Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 4
   March 2012
 
   Avoiding and Fixing Woodworking Mistakes
 

To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill, all woodworkers make mistakes, but only wise ones learn from their mistakes. While most can agree that it's better to avoid workshop blunders altogether, it's not always possible. The following are some prevention strategies and some ways of dealing with slip-ups should they occur.

Avoidance Strategies

Here are some suggestions to help prevent common types of errors.

Lumber Woes: Many woodworkers pride themselves on being frugal, but sometimes choosing lumber based on price alone can be false economy. Wastage from defective boards and the effort you spend on fixing their defects can be high hidden costs. In general, avoid buying warped, severely crooked or cupped boards, which are also more difficult to work from a safety point of view.

Measurement Mistakes: In addition to "measure twice and cut once", here are two helpful habits to have.


  1. Don't measure from the 1" mark of a tape measure. That way, you'll never have to worry about or deal with the notorious off-by-an-inch blunder. Also, use the same measuring tape throughout the entire project.
  2.
Hard board
Measuring tape not required
Don't measure if you don't have to. Use set-up blocks or the actual parts to transfer the measurements. For repetitive cuts, use a story stick. My tipster friend Serge Duclos of Quebec devised a clever storyboard method for when measurements are too close to each other to read or to mark on a stick. For every fence set-up, after cutting the actual piece(s), he makes the same cut on a hard board as he does on the storyboard, thereby creating a permanent record for reuse of all the set-ups for the project. Unlike the stick, a board has four sides (say, A, B, C and D) on which measurements can be marked. If, for example, side A is full of markings already, the additional markings can be put on side B instead of being squeezed on with the other markings on side A. Under the memory board approach, the actual saw kerfs, not markings, are used to set the fence/cuts.

Machinery and Tool Mistakes: Using a machine that's not properly set up can create and compound mistakes. When a rip fence is not parallel to the blade, for example, the mistakes are usually not apparent until you are at the late assembly stage. At this point, a quick fix will be almost impossible as all the mating pieces have been cut. You can prevent most of these unnecessary slips by performing regular tune-ups and using scraps to test the critical set-ups or cuts.
 
 
             
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