Most Important Woodworking Tips and Techniques For Starters

If you are starting out with some unique woodworking project ideas and would like to build your first pieces of art, there are certain woodworking tips and techniques which can help you master this art. While beginners may need it most, there are certain techniques that can be very useful to experienced woodworkers as well. This article will explore three important aspects of woodworking tips and techniques, namely; understanding the kind of wood you are dealing with, preventing tear outs and different types if chisels and how to use them.

Although basic, they are essential knowledge for anyone taking up woodwork.

Understanding your wood

Every type of hardwood is made up of small pipelines or vessels, which are used in the production of sap. The size of these vessels varies and some are big enough to be visible to the eye. When cut across, they are called pores and this is why hardwoods are called “porous woods”. The uniformity and appearance of hardness in a certain kind of wood is affected by the distribution, number and size of these pores. “Non-porous woods” have no vessels and are called softwoods for this reason. The following types of woods can be used in woodwork.

types of hardwood
The most used types of hardwood


Also called Softwoods, these have no vessels and water is conducted through tracheid cells instead. However, the growth-ring characteristic varies in different softwoods. The growth rings are non-distinct in white pines, and like diffuse porous woods the stain uptake is fairly even. The growth rings are visible yellow pine, in latewood the stain uptake is not as pronounced as in early wood, as they are ring-porous woods.

Semi-ring Porous or Semi-diffuse Porous

In species like black walnut and butternut , pores are smaller in the latewood and larger towards the earlywood , but the lack the clear demarcation in zoning as seen in woods which are ring-porous. Also, species like cottonwood are occasionally tend to be semi-ring porous but are usually simply ring porous.

Ring Porous

In oak and ash, the pores are uniform in size and evenly distributes in the latewood while the largest pores are visible in the earlywood . Distinct figures and patterns are visible in these woods which become more pronounced because of the uneven uptake of stain. These are called open-grain woods as well.

Diffuse Porous

In species like maple, yellow poplar and cherry, the pores have a fairly even distribution across the latewood and earlywood. Small-diameter pores are found to in most domestic diffuse porous woods, while tropical types of this wood like mahogany have large pores in comparison. These woods typically have an even stain uptake and there is yet to be a scientifically proven explanation when it comes to singling out the cause of blotching). These types of woods are also called closed-grain woods.

Understanding and preventing Tear Out

Tear-out is something that is undeniably ugly for all woodworkers and woodworking projects. The key to preventing this from happening is by understanding why it happens in the first place. The first true dive into understanding wood and why tear out happens was started in the 1950s by Norman C. Franz. It showed how wood can fail when you use hand tools or power tools to cut it. With the use of a milling machine and a movie camera, Franz was able to make awesome photos that showed how certain cuts can grain to tear. Franz showed three types of cuts, stating that only one kind can lead to tearing. The tear-out depends on the line you are cutting at. Whether or not tear out happens depends on whether you are travelling above or below this line.

“Type I” Cut Against the Grain = Tear-out

A “Type I” cut can occur when you are cutting and the wood fails ahead of the edge. The cut goes deeper than is actually intended and this leads to the shaving being levered upwards, this happens mostly when the tool is cutting against the grain of the board. The failure happens because the cutter travels below the line and consequently you get tear out.

“Type I” Cut Along the Grain = No Tear-out

In a “Type I” cut, no tear out occurs because you are working along the grain of the board and the cutter is basically travelling above the line.

“Type II” Cut = No Tear-out

A “Type II” cut, regardless of whether it is against the grain or with it, the wood tends to fail right at the edge, but there is no tear-out. A “Type II” cut can be encouraged with the use of a sharp tool, a tight mouth aperture or a high angle of attack.

“Type III” Cut Can Cause a “Type I” Cut

A “Type III” cut can be achieved by using a high angle of attack and compressing the wood fibers at the cutting edge. However, this compressed wood may become problematic. It may become so compressed that it turns into a wedge and the wood fibers are levered up in front of the cutting edge, leading to consequently torn grain.

Understand Chisels and Chiseling techniques

chiseling wood
Chiseling hardwood can be dangerous.

Knowing the type of chisel you require is very essential to be able to get good at woodworking techniques.

Mortising Chisel:

It has a thick blade which allows the tool to be pushed with a mallet and helps in levering out waste in mortises. A variant of this chisel is the firmer chisel, also having a thick blade, although less thicker than a mortising chisel. It is made for work which is comparatively heavier. The butt chisel, is also a variant, it is a firm chisel and has a short blade.

Bevel-edge Chisel:

This tool can get into tight spaces because of the long edges which are at an angle. It is ideal for tight spaces like between dovetails. It cannot be used for heavy chopping. A common variant has a thinner, longer blade and is called a paring chisel.

Common Chiseling Techniques

  • The most important detail that needs to be looked after is the position you are at when using a particular tool. Be at a position where you can see the profile of the tool and determine it is at an angle of 90. Always use the cutting edge to define you layout lines.
  • When paring, it is important to have both control and power to get your desired result. For this, it is best to use one hand to push the tool and the other to steer the blade.
  • Scraping is also a very useful technique one can use, when working with a chisel. It is ideal for making hand-cut joints more clean, particularly rabbits and tenons.

If one is well versed in the above given woodworking tips and techniques, it is very easy to make rapid progress and to get to the next level.

Scroll to Top