What to make first?

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I'm am getting a shop together and was wondering if there are any guidelines for newbie's to help them learn. What kinds of projects should I start out with? Workbench, router table, bird house???? I don't really know what types of wood working I'll end up making in future. I will have a table saw, router, RAS, scroll saw and assorted hand tools.
thanks for any recommendations.
Ken
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Ken Vonk wrote:

What do you need, or better yet, what does SWMBO need? It's always good to get projects from her as we all know, every project requires a new tool.
Seriously, you might take a class at a local community college or the local Rockler to help find your niche. I started by making a coffee table for the living room. 10 years later it still looks good, holds up to 5 kids and takes tons of abuse. Don't get involved with a really big project right off the bat, stick with something small that will help you build skills. Make a table that requires mortise and tenon joints so you learn that. Next make something that requires a finger joint, or detail work on your scroll saw. Each project is the opportnity to learn a new technique.
And to buy a new tool! :)
Mike Rinken
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"Creamy Goodness" <creamy at agbf1942 dot com> wrote in message

How To Make A Board
by Dave Barry
Most of what I know about carpentry, which is almost nothing, I learned in shop. I took shop during the Eisenhower administration, when boys took shop and girls took home economics -- a code name for "cooking". Schools are not allowed to separate boys and girls like that any more.
They're also not allowed to put students' heads in vises and tighten them, which is what our shop teacher, Mr. Schmidt, did to Ronnie Miller in the fifth grade when Ronnie used a chisel when he should have used a screwdriver. (Mr. Schmidt had strong feelings about how to use tools properly.) I guess he shouldn't have put Ronnie's head in the vise, but it (Ronnie's head) was no great prize to begin with, and you can bet Ronnie never confused chisels and screwdrivers in later life. Assuming he made it to later life.
Under Mr. Schmidt's guidance, we hammered out hundreds of the ugliest and most useless objects the human mind can conceive of. Our first major project was a little bookshelf that you could also use as a stool. The idea was that someday you'd be looking for a book, when all of a sudden you'd urgently need a stool, so you'd just dump the books on the floor and there you'd be. At least I assume that was the thinking behind the bookshelf-stool. Mr. Schmidt designed it, and we students sure know better than to ask any questions.
I regret today that I didn't take more shop in high school, because while I have never once used anything I know about the cosine and the tangent, I have used my shop skills to make many useful objects for my home. For example, I recently made a board.
I use my board in many ways. I stand on it when I have to get socks out of the dryer and water has been sitting in our basement around the dryer for a few days, and has developed a pretty healthy layer of scum on top (plus heaven-only-knows-what new and predatory forms of life underneath).
I also use my board to squash spiders. (All spiders are deadly killers. Don't believe any of the stuff you read in "National Geographic".) Generally, after I squash a spider, I leave the board in the water for a few days, spider-side down, to wash it off, assuming the scum isn't too bad.
If you'd like to make a board, you'll need:
Materials: A board, paint.
Tools: A chisel, a handgun.
