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Basic Woodworking Skills to Know as a Woodworker

In the present age of industrialization, woodworking is an art and a handy skill. When broken wooden material such as furniture is rendered as waste, a person with the skills to produce an enduring replacement or fix the broken one is referred to as a true craftsman.

To be able to do that, there are some basic woodworking skills to know that will help you a lot as a beginner. Woodworking is not a big mystery and you just need to put in a little extra effort to learn these skills. Here are some basic functional skills every woodworker should know:

Understanding the Nature and Direction of Wood:

Before putting your lumber up for cutting, it is important to know the nature of the wood. The beautiful rings that we see inside the wood’s cross section, increased by one each year, are known as wood grains. These wood grains have a direction for an ideal cut. If wrongly done, it can be rough, hard and tiring to cut the wood.
Furthermore, it is important to know how wood contracts and expands in various weathers throughout the year. This helps in having a planned direction for angled cuts. Also, when choosing the lumber, pick the suitable stock that does not include warped, twisted or split boards.

Moreover, most hardwood and softwood come in the same shape and dimensions. It is important to know the lumber’s dimensions in board feet. Softwood is usually sold in standard lumber dimensions of 2×4 or 4×8, so is hardwood.

Choosing the Right Tool and Sharpening it:

The next major skill is to have an in-depth knowledge of the hand tools and power tools that are used in woodworking. Some of the most important hand tools are:

  • Hammer
  • Layout square
  • Tape measure
  • Chisels
  • Level
  • Screwdrivers
  • Sliding bevel
  • Block plane
  • Nail sets

Some of the basic power tools are:

  • Circular saw
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw
  • Orbital sander
  • Power drill

After having complete knowledge of the use and function of these tools, you should be able to choose the right tool for your project. When you have a good planer and a table saw, it is easier to prepare your lumber using some basic hand tools. You do not need to buy expensive equipment for woodworking.

Also, these tools make your work quite easy if they are sharpened and serviced regularly. Most tools produce rough cuts because they are not sharpened well and require more dragging. So, one of the important and tasks of woodworking is to sharpen your planes, panels and chisels well to make your work more efficient and easy.

Using the Hand Plane Properly:

In order to adjust the cuts from coarse to fine, the hand plane must be used properly. A hand plane is a smooth wooden surface on which measurements and cutting can be done easily and accurately. Using a hand plane properly, though, requires practice.


Sanding is another basic skill to fix the splinters and burs on the wood surface after cutting and drilling. This can be effectively done by using hand sanders, orbital sanders or belt sanders. Hand sanders work best for beginners as they have a handle and a plate to which the sand paper can be attached.
Orbital sanders work well for small and tight spaces, whereas belt sanders are used for large flat surfaces as they are the most powerful and heavy-duty sanders.

Types of Sandpapers a Woodworker Must Have

Choosing the Screws:

Screws are required for any two or more pieces of material to fit properly. The basic skill is to choose the right type of screw and inserting them in the right direction. Some most common types of screws include wooden screws, drywall screws and machine screws. Each of these come in different shapes and sizes and should be used according to the type of the material. For wooden joints, wood screws are the best, as they fit into the wood really well. Some screws need a pilot hole to be inserted deep into the wood. You can do that with a drilling machine.

Cutting Mortise and Tenon Joints:

Mortise and Tenon Joints are used to interlock the horizontal (table-like surface) and vertical (leg-like) parts of your product at an angle of 90 degrees. Although the cutting and fixing of the joints seems an easy deal, achieving a tight and nice fit is a real technique. So, learning how to cut mortise and tenon joint is another fundamental skill of woodworking.

The creation of a mortise needs some practice, and cutting a tenon also requires four straight saw cuts. These four straight cuts should give you a square. You can calculate if the cuts have really given you a square by using squaring tools such as speed square, framing square etc. For large squares, it can also be done by measuring the diagonals. It will be a square when the two diagonals are equal.

Cutting a Dovetail Joint:

Dovetail joints are most useful when you want to make a box. It is the most helpful way to join the corners of the board. Therefore, in basic woodworking which i learnt from teds woodworking, it is a necessary skill to acquire.

Making a dovetail joint involves a side cut into a wedge-shaped tail that goes into a corresponding pin. It seems difficult for starters but can be easily done in three steps:

  • Cut the tails
  • Trace them on another board
  • Cut out the waste you traced

When fitted well, a dovetail joint prevents the sides from sliding and falling apart. As it looks a little rough, these kind of joints are hidden behind paint, molds or veneer. However, there are a lot of ways to cut dovetails so that they don’t look unprofessional.

Once you have learned how to make a smart dovetail joint, you are ready to make every type of box-shaped product you want.

Painting and Finishing:

This is the most important step in woodworking and greatly enhances the quality of your work. You should never let your hard work go waste by not painting and finishing your product properly. It deserves to look best if created best. Also, there needs to be some protection for the surface for outdoor use.

For this purpose, you can use some varnishes such as Shellac to ensure maximum protection of wood. For painting the surface, there are two commonly used paints that can be chosen according to the type of the wood.These are:

Latex Paint: These are water-based paints. With this paint, if your product gets any stains or marks, it can be easily cleaned using just soap, water and towel. It is quite durable and easily applicable.
Oil-based Paint: These adhere better to the surface but make it harder to clean the surface.

A perfect finish can be topped by using paint sheen, which is the glossiness of a matte surface. Flat paint (no glossiness) disperses the light and you see no clear reflection, while a glossy finish makes the object shiny and reflective. In the end, choosing the painting and finishing materials is totally up to you.

Safety Tips:

Woodworking tools are very sharp and unforgiving. Even after acquiring professional skills, it is never advisable to start woodwork without having proper safety precautions. You can save yourself from big injuries by following some basic safety rules:

  • Always wear safety glasses before starting your work.
  • Wear appropriate clothes.
  • Disconnect power cords that are not being used.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher close in your workplace.
  • Never remove dust or extra cuttings from the tools with bare hands.
  • Do not use compressed air to remove saw dust or for cleaning the area.
  • Sharpen the blades and tools after wearing safety gloves.
  • Wear hearing protection when using noisy tools.
  • Do not use a lot of extension wires around you. Use one for all the tools.
  • Always work against the direction of the cutter.

These are the safety rules that are especially to be followed by beginners who are learning the basics of woodworking.

For professionals, it is important to keep your focus to your work and avoid distractions. Professionals tend to be careless at times, and even for them distractions can prove to be disastrous. Also, if you want to learn your trade in less time, you need to be fully attentive to your work. Without paying full attention, it’s going to take a long time to become a professional.

Deciding to learn something new is always a great idea, and learning some basic woodworking skills will never go waste. It can always help you with some of your basic necessities at home, even if you don’t have to do any big projects. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll develop more and more interest in woodworking with time.

For more help about woodworking you can take help of my reviews on Wood Profits bet you it is a nice set of ideas which i personally followed and the e-book served to be a great help to me as an improving woodworker.


Hey, I am Nicholas, a full-time blogger. I mostly review products which I have personally used or been used by my family member. If you have any suggestions do visit contact us page.

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