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  • Frustrated novice needs help

    I recently took up woodworking as a hobby and have done a couple of projects so far, a basic workbench, a shelf system for a closet, a pair of sawhorses (used a plan from plansnow.com), a garabage shed, and some small jigs. Nothing I would call fine furniture as I want to build up my skills first before taking on some serious projects.

    The other day I started an end grain cutting board to give as a gift. The end result was not good, there is a crack right in the middle of it and is basically headed for the scrap pile. The crack is not on a glue line so I wonder if I clamped it to tight. During the clamping I did hear what sounded like the wood cracking and heard it again when I took off the clamps the following day. I didnt feel as if I was using to much clamping pressure but maybe I did. I was using purple heart and maple - is purple heart tough on table saws and planers?

    With all the projects I have done my inexperience is pretty evident. I know it will take time to get a feel for how to tackle a project and also learn how to deal with difficult tasks. I felt the cutting board was an easy project that would go smoothly but that was not the case.

    Another issue I have to overcome is I am not a mechanical person in any way shape or form. With the tools I have acquired I am concerned about keeping them in good working order. So far the Table Saw (3650) was the first victim - when I tried to align the blade I royally screwed it up to the point where I had to exchange the saw for a new. I had a much easier time aligning the new saw but I still feel like it could be tweaked a little more. The planer I have (1300) seems a little more straightforward to get it dialed in correctly but as far as maintaining it I am a bit lost. Next week a band saw is coming and while I am very excited to use it I worry about setting it up for optimal performance.

    I am fully aware that I will make mistakes along the way but it would be nice if I could get through one small project without some big headache along the way. Because of this I am not getting the enjoyment I should be.

    Any tips out there for a novice? Is my experience common? I have never been that handy but now that I am a homeowner I want to change that. My next project, after I try the cutting board again, is a pair of adirondack chairs and hope that goes well (using cypress).

    It would be great if there was a seasoned pro out there that makes house calls to show a beginner some of the basics.

  • #2
    Re: Frustrated novice needs help

    You might look into attending evening WWing classes at a local TEC center or a Woodcraft store.
    ---------------
    Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
    ---------------
    “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
    ---------
    "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
    ---------
    sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

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    • #3
      Re: Frustrated novice needs help

      Originally posted by Bob D. View Post
      You might look into attending evening WWing classes at a local TEC center or a Woodcraft store.
      I actually took the intro to table saws at woodcraft. I am going to look into classes at a tec center as there is one right around corner from my house.

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      • #4
        Re: Frustrated novice needs help

        In Manchester CT there is Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I have met the owner at woodworking shows and he seems like a great guy. It might be worth consideration to investigate on-line or give them a call.

        Tom

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        • #5
          Re: Frustrated novice needs help

          Books and magazines are a great resource too.

          I have to ask though, how did you screw up aligning the blade on your 3650 enough to have to take it back?

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          • #6
            Re: Frustrated novice needs help

            I had a basic knowledge of the tools and fairly handy. Where I learned alot was woodworking magazines and a few books to refresh my memory.In Massachusetts I went to a Vocational school and took up Carpentry for 4 years. They also have night classes that may help.
            Then ask questions on the various forums.Practice and you will get better. Sounds like your on your way.

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            • #7
              Re: Frustrated novice needs help

              I'd say your glue lines were not perfectly straight and flat - that's what caused the cracking. When you're laminating peices of wood together, the mating surfaces must be perfect. If you have to squeeze/clamp to make everything touch, it's going to crack over time as it tries to pull apart again.

              The perfered method for making nice glue lines is a jointer, but there's a fair amount of setup involved. A well set up table saw with a good blade will also make a glueable joint. That's all I ever use.
              Have you ever checked your fence to see that it's straight? (parallel to the blade)??

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              • #8
                Re: Frustrated novice needs help

                Originally posted by sawhorse75 View Post
                Books and magazines are a great resource too.

                I have to ask though, how did you screw up aligning the blade on your 3650 enough to have to take it back?
                Its a fair question becasue what I did would suprise me if someone else did the same thing. I was using the method in The Table Saw Book which says to use an F clamp to get some leverage to align the blade. I dont think I will be able to explain this well but I clamped the front and rear portion that saw blade rides in for beveling the blade. As a result I must have bent them just enough where I couldnt bevel the blade past 15 degress because I gouging out the metal in the grooves it rides in. It was ugly and can be chalked up never owning a piece of equipment like that before. The is an upside - I am pretty familiar with the saw now and feel much more confident setting it up. I still think it could be tweaked a little better but based on my limited knowledge I have done as best I can.

                Its kind of funny really. Or at least I can laugh about it now.

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                • #9
                  Re: Frustrated novice needs help

                  Originally posted by Ross Creek View Post
                  I'd say your glue lines were not perfectly straight and flat - that's what caused the cracking. When you're laminating peices of wood together, the mating surfaces must be perfect. If you have to squeeze/clamp to make everything touch, it's going to crack over time as it tries to pull apart again.

