Proper use of woodworking tools makes projects easier | Siouxland Homes

Dear James: I just moved into a house and bought a toolbox and general woodworking/carpenter hand tool set. Do you have any general advice on how to use the various tools? — Jenny L.

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Dear Jenny: Woodworking tools can be used for much more than just traditional cabinetmaking types of projects. Many do-it-yourself new and repair projects around your house will involve working with wood and other woodlike materials.

With relatively inexpensive, but powerful, cordless tools available today, many tasks that used to require hand-tool expertise can be done quicker with cordless tools. There is still a sense of satisfaction one gets from doing a project or making something from wood using hand tools as the old timers did. You will find various types of wood have their own “personalities.”

One of the most common tasks for a woodworker is making joints by hand for furniture, cabinets or storage boxes. A standard straight box joint, with interlocking fingers, is both strong and relatively easy to make. It is done by making several precise saw cuts in the edge of the wood and then using a chisel to create a square notch.

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The first hand tool you will use is a carpenter’s square. You will use this to draw cut lines perpendicular to the edge of the wood. To be a good woodworker, it is imperative to learn to be able to make a straight saw cut to a line.

A backsaw is used to make the straight cuts. A backsaw has a very rigid top, so the blade stays straight and true. Your uncle probably left you an American and a Japanese backsaw. The American saw cuts on the push stroke and the Japanese cuts on the pull stroke. For a beginner, a Japanese backsaw is easier to use to cut on a line.

The key to using a backsaw is to keep your arm lined up with the saw handle and your wrist steady. Take your time making the cut and let the weight of the saw do the cutting. There is no need to exert a strong downward force. Keep in mind that woodworking is an art, so enjoy it and don’t rush through each task.

A chisel is typically used to clean out a joint that has already been sawed. It removes wood along the end grain. You may have seen someone chopping through a piece of wood with a hammer and a hand chisel. This will work, but the cuts are not always precise, and the wood surface can be damaged.

Instead of using a chopping motion with a chisel, use a paring technique to slowly remove slivers until the joint is cleaned out. This requires a very sharp chisel and no hammer. Make straight downward cuts, holding the chisel as vertical as possible. Once you hit the line on one side, flip the piece over and make your final square cut from the other side.

A hand plane can be used to produce a smooth surface or to size a piece of wood. Make sure the blade is sharp. When planning, you must shift your weight from the front handle to the back as you move across the piece. Make many thin cuts.

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