I decided to start a little series based on the lessons I’m learning in woodworking. I’m a total newbie, but if I can help other newbies, hey, I’m all for it. So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to after doing just a couple of small projects: it’s all just a matter of trust.
It seems clear to me that the success achieved in a lot of things has something to do with decisions you make with regard to what you’re willing to take on faith. I’ve recently learned NOT to trust two things by experience: project plans, and sawmills.
Project plans are sometimes wrong from beginning to end, or they’re incomplete, leaving out key pieces of the puzzle. Don’t trust that everything is there – go over the project plan in detail before you find yourself in the middle of a project without a clue how to make the next (undocumented) step. Also, don’t trust that the way they’re showing you to do something is *the* way to do it – I had a heck of a time clamping up 15-degree angled sawhorse legs because I assumed the picture in the book was the way to do it. On my second saw horse leg I relied on my own logic to figure out a clamping system, and it took about 1/3 of the time and about 1/20th of the headache. A project plan is a blueprint, not a bible.
As for sawmills, I no longer trust them either. I had a board that was allegedly “ready for use” (it was smoothed on all 4 sides – aka ‘S4S’). I had to cut out what would become the side of a box. I drew three lines, and let the edge of the board be the fourth side. Bad move. When I went to make sure my cutting lines were perfectly square, I found they were a little out of wack, and the culprit turned out to be that the board wasn’t perfectly square. Check your boards before you measure and cut!
In general, you should probably question everything all the time anyway. Is your table saw blade *really* perpendicular to the table top? Just because it was 3 or 4 cuts ago is no guarantee that it is now. How about your splitter? Is it aligned? I’ve had some trouble with misaligned splitters and a full-length fence pushing boards back toward the blade and smoking up on me. Not nice.
Question it. It’ll save you time, headache, and waste.