Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Woodworking Process

Welcome back! I figure it's time to talk about the process that you go through to build a project. It's more involved than you might think. The Woodworking Process In simplest terms, these are the steps that you go through to build a project: 1. Define the project 2. Design the project 3. Purchase materials 4. Let the wood acclimate 5. Build the project 6. Finishing Let's talk about these steps in a little more detail. Define the Project By "define the project", I simply mean you have to decide what it is you're going to build. There are many ways to do this: your spouse or significant other asks you to make something, you see a piece of furniture that you like in a friend's house, magazine, store, or catalog, or you wake up one morning & say, "I'm going to build a table". Design the Project This is the process by which you decide how the finished piece will look, what it's dimensions are, and how you will build it. This process can be as simple as a stick figure sketch on a napkin or a full blown blueprint drawn up in a CAD package. If you got your idea from a magazine or a book, they may even have ready made plans for you to follow. Often, people building from plans will make changes to the plans to suit their own needs. You don't have to build precisely what the plans call for. Purchase Materials After you have your plans, you create something called a cut list. This is a listing of all of the parts that you will eed to make, their dimensions and the type material you will use to make each. From this you can estimate how much material you will need to buy. With cut list in hand, you go to the lumber yard & pick out your material. This involves sorting though stacks of lumber for wood that matches in color & grain patterns. After you pick out your lumber, you pay for it and take it home. You will also need to buy any hardware needed to make your project, such as screws, hinges, drawer pulls, drawer slides, etc. You usually get these items from a local hardware store or you can order it on the Internet. Now comes the fun part, right? Well, not yet. Let the Wood Acclimate First you have to let the wood acclimate to your shop. That is, you have to let the wood's moisture content equalize to the humidity in your shop. This is because wood expands with increases in humidity & shrinks with decreases in humidity. As the moisture content in the wood changes, you'll find that the boards you've bought might actually twist, bow, crook, or cup. We'll talk more about wood movement some other time. Build the Project Now we finally get to the fun part! After the wood has acclimated, you can begin construction. This involves cutting each of the parts on your cut list from the stock, then cutting any joinery. Then you shape the wood. When all of that is done, you get to glue everything together (you did remember to buy glue when you were buying all the materials you needed, didn't you?) Finishing The last step is to finish the project. By this we mean you're going to apply stain and some kind of a top coat on top of the wood to protect it from abuse. Finishing is an art unto itself. We will talk about it when I get to that stage of my project. Note that when it comes to finishing, you don't have to wait until the project is assembled to apply the finish. You can finish the individual parts before you glue them together. This can actually help you side step some problems that can occur when glue squeeze out gets on the parts. Actually, the problems you're side stepping are problems that occur when you go to finish later. My next entry will be in a few days when I'll be posting about the corner cabinet's design. See ya later!

1 comment:

Al said...


Pretty cool - I will be looking forward to the new stuff on this project. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and your work.