Get your board at a lumberyard, but be prepared. Lumberyards reek of lunacy. They use a system of measurement that dates back to Colonial times, when people had brains the size of M&Ms. When they tell you a board is a "two-by-four", they mean it is NOT two inches by four inches. Likewise, a "one-by-six" is NOT one inch by six inches. So if you know what size board you want, tell the lumberperson you want some other size. If you don't know what size you want, tell him it's for squashing spiders. He'll know what you need.
You should paint your board so people will know it's a home carpentry project, as opposed to a mere board. I suggest you use a darkish color, something along the lines of spider guts. Use your chisel to open the paint can. Have your gun ready in case Mr. Schmidt is lurking around.
Once you've finished your board, you can move on to a more advanced project, such as a harpsichord. But if you're really going to get into home carpentry, you should have a home workshop. You will find that your workshop is very useful as a place to store lawn sprinklers and objects you intend to fix sometime before you die. My wife and I have worked out a simple eight-step procedure for deciding which objects to store in my home workshop:
My wife tells me an object is broken. For instance, she may say, "The lamp on my bedside table doesn't work."
I wait several months, in case my wife is mistaken.
My wife notifies me she is not mistaken. "The lamp on my bedside table still doesn't work," she says.
I conduct a preliminary investigation. In the case of the lamp, I flick
the switch and note that the lamp doesn't go on. "You're right," I tell my wife. "That lamp doesn't work."
I wait 6 to 19 months, hoping that God will fix the lamp, or the Russians will attack us and the entire world will be a glowing heap of radioactive slag and nobody will care about the lamp anymore.
My wife then alerts me that the lamp still doesn't work. "The lamp still doesn't work," she says, sometimes late at night.
I try to repair the lamp on the spot. Usually, I look for a likely trouble spot and whack it with a blunt instrument. This often works on lamps. It rarely works on microwave ovens.
If the on-the-spot repair doesn't work, I say: "I'll have to take this
lamp down to the home workshop." This is my way of telling my wife she should get another lamp if she has any short-term plans -- say, to do any reading in bed.
If you follow this procedure, after a few years you will have a great many broken objects in your home workshop. In the interim, however, it will look barren. This is why you need tools. To give your shop an attractive, non-barren appearance, you should get several thousand dollars' worth of tools and hang them from pegboards in a graceful display.
Basically, there are four different kinds of tools:
Tools You Can Hit Yourself With (hammers, axes).
Tools You Can Cut Yourself With (saws, knives, hoes, axes).
Tools You Can Stab Yourself With (screwdrivers, chisels).
Tools That, If Dropped Just Right, Can Penetrate Your Foot (awls).
I have a radial arm saw, which is like any other saw except that it has a blade that spins at several billion revolutions per second and therefore can sever your average arm in a trice. When I operate my radial arm saw, I use a safety procedure that was developed by X-ray machine technicians: I leave the room.
I turn off all the power in the house, leave a piece of wood near the saw, scurry to a safe distance, and turn the power back on. That is how I made my board.
Once you get the hang of using your tools, you'll make all kinds of projects. Here are some other ones I've made:
A length of rope.
Wood with nails in it.
Sawdust.
If you'd like plans for any of these projects, just drop some money in an
envelope and send it to me and I'll keep it.
Dave Barry
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Dave, thanks for the post. I really almost fell out of my chair laughing! I hope more find it that funny. I think what makes it so funny is the scent of truth it emits. I was also in woodworking class in the 50s.
wrote:

