recommend just one...I've read ALOT!!!!
 

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The latest issue of Fine Wood Working mag has an article about a program called "Google SketchUp".

It is a 3D drawing program that looks like the cats meow. Best of all, the basic version is free. :thumbup:

My last job was kind enough to hook me up with a CAD class and the software. I use it religiously. It is ten-fold easier to correct a mistake on paper (or tube), than it is once the piece is already cut.

Yet another tool to add to your arsenal, complements of the Internet.
 

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The latest issue of Fine Wood Working mag has an article about a program called "Google SketchUp".

It is a 3D drawing program that looks like the cats meow. Best of all, the basic version is free.
I am not a draftsman, I am a patent attorney. So I can't claim to be a CAD expert. But I have used MS VISIO extensively for simple drawings and flow charts (not for woodworking). About 6 months ago I downloaded the free Google Sketchup, thinking it would be the cat's meow. The "how to" videos show how slick it is.

When I tried to create an actual drawing, for example in perspective, I found the program confusing and difficult. I haven't used it since. Like anything, I suppose it is a good product that takes time to learn. It may may be easy if you know it's properties well. I wasn't willing to put the time in. In short, my impression was that the program looks easier than it really is. It does seem to have cool features and capabilities.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Cabinetman, I definitely wasn't trying to poo poo the concept of full size drawings. I think it's a great idea. I do a lot of pre-design sketching and many versions of my designs before I start any work, so making a full size drawing will just be a good thing, I think.

TexasTimbers, I"m very familiar with research using the internet for my hobbies, but I'd never even considered YouTube and similar sites. I'll see if I can find some good how to videos there as well. Thanks for the suggestion. As for jumping in and making mistakes, that's something I've never been afraid of. Like I said, that's what I've done so far and most of my projects are presentable, at least. They're not craftsman quality yet, but I can see definite improvement every time so something's working.

Tweegs and Daveb, I'll have to check out google sketches. I already have autocad and a couple of other drawing/drafting programs (including Visio pro) but it never hurts to expand your horizons right?
 

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frank, you can click on member Charles Neil and go to his website. From there I think he has links to his Youtube videos. His videos alone are very informative but there are hundreds if not thousands of woodworking videos on youtube alone. I'm not saying it is the silver bullet to overcoming our busy schedules and learning woodworking in spite of it, but it is damn close IMHO. Here's one example on the proper use of a jointer. this guy uses humor along with his instruction, something I like in most cases:

 

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As a high school teacher, I can totally agree with cabinetman and texas timbers. I try to get my students to take more time drawing the project out. My college woodworking professor had a saying that has stuck with me all these years" Proper planning prevents piss poor performance". IE take the time to plan it out, draw a nice set of plans, like was said in an earlier post, doing this can keep you from some really major boo-boos.

As far as techniques go....READ books, more specifically some of the older books that talk about the traditional way of woodworking. Study the projects that those books have and modify/steal/utilize those features into your projects. If you are unsure about your abilities use some cheap woods and hone your skills on them. It all comes down to like NIKE says "Just do it". the more you do the better you become at it.
 

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"just do it" is right on

Frank,
Detailed drawings are key to learning this stuff and to seeing potential issues beforehand. I am a professional furniture/cabinetmaker, and when I first started out on my own, I did full scale drawings of cabinets, and then I did a cut list, with every single piece's dimension to the 1/32", and each components joinery. It's laborious, but it teaches you how to 'see' the piece, and all it's complexities. After 13 years at it, I seldom need to be that detailed anymore. But here and there, I still get a project with complexities that are hard to visualize without that sort of detailed drawing. Good luck!

mark
http://markmeyerwoodworking.com
 
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