We’ve all heard the adage: work smarter, not harder. It makes good sense, so here are eight woodworking tips to make your shop work easier and more efficient:
1 – Sanding made easier
Sanding woodwork by hand may seem like a chore, but with special tools and high-quality sandpaper, you’ll get excellent results that often outshine a power sander. Besides, it’s quieter, doesn’t produce clouds of dust, and may get into places power sanders can’t.
Use a sanding block for faster, more efficient results. It distributes sanding pressure more evenly and maintains a flatter surface than merely folding a piece of sandpaper. Also, change sandpaper often.
Sand with the grain of the wood, especially for the final grits. To remove deep scratches and stains, angle across the grain up to about 45º for the first sanding. Before moving to the next finer grit, sand with the grain to remove all cross-grain scratches.
For sanding painted surfaces, buy clog-resistant sandpaper. The paint will build up slower than on standard sandpaper.
2 – Avoid drywall screws for woodworking
When screwing two pieces of wood together, use the traditional wood screw over the drywall screw for better results.
A drywall screw is threaded the full length. Since the top threads tend to grip the first board it enters, this can force two pieces of wood apart slightly because you have threads in both boards.
The top part of a wood screw, on the other hand, has a smooth shank that won’t grip the first board. This makes it easier to clamp two pieces of wood together.
There’s another reason to avoid drywall screws: The hardened, brittle steel shafts of drywall screws will often break during installation, especially when screwed into hardwoods. Removing them from a finished material is nearly impossible and getting them out damages the surface.
Wood screws are made of thicker, softer metal, so they’re break-resistant.
Wood screws do, however, require you drill:
- A pilot hole for the threads
- A wider counterbore hole the length of the non-threaded shaft
- A countersink hole for setting the head
However, you can easily handle all three drilling chores by buying a set of three countersinking bits. They handle most common screw sizes.
3 – Know your wood’s moisture content
When building with wood, you must know the correct moisture content of each piece of wood.
Too dry, and the finished product may swell or crack. Too moist, and the end product may shrink or warp. It’s no wonder experts say incorrect moisture causes 80% of all woodworking problems.
Therefore, it’s critical to know the moisture content of each piece of wood before it is used. For instance, if you’re planning an inlay job using two different species of wood, you’ll need to know the moisture content of each type so that your inlay glue joints stay intact.
A failsafe way to avoid a ruined project is to use a moisture meter.
Wagner Meters is one provider for both professionals and hobbyists a variety of highly accurate, professional-grade moisture meters.
Use a free wood moisture app
To help solve your moisture problems easily and quickly, Wagner offers you the FREE Wood H2O mobile app. This handy app calculates equilibrium moisture content (EMC), troubleshoots many common wood moisture problems, and accesses helpful resources.
Download your FREE mobile app here.
4 – Prevent excess glue stains
To eliminate stains caused by oozing glue along joints, clamp the pieces together without glue. Apply masking tape over the joint and then cut it with a utility knife.
Next, separate the pieces, apply the glue, and clamp them together again. The glue will ooze onto the tape, not the wood. Remove the tape before the glue dries.
5 – Measure with a drafting square
Make accurate measuring and marking layouts on boards faster and easier with a drafting square – available at any art supply store.
When you need an accurate square in the 2- to 3-foot range, drafting squares beat the cumbersome drywall squares for accuracy and eliminate the hassle of hooking up a carpenter square.
6 – Keep a clean, orderly workspace
Achieving efficiency in your shop can sometimes be as simple as clearing clutter from your work area. A disorderly work area can hinder your productivity.
Another tip: Only keep out items that you use daily. Everything else should be put in designated areas so they’re quickly retrievable when needed.
7 – Keep a well-lit shop
Pay special attention to lighting. You should have consistent and ample illumination on all work areas so you can work from any angle without casting shadows. This ensures safety and productivity.
- Overhead lighting
- Focused lighting
- On-tool lights
Painting walls and the ceiling white can help diffuse the light.
8 – Keep your blades sharp
Dull tools such as chisels, blades, planes, scrapers and gouges don’t cut cleanly. They tear at the wood fibers resulting in a fuzzy, uneven, unprofessional look.
Tools that have been chipped or nicked require grinding. A bench grinder, wet grinder, or even a belt sander can be used.
Avoid letting your tool get too hot when using a bench grinder or belt sander to prevent it from losing temper. Dipping it in a pan of cool water every few seconds will help.
After grinding, proceed to honing using either a flat wet stone or oil stone. A wet stone is preferred when doing fine woodworking.
The final step is polishing using a fine wet stone, a stropping wheel or leather.
Tools with sharper blades make woodworking easier, more efficient, and safer.
Achieving efficiency in your shop won’t just improve your productivity and help you work faster and easier, it’ll also make you feel accomplished and more satisfied.