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*snip*
Geez, I can't remember when I laughed this hard. I had actual tears in my eyes. Great stuff!!
Robert
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Same here. I showed it to my SWMBO and she was laughing uncontroolably. Normally, she doesn't appreciate "guy" humor but this worked.
How many of you had a shop teacher like that one? I know that I did (and I still have some ugly junk that I made in shop.)
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I occasionally see responses to messages that I've never seen the original of, and I almost always let them pass. On this one, however, I'm gonna ask for a repost.
Pretty please?
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How To Make A Board
by Dave Barry
Most of what I know about carpentry, which is almost nothing, I learned in shop. I took shop during the Eisenhower administration, when boys took shop and girls took home economics -- a code name for "cooking". Schools are not allowed to separate boys and girls like that any more.
They're also not allowed to put students' heads in vises and tighten them, which is what our shop teacher, Mr. Schmidt, did to Ronnie Miller in the fifth grade when Ronnie used a chisel when he should have used a screwdriver. (Mr. Schmidt had strong feelings about how to use tools properly.) I guess he shouldn't have put Ronnie's head in the vise, but it (Ronnie's head) was no great prize to begin with, and you can bet Ronnie never confused chisels and screwdrivers in later life. Assuming he made it to later life.
Under Mr. Schmidt's guidance, we hammered out hundreds of the ugliest and most useless objects the human mind can conceive of. Our first major project was a little bookshelf that you could also use as a stool. The idea was that someday you'd be looking for a book, when all of a sudden you'd urgently need a stool, so you'd just dump the books on the floor and there you'd be. At least I assume that was the thinking behind the bookshelf-stool. Mr. Schmidt designed it, and we students sure know better than to ask any questions.
I regret today that I didn't take more shop in high school, because while I have never once used anything I know about the cosine and the tangent, I have used my shop skills to make many useful objects for my home. For example, I recently made a board.
I use my board in many ways. I stand on it when I have to get socks out of the dryer and water has been sitting in our basement around the dryer for a few days, and has developed a pretty healthy layer of scum on top (plus heaven-only-knows-what new and predatory forms of life underneath).
I also use my board to squash spiders. (All spiders are deadly killers. Don't believe any of the stuff you read in "National Geographic".) Generally, after I squash a spider, I leave the board in the water for a few days, spider-side down, to wash it off, assuming the scum isn't too bad.
If you'd like to make a board, you'll need:
Materials: A board, paint.
Tools: A chisel, a handgun.
Get your board at a lumberyard, but be prepared. Lumberyards reek of lunacy. They use a system of measurement that dates back to Colonial times, when people had brains the size of M&Ms. When they tell you a board is a "two-by-four", they mean it is NOT two inches by four inches. Likewise, a "one-by-six" is NOT one inch by six inches. So if you know what size board you want, tell the lumberperson you want some other size. If you don't know what size you want, tell him it's for squashing spiders. He'll know what you need.
You should paint your board so people will know it's a home carpentry project, as opposed to a mere board. I suggest you use a darkish color, something along the lines of spider guts. Use your chisel to open the paint can. Have your gun ready in case Mr. Schmidt is lurking around.
Once you've finished your board, you can move on to a more advanced project, such as a harpsichord. But if you're really going to get into home carpentry, you should have a home workshop. You will find that your workshop is very useful as a place to store lawn sprinklers and objects you intend to fix sometime before you die. My wife and I have worked out a simple eight-step procedure for deciding which objects to store in my home workshop:
My wife tells me an object is broken. For instance, she may say, "The lamp on my bedside table doesn't work."
I wait several months, in case my wife is mistaken.
My wife notifies me she is not mistaken. "The lamp on my bedside table still doesn't work," she says.
I conduct a preliminary investigation. In the case of the lamp, I flick
the switch and note that the lamp doesn't go on. "You're right," I tell my wife. "That lamp doesn't work."
I wait 6 to 19 months, hoping that God will fix the lamp, or the Russians will attack us and the entire world will be a glowing heap of radioactive slag and nobody will care about the lamp anymore.
My wife then alerts me that the lamp still doesn't work. "The lamp still doesn't work," she says, sometimes late at night.
I try to repair the lamp on the spot. Usually, I look for a likely trouble spot and whack it with a blunt instrument. This often works on lamps. It rarely works on microwave ovens.
If the on-the-spot repair doesn't work, I say: "I'll have to take this
lamp down to the home workshop." This is my way of telling my wife she should get another lamp if she has any short-term plans -- say, to do any reading in bed.
If you follow this procedure, after a few years you will have a great many broken objects in your home workshop. In the interim, however, it will look barren. This is why you need tools. To give your shop an attractive, non-barren appearance, you should get several thousand dollars' worth of tools and hang them from pegboards in a graceful display.
Basically, there are four different kinds of tools:
Tools You Can Hit Yourself With (hammers, axes).
Tools You Can Cut Yourself With (saws, knives, hoes, axes).
Tools You Can Stab Yourself With (screwdrivers, chisels).
Tools That, If Dropped Just Right, Can Penetrate Your Foot (awls).
I have a radial arm saw, which is like any other saw except that it has a blade that spins at several billion revolutions per second and therefore can sever your average arm in a trice. When I operate my radial arm saw, I use a safety procedure that was developed by X-ray machine technicians: I leave the room.
I turn off all the power in the house, leave a piece of wood near the saw, scurry to a safe distance, and turn the power back on. That is how I made my board.
Once you get the hang of using your tools, you'll make all kinds of projects. Here are some other ones I've made:
A length of rope.
Wood with nails in it.
Sawdust.
If you'd like plans for any of these projects, just drop some money in an
envelope and send it to me and I'll keep it.
Dave Barry
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Thank you.
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I second this motion.

