Mentoring A Novice Woodworker

A DIYer friend want to learn to make solid wood "stuff" (as opposed to face framed ply "stuff), having already made some Ply and 2x4 "stuff" using DF studs and construction grade ply - and a cricular saw, a bench top table saw - nails and construction adhesive.
Oh - did I mention the first project is an 8' tall linen cabinet - with four doors? AND the goal is to get it ALL done - over a three day weekend?
Where the hell do you start?
Do you go all the way back to stock prep - how to get Four Square stock to make your parts from?
or
The joinery - what to use when - and how to make the joints?
or
Parts marking so you can keep track of what goes where - and which is the Good Face.
or
Basic design and proportions?
And how do you prepare a person who's thinking in terms of "recycled" 2x4s and floor framed wall sheathing ply - but wants a cherry, furniture grade look for the finished project - for what it'll cost in time and money (even a board foot of poplar is "expensive" comkpared to free 2x4 studs and scrap ply)?
Would it have been better to work out all the details - on paper first - then put together a Cut List from which a Price Tag for materials - and a Time Estimate can be ball parked - THEN decide if the piece should be actually made - or get a bunch of wood and start making the piece, adapting/modifying the original idea as things progress?
I've been through something like this before with my youngest son. His "simple" coffee table turned out to be a 3" thick torsion box of very expensive walnut ply ($175 a sheet), framed in even more expensive Peruvian walnut to hide the ends of the walnut ply - which was "layed up board" ply, not rotary peeled ply.
Mentoring an absolute novice sure can be "interesting".
Got any suggestions?
=========================================== Here's The LONG Version
A friend who enjoys DIY projects wants to replace an IKEA type linen cabinet. She knows basic stick framing, and thinks of kitchen and bath cabinet making in terms of 2x4s and plywood - preferably "recycled" (read FREE) - and nails, with or without construction adhesive - parts cut to length with a skilsaw and ripped to width with a table top small table saw.
She wants to build a frame and panel floor to ceiling linen cabinet, with raised panel doors to fit in a corner of a room - with a door on either side of the corner - 32" and 21" from the corner, respectively. And she's thinking in terms of using the walls of the corner as a side and back of this cabinet
+---------------------++-+ doorway | | | | | | ++============++ | \ / + \ / d o o r
Now I'm thinking 2 1/2" wide x 3/4" thick rail and stile frame with simple 1/4 ply panels in 1/4 grooves in the rails and stile - and she's thinking raised panels - ply panel with solid wood "applique" (read" glued to the face of the ply panels) raised panels. And stain everything to look like - wait for it - cherry, then three or four coats of varnish for a glossy look).
You can stain poplar boards and birch ply to look like cherry. So I send her of to get some poplar - for the rails and stiles as well as the "raised panels" and some 1/4" birch ply for the "panel" backing. So (4) 1x6 x 8' for the front frame, side and doors' rails and stiles (3) 1x8 x 8' for the "raised panels" of the side and doors (1) 1/4" 4x8 ply sheet for the "panel" background and she adds 2 1x10 x 8' - "for the side panels
So she gets 32 BF of poplar and a sheet of 1/4" - wait for it - prefinished - OAK (cause I think I like the contrasting look) - and a dose of Sticker Shock - about $150 in wood. She was thinking in terms of "Under Fifty Bucks" - for the whole linen cabinet, including the hinges - for four doors, two of which are 5' tall.
To keep it simple, the "rails and stiles" were ripped to width and the "groove" for the ply panels were done with the table saw.
Fortunately, I've got a DOMINO for the loose tenon mortise and tenon joints that'll hold everything together pretty well. Even an absolute novice can do loose tenon M&Ts with the DOMINIO (after I set it up and demonstrate each type of operation),
And a miter saw, with infeed and outfeed tables and flip up stops, get all the parts that are supposed to be the same length to actually be the same length - WITH square corners,
So far the only mistake has been in cutting all the "stiles" to length. My miter saw infeed table can only use a flip stop 5'6" from the blade - and we need 95" (leaving an inch of shimming space in case the floor/walls/ceiling aren't square and flat).
Only AFTER cutting all the parts and doing the loose tenon mortise and tenon joints was the "these stiles ARE NOT all the same length" problem discovered.
So far I haven't raised the question of "how are you going to support the shelves inside this thing when two of it's walls - will be sheet rocked walls. And about those shelves, we're gonna need some more ply - AND wood.
Fun this woodworking thing.
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Make sure they actually want to learn something. I have a family member that always wants my advice on every single project but won't listen to anything I say. Took me a while to figure out they don't want advice, they want validation for their ideas. So I will only answer very specific questions on how to do a certain task rather than figuring out what tasks need to be done.
Everyone has their own ways of doing things, and what makes sense to one person doesn't necessarily to someone else. So you can learn a lot working with someone else, but there's no substitute for just figuring out how you like to do things. Sometimes you have to unlearn things you picked up from somewhere else because while it works for them, maybe you do something different upstream from that and then it ends up not working quite right. You change one little thing in the workflow and it has ripple effects throughout the rest of the process.
Teaching does force you to go beyond "because this is just how I do it" to why you actually do it that way. Was there something that went horribly wrong in a project because you didn't do that some years ago and you got it ingrained in your head to never do that again, or have you just always done it that way and you haven't seen any reason to do it another way? Getting asked "why?" can be really great, if you're in the right mood for that kind of thing. Most of the time I'm not, and that is why I'll never be a teacher :)
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wrote:

Very Well Said!
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charlieb wrote:

Yeah - go to the beach. And stay there until the mentoree gets some smarts.
--

dadiOH
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dadiOH wrote:

