Take Small Steps to be a Better Woodworker

IMG_2431Becoming a better woodworker means that you have to challenge yourself with each new project. Push harder to build your skills. It’s useful to take on a new technique, change the way you finish or choose a more difficult project.

The easiest way to become better is in the way you choose material. If you’re a pallet-scrap builder, make your next project from a nice looking hardwood. If you’re already working with great lumber, try improving how you use that lumber.

As an example, as I began building a project for the next issue of 360 WoodWorking – the first behind the pay wall – I found a thicker cutoff of flame birch (some know it as curly birch) that was great for the legs. In the photo below, you see the piece, and how the legs would come out if I were to slice the four needed pieces beginning at the edge.

The first two legs from the right would be rift-sawn, which is a better choice in legs. The next two would have grain running almost across the legs, resulting in a flat-grain look on two opposing faces and a quarter-sawn look on the adjacent faces – not as good a look. I could have easily slide to the extreme left side of the blank to pull a third rift-sawn leg from the piece, but I still would have had one leg that was not the quality of which I was after.


My solution was to twist the third and fourth legs in the stock to produce rift-sawn grain. To do so, I cut a square from scrap plywood that was the correct size of my leg. I then positioned it on the blank to get the grain selection that I was after before drawing in the squares. See below.


Cutting the legs from the blank is a bit more of a challenge, but the results make your work better. In this case, I tilted my table saw blade to 30° to make the cuts, then had to be creative in how I finished up the squaring process of the leg stock after it was cut.

It was more work, but I think it’s worth it to have four legs on a piece of Shaker furniture that all come from the same piece of lumber. The color of the legs match, and the grain all looks similar. You should see the end results coming in February 2015. If you’re not yet a member, click the appropriate button below.

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One thought on “Take Small Steps to be a Better Woodworker

  1. Stuff like this is the reason I’m glad I signed up.

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