local
the
off
a
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Ken Vonk asks:

Bird houses will work. I can even recommend a couple books for you. Seriously, though, check out a local adult ed class in woodworking, or cabinetmaking, or whatever they're offering. It gets you involved faster and at lower cost than any other way. Not all areas offer such classes, but if yours doesn't, lobby for it a bit with the BOE.
Pick projects that you or someone you know need: my favorite seems to be bookcases, which can vary from dead simple to amazingly complex. I'll also have to build a enw computer desk when I move, as I'm leaving this one behind for the trash guys. Three moves and a decade have pretty much done it in.
Charlie Self "To create man was a quaint and original idea, but to add the sheep was tautology." Mark Twain's Notebook http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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I learned a lot when I first started working wood by doing shop projects. It outfitted my shop with the things I'd need to further myself and any mistakes were confined to the shop.
Made a very simple router table, then graduated to a traditional workbench. I greatly appreciated a magazine like Woodsmith for their detailed plans and instructions that are really helpful to someone just starting.
gary

guidelines
out
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guidelines
out
Been there. Done that. Start off with: stuff for the shop and stuff for Outdoors. Workbench, Garden Bench. Other things for which you can find explicit instructions/plans for. Then graduate to furniture you willing to bring indoors, albeit in an inconspicuous location. That's where I am; the basement is accumulating my wares.
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On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 12:32:25 -0600, "Ken Vonk"

Work wood, make mistakes, think about the mistakes. <G> There is a ton of help available here, chances are and "dumb" questions you might ask are wanting to be asked by others, who may be too proud or embarrassed to ask them. Over the years, many of the regulars here have saved me a lot of money and time by answering _my_ stupid questions.
There are lots of good books out there, browse your local library. Adult Ed or private classes can be valuable.
Remember that woodworking is a hand skill that takes study and practice, kind of like playing a musical instrument. Both the hands and the brain need to be taught for your skills to improve.

Anything you like! Smaller projects cost less and mistakes can be easier to correct. Start with things that are useful or attractive to you and go for it.
Have fun, Barry
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First project should be to take two pieces of stock say, about 4' long, 6" or 8" wide and make them both absolutely true. Exactly the same thickness, width, and length and all the faces are at 90 degrees to their adjoining faces.
Next you glue the two pieces together and make a perfectly flat panel that meets same criteria as above.
Once you have made the panel, cut it into four pieces, rabbet them for 1/4" ply then join them to make an open SQUARE box, no butt joints no nails or screws with the 1/4" ply for the bottom ( you can tack that in with a few brads if you are so inclined).
When you have accomplished that feat, don't be afraid to scrap a hopeless attempts and start over again, you can start thinking about building something practical.
Until you can accomplish those feats, which require becoming familiar with some very basic joinery, there is little point in chewing up good project wood and frustrating yourself. It will also show up and alignment problems with your tools and whether your measuring tools are up to the task of accurate measurements.
Good luck
--
Mike G.
snipped-for-privacy@heirloom-woods.net
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This sounds easier than it is. It is a good exercise and you end up with a box that you will find some use for in the shop and a whole bunch more knowledge. Then graduate to more simple projects. Bird house, bird feeder, stools.
Read. Look at the pictures in magazines. See how you can utilize the tools you have to make a particular joint.
Once you are comfortable using most tools, make a simple table to use on the patio or next to the grill.
Make things you want or can use in the house. A tray to hold the remotes, a tray to hold the junk on your dresser, etc. You will soon be adding complexity to the design just for the challenge of making the joint or appearance. Ed
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Mike is correct IMHO. Although, I would incorporate the use of hand tools and more importantly, learn how to set, adjust, sharpen all of your tools.
My first project, many years ago was a finger (box) jointed chisel box. My father was a stickler for sharpen before use. He would drill into me, "If it ain't sharp, its dangerous!"
50 years latter, I still have the chisel box and the very sharp, hand made chisels therein.
Dave

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>Although, I would incorporate the use of hand tools

I agree one hundred percent as well as with the advice to study the subject.
I kind of left my suggestion open ended, as to with what and how. to prompt towards reading and thinking instead of copying Norm (which, by the way, won't work if you don't know the basics).
However, I was undoubtedly remiss in not adding the reading and hand tools suggestion on to my own post.
Thanks for the pickup Dave, Ed.
--
Mike G.
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Thanks for the suggestion Mike. I have a couple of questions though. I have tried to follow the threads about jointers and planers but I don't really know what those tools are and how they work. How would I flatten the boards with the standard tools I listed? I can cut the sides pretty straight and parallel with the RAS or TS but how would I flatten / remove warp from the 6 or 8" side? I have a set of blades for the RAS that are supposed to be able to plane or joint ( I don't remember right off hand) but they scare me a bit (mighty big chunk of wood to grab at one time for the RAS).
Also when you say to glue together are you saying I should just butt them together with glue in between? Or should I try biscuits <sp> or dowels or some other type of joint?
Is it really necessary to have perfectly flat boards to make something?
thanks again,
Ken