They got the intelligence, just not the knowledge and experience. And if no one helps them gain the knowledge and experience . . .
So I'm trying
"Here's a book on joinery, with LOTS of pictures - of each joint and some idea of how it can be made - so you've got an idea of some of the ways to stick two pieces of wood together - where you want them to join - AND stay there. " (Di Cristafora's book).
"Here's a book on how some generic pieces of furniture are put togetherwith lots o pictures and drawings." (Tage Fried. Could've gone with The Encylopedia Of Furnuture Making - but it might be too overwhelming)
Maybe I should have looked for a video of a similar project by one of the YouTube furniture makers - say The Wood Whisperer. That way the mentoree can watch and rewatch at his/her leisure and have an idea of what's what when it comes time to actually apply Edge To Wood.
One thing I DO NOT want to do is fall into the "Get out of the way - I'll Do It!" trap. The "Help, not Do It For You" approach Legend65 brought up. Takes longer - the first time - to finish a piece, but it does require the mentoree to commit the time to the piece - and learn a LOT more - for the next project.
More ideas please.
charlie b
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"charlieb" wrote:

I've said it before, I'll say it again.
Get a copy of Fred Bingham's book, "Boat Joinery & CabinetMaking Simplified" from the library or about $20 in paperback from Amazon.
Forget the boat stuff unless your curosity takes you there.
Lots of general purpose basics.
A chapter entitled "Happiness is a $5 Table Saw" should get you interested.
Lew
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charlieb wrote:

If that's the one I'm thinking of, it is a dandy book - several hundred pages, covered just about everything...materials, joints, tools (both hand & power), fasteners. Scads. From the simple to the complex. Mine got soaked with sea water in the hold of a small freighter coming from Veracruz to Tampa. I miss it. I'd think it would be a good book for the mentoree if it's the one I'm remembering.
--

dadiOH
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Good for you. There needs to be more folks out there doing that. I still run into professional woodworkers that were my helpers or that I helped get started that remember I took the time to help them learn. It's a good feeling.

I don't subscribe to that method for most people. For me, I would rather have well written instructions and then go practice on my task. I like the written word.
But when I started and had no skills, it was good that someone was there to tell me to hold a saw a certain way, hit a nail a certain way, and to tell me on the spot why you should glue both sides of a joint. It moved the learning curve along quite a bit faster, and for learning basic skills I think that is important.

Again, if you are a visual learner, that could be a good thing. However, if you don't even understand what you are looking at to begin with, drawings and pictures don't really matter much.

I couldn't agree with that more. If you picture yourself as a mentor or a teacher, then do those things. Anything else is just throwing out ideas and suggestions.
My BIL is a great guy, but what is important to him is that the end result (no matter who is doing it and what the project is) is as good as it can be made. He has tried to help teach my nephew some woodworking, but gets frustrated when he can't get things right.
When my nephew goes in to the bathroom or to get a drink, my BIL will "fix" his work. With that in mind, my nephew doesn't feel any attachment to the projects, he feels like he is there to make Dad happy. His interest in woodworking is nosediving quickly.
When my nephew and me built his tote style tool box, I let him drive as many nails and glue up as much as he wanted. We alternated as I didn't want my work to stand out. So there are hammer marks all around some of the nails (I mean... a lot!), there is glue where there shouldn't be any, and there are drips in the finish.
He was 5 when we built it. He still loves it and takes care of it, and since he did so much to it, he considers it "his" project that I helped him on. I am happy that he has that kind of pride in his effort, and glad that he feels like I was just there to help.
I think those same principles can be used in dealing with adults as well.
But in your specific case, I think you are in a bit of an unfair position. I have trained a lot of folks over the years, some success stories back there, and some not so successful stories, so take the following for what it is worth.
Any project requires planning. The less one understands about the project, the more one needs to plan. I think the first thing I would have done would be to brew up a pot of coffee one Saturday and sit down with the person are doing this with and work over these points before starting.
- what are we trying to achieve? - what level of skills do you have now? - how much of this have you done before? - how much time are you willing to commit to the project? - how much money are you willing to commit? - what is your realistic time frame for completion? - do you have a diagram or drawing? - have you picked out material or finishes?
And here's the important one: Are we trying to make a piece of furniture here, or is this more of a utility piece?
Those would be my questions and there is a reason to ask them beyond getting important information. As they are answered, you will have a chance to educate your friend along the way as to the requirements, pitfalls, dedication, time requirements, etc., that you two will encounter along the way.
I have a friend of mine that wants to learn how to build display cases for his hugely expensive boats. I made him one as a gift for a big favor he did for me, and it was a lot nicer than the generic ones he was seeing for $650 - $800. But at those prices he has decided he wants to do it himself with a little "guidance" from me.
He sincerely doesn't want me to make these for him, BTW. He feels that if he can built a precision rendition of the HMS Victory, he could handle a few pieces of wood screwed together.
I made him a list of tools, many of which he doesn't have. I made him some simple sketches about how to blind/stop mortise the top and bottom for glass, how to set up a router table to inlet uprights in two directions for glass, how to do a multi piece glue up using biscuits and clamps, how to locate the screws that hold up the uprights, how to turn and finish the bun feet, etc.
Then on to finishing. Hand sanding the profiles, how to progress through sand papers, how to pick a finish, and then how to apply it.
He has all his notes. He has been doing additional research for the last couple of months and is not too sure how much he wants to get involved in this at this point. He was thinking in his mind that he was going to pick up a few handy skills, save a little dough and have a little fun.
He now realizes that it might be more than he wants to commit to, and he may have me build a cheaper case for him after he chews on this a little longer. The intent was to never become a craftsman, but on the other hand he simply didn't realize how involved a simple project can be.
Easy for me, involved for him. I do it for a living, he does not.
I was gonna say, just my 0.02, but it actually looks more like a nickel's worth.
Robert
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