                  The perfered method for making nice glue lines is a jointer, but there's a fair amount of setup involved. A well set up table saw with a good blade will also make a glueable joint. That's all I ever use.
                  Have you ever checked your fence to see that it's straight? (parallel to the blade)??
                  I would love to get a jointer but thats not in the cards right now. Hopefully i will get one eventually but between the drilll press, table saw, band saw, and planer I have run out of space in my shop (small one car garage).

                  I did just get the forrest woodworker II blade, very nice. I would like to try and use a hand plane for the glue edges but I have never used one before and not even sure how to get the blade to protrude correctly (like I said, I am very new to this and never had anyone showing me the ropes as a kid). Before I started the cutting boards I did align the table saw but do feel it could be a little better. But based on my limited knowledge its as good as I can get it. The fence did seem a little off to me but thought I fixed it, wouldnt hurt to check. I do think the blade is spot on though.

                  Thanks for the feedback from everyone. I guess I just need some reassurance that I am not alone and things will eventually get better. I am going to see about taking some classes as hands one experience is what I need. I also will continue to read online materials and books but the hands on stuff is what will benefit me most. So far I have read a table saw book, started a router book (a tool I really want to get the most out of), and have a band saw book to read.

                  Thank god for forums like these.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Frustrated novice needs help

                    Hey Pez,

                    Don't feel like the lone stranger. I bet most everyone on this forum can tell a story or 2 of their start in wood working. As you do more projects, things start to work together and it does get easier. I'm not trying to imply that I'm an expert, just the opposite, but I am getting much better. Take your time and enjoy your shop time.
                    If at first you don't succeed, try reading the owners manual.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Frustrated novice needs help

                      Pez,

                      You might also limit your projects to pine and plywood until your skills get better.That way your mistakes aren't so costly.I practiced making utility type things for the shop.I am getting better but I definately am Not up to expensive hardwoods.Enroll in a vo tec school.
                      Good luck.Keep trying and take it slow.Listen to that inner voice that says" if it looks dangerous it probably is".

                      Experience gained is in direct relation to amount of material wasted.
                      Have fun.Woodworking is supposed to be relaxing.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Frustrated novice needs help

                        Pez, you are on the right track with the hand plane beings you do not have a jointer. I do not have a jointer either, so use the hand plane to get one surface flat, and one edge straight. After that, the saw can square it up and give you a good glue edge.

                        Step 1: Flatten on side of the board to remove cup, twist, and bow. This is done with the hand plane using a known straight edge and winding sticks (also called twisting sticks). It does not have to be perfectly smooth, just so it sits flat and solid on the saw table top with all four corners touching and most of the surface in between.

                        Step 2: Joint one edge with the hand plane to get a straight edge. It does not have to be square to the first surface, but close is nice.

                        Step 3: Run it throught the planer with the handplaned surface down. You may have to run it through the planer multiple times, taking a little off each time (1/8" or less) especially if there is a lot of bow or twist in the rough surface. This should give a relatively flat smooth surface. If it is not, work on it with the hand plane to get it as close as possible and run it through the planer with the handplaned surface up. Check it with the straight edge and winding sticks.

                        Step 4: With the edge you planed straight against the fence, and the flattest machine planed surface down run it though the saw taking off enough to get a straight smooth cut.
                        Check it for square against the surface you had face down on the saw table. Also check it with the straight edge. If it is not square, adjust your saw blade. If the edge is not straight, true it up with the hand plane.

                        Step 5.: Flip the board around (same side down but freshly cut edge against fence), and cut it agains to get the other edge straight and square.

                        Keep repeating the steps taking a little off each time until all sides are straight, flat, and square. Then finish to the desired dimensions.

                        This method can be time consuming, but works, and involves minimum use of the hand plane. After you develop your skills with it, you will be able to get the first surface flat and the edge square with just the hand plane, minimizing the trips through the saw and planer and resulting material loss. I have used it for quite a while substituting the saw for resawing the wide face instead of a planer, as I did not have one of those either until recently.

                        Realize that a board of 2 or 3' length and 3/4" thick will not have to be perfectly straight (it may be a little bowed) for use on cabinet edges, trim, etc, as the board can easily be flattened to the surface during glue up with clamps, brads, etc. Also realize that a board you have gotten perfect today may bow some overnight as moisture gets into it. (Construction grade pine is notorious for it). That again is where clamps or cauls come in.

                        Hope this helps. The key is to get one surface flat and one surface straight to use as reference surfaces so the saw and planer will cut true.

                        Go
                        Practicing at practical wood working

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                        • #13
                          Re: Frustrated novice needs help

                          Gofor - thank you very much for that, excellent info.

                          And thanks again to everyone for posting. I am going to seriously look into classes at voc school, I think I will get the most benefit out of this. Even though this may only be a hobby its something I want to get good at. There is something special about producing an heirloom quality project or hand made gift that will be around for a long time.

                          Something I did learn this week was not to let my shortcomings get the best of me. After the trouble I had with the cutting board I purposely didnt do anything in the shop for the last two days and I feel much better. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and re-gain focus.

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