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Hi Ken
I'll tack on a reply I have already made relating to the jointer/planer question at the end
Now bear with me. I'm not trying to be sarcastic nor put you down but your question emphasize why I made the suggestion I did and those made by others about studying the subject and hand tools.
I'll try to hit some high points but there are probably hundreds of books that contain the answers questions your asking and hundreds more that you will be asking. Not only would it be impractical for me to try to recreate the information in those books in an e-mail but there is almost always at least three ways to accomplish a woodworking task and it is a good idea to get at least familiar with all your options so you are able to meet changing situations.
I like Norm but due to the limitations of a half hour show a lot of the true nature of woodworking gets left in the dust. It isn't mysterious nor rocket science but it does require a firm grasp of basics and a readiness to obtain, study, and consult reference material.
Last question first. Is it necessary to have a perfectly flat boards? My answer is yes, not only perfectly flat but with exact angles and relationships between all the surfaces of the stock. Think about it. Say you want to join two boards together to make two sides of your box and your stock is cupped, the wide faces are concave, and when you cut it to make a miter joint you cut it at a 42.5 degrees rather then an exact 45 degrees. You may be able to join the two boards but how square will the finial results be and how much more work and wood filler will have to be applied to make the box look half way decent.
So, the practical answer is you can build that box without starting with trued stock but to me it makes little sense to even try if it the results are going to be a Mickey mouse job that will probably be an exercise in frustration and disappointment in the finished product. The closer to perfect you can get your stock the less frustrating it will be to put the pieces together and the more satisfaction you will get when everything fits together nicely on assembly just like Norm's stuff does.
Panel gluing. Butt, biscuit, other joint? Not to belabor the point but one of the first things any reference material on woodworking will tell you is that long grain to long grain glue joints are the strongest type of joint and when properly made the wood will break before the joint will. So the answer here is that while something other then plain old butt joints will help you in alignment of the stock any added strength it provides isn't really a factor in deciding what method to choose to make the joint.
How to flatten the face. First I have to congratulate you on your instincts relating to the RAS planer method. It is something that can be very dangerous. From the list of power tools you provided I would say that there isn't one that will aid you in making that first critical flat face without a great deal of dicking around. Hopefully, somewhere in that vague "assorted hand tools", there is a hand plane and the ways and means to keep it sharp. If there is that is the tool I would suggest using to flatten a face. If there isn't I'd suggest getting one and learning the care and feeding of it.
Turning out good looking projects like Norm does is not an innate ability that god gives nor is it some magic imparted to you by the electricity in the power tools. It takes a firm grasp of the basics, a fair amount of study, and lots of practice.
I'd suggest a visit to your nearest books store or a stop at http://www.woodworkersbookclub.com and an investment in knowledge rather then more tools.
Now that thing on jointers planers. It is meant as a basic on the purposes of the two tools. As to whether it is better to have one over the other, well I figure the knowledge of what they do is more important then my saying this one or that one is the more important one too own
Joint (make flat and straight) one face (reference face) so you have something to true (reference) the remaining three sides to. Not to be done on a planer because the feed rollers will push out any warp and it will reappear as the stock exits the planer. For the same reason use very little down force when jointing.
Joint one edge with the reference face against the jointers fence. This will give you a straight edge that is at 90 degrees to the reference face. Also an edge to reference the next edge.,
Rip a second edge on the table saw with the reference face against the table and the reference edge against the fence. Try to do it on the jointer and it will give you a straight edge but not one necessarily parallel to the first edge.
Now you can plane the piece to a proper thickness with the reference face flat down on the planers feed table. Since the reference face is flat the planer has no warp to press out so the face being planed will be not only be flat but parallel to the reference face.
The jointer performs the two most critical steps in the process (the reference face and edge) but, with sufficient dicking around, there are work arounds. but, without the dicking around, the planer will not perform the functions of a jointer and the jointer will not perform the functions of a planer.
Good luck Mike
--
Mike G.
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