Woodworking is a very old craft. The early Egyptians and the Chinese were two civilizations that are known to practice the skill. Proof of this are the furniture such as stools, chairs, tables, beds and chests which have been preserved on ancient Egyptian tombs. In China, the progenitor of woodworking is believed to be Lao Ban.
Today’s woodworkers have adapted the know how of their predecessors while acquiring additional knowledge of their own to better their craft. Whether you are already a woodworker or still learning the craft there are some things you might not yet know. Here are some facts I am sure will add to your woodworking information.
Weakest Joinery Technique
There are several methods by which you can join two or more pieces of wood together in building your wood project. One technique which I do not recommend especially when making woodwork furniture is butt joint. Any knowledgeable carpenter will tell you that it is the weakest type of joinery.
Butt joint simply involves “butting” together two members after cutting them to appropriate lengths to form part of the woodwork. It basically relies only on glue to hold the joints together. So without any form of reinforcement this technique is basically weak. Oftentimes carpenters thrusts nails or screws into the joint as reinforcement.
The other reason why butt jointing would be naturally weak is because of its members’ orientation. The gluing together between the long grains to the end grain of two pieces of wood does not really produce quality strength. Sometime ago I saw some desk plans for a school which suggested they use butt joint. What immediately came to my mind is that the designer of the plan does not know much about carpentry.
Best Quarter Sawn Material
There are two misunderstood beliefs regarding the pith or the heart of the tree. Some would say you should not pick a board with the heart included. It will surely split. Others will tell you to pick the ones that have the heart in them because the heart is the strongest part of the tree.
When buying boards or planks for your project you should choose the ones that have the heart in them. It is true that if you use a board that has the heart included it will split. But it is not true that that the heart of a tree is the strongest part. The truth is the pith is the part of the tree that has many twigs with thin branches. That’s why it will split anytime.
I suggest you pick the board with the heart in them because the straightest and the most stable material you can cut are right next to the heart. You can leave out the heart itself. These materials are perfect for rails and for other parts that need dead-straight grain.
Poplar Unsuitable For Staining
When it comes to staining your wood project as much as possible avoid poplar as the type of wood to use. There are many instances that poplar did not conduct well to wood stain. Although are some woodworkers who do stain poplar, you won’t see a lot of stained wood working projects made of this type of wood specie.
Poplar is a strong wood but difficult to stain compared with other species. Staining unfinished furniture made of poplar oftentimes produces an uneven patch of color or discoloration. Most woodworkers use poplar only for furniture construction where they are hidden like on chest of drawers.
Sanding the Right Way
Sanding is a necessary step in woodworking if you desire a smooth surface to your project. Most experts would advise you to sand along the grain in preparing the wood for staining or finishing. This is agreeable because sanding along the grain will avoid leaving ugly scratches on the surface.
However, there are certain cases that sanding against the grain is acceptable and required. Boards and planks that just came from the mill have very rough and uneven surfaces. Sanding with the grain would be time consuming. Instead sanding against the grain will remove the bumps faster because the applied friction on the bumps is greater.
Planers and mechanical sanders are used to initially to level the very rough surface before cutting them into several smaller pieces. You will then need different grits of sandpapers to acquire the desired smoothness of the wood. After using course grits of sandpapers you can now sand with the grain using fine grits of sandpapers.
An Advantage of Softwood
Hardwoods are usually preferred by woodworkers on many projects over softwoods or soft timbers. They believe woodwork made out of hard timbers last long. But they also cost more. In spite of the several advantages hard timbers had over soft timbers there is at least still one advantage of softwood. This advantage of softwood over hardwood makes it more suitable for use in wood projects like custom woodworking.
Soft timbers have open cells that enable them to better absorb adhesives and finishes. This property also makes it easy to treat softwoods in order to increase their durability. Most softwood is good for woodwork products specifically for furniture if they are properly and regularly maintained.
Pine wood is softwood that is cost efficient and denser than several hard timbers. If you plan to spend moderately on your project but want to use a solid timber, then pine wood is a better choice.
Here is a good video showing a tip on clamping and gluing for a great looking joints: