Learning Curve #15: 6 months in and counting

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Blog entry by MsDebbieP posted 08-01-2007 08:05 PM 1550 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 14: past to present Part 15 of Learning Curve series Part 16: Router Phobia »

I am now in the second half of my first year of woodworking and I thought that perhaps it was a good time to look back and assess my progress as well as set some goals for the future.

The latest challenge, the Summer Awards, was an eye-opener for me, as I realized that my skills had indeed reached a new level.

It was only this past January that I decided that it was time to try my hand at the hobby that had intrigued me for years but I had no experience with. Although i didn’t (and don’t) expect to be really good at this, I did know that I would enjoy working with wood regardless of the outcome.

My first real project that I took on by myself, other than some pyrography, was my little dolphin napkin holder which still sits in my kitchen. napkin holder

It was impressive, really, having never touched a scroll saw before or even watched one in action.

My goal, although I was focusing on scrollwork at the time, was to make a box—just a box… any box—and so with the scrollsaw (the only tool that I knew how to use, other than the mitre saw) my first box was created.

just a box, any box

This now sits on my daughter’s desk in her music class, filled with paper clips.

Somewhere around this time, I was challenged (what would I do without you guys) to enter the Summer Challenge, and for some reason I took you up on the challenge. But, before summer arrived there was another challenge that took place – a little Thorsen Table—and my “just a box” goal grew legs.

This accomplishment is perhaps, and shall probably remain so, my greatest achievement. Not because it is so amazing, but because it was, so I thought, way beyond my abilities AND of course because it is made from willow, which I had fallen in love with during the creation of some other boxes. But I took the plunge, with the support of my fellow LumberJocks and the “masterpiece” was created. It is my favourite piece of furniture in my house.
Thorsen Table challenge

And then came the Summer Awards and the box I made for my Mom’s 80th birthday. No screws. And not “just a box” but a box with meaning, a box with decoration…
As I built this box, it was interesting to watch myself, over my shoulder, (oh this MsDebbieP thing is giving me a split personality I think) haaha.. .but I was fascinated by the knowledge that I used while building the box. I thought out steps, knowing what was going to come next; I knew a whole lot of “what not to do” and what to watch out for—and I remembered them all :)
The process wasn’t just a “one step at a time” but a step towards a vision, intertwined with other steps. Yes, this box symbolizes a new level of skill for me.

more than just a box

My journey might be slower than some; I might be a little (or lot) more timid than most re: using the tools and trying new techniques, but I am still moving forward, still progressing and still proud of my achievements.

What is next? I have no idea but I’m sure there are some fellow LumberJocks who have a thought or two on that!! :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

14 comments so far

View Max's profile


56000 posts in 4787 days

#1 posted 08-01-2007 08:11 PM


You have the right to be very proud of your achievements, not only in woodworking but in the emag for Lumberjocks and just your participation in this site. It is always a joy for me to read your blogs, comments and see your woodworking skills at work. Proud you bet you should be!!!!!!!!!!

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View PanamaJack's profile


4483 posts in 4592 days

#2 posted 08-01-2007 08:41 PM

Debbie, you have come a long way. We all are proud of what you have accomplished in just a short period of time.

A couple of years from now, this will be but a faded memory. By then you will have gone off and gone “Pro” on us “minor leaguers” back here at LumberJocks. Just keep it going!

-- Carpe Lignum; Tornare Lignum (Seize the wood, to Turn the wood)

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4814 days

#3 posted 08-01-2007 08:49 PM

It won’t be long, and people will be asking for your advice on how to do things.

Maybe they already have.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4675 days

#4 posted 08-01-2007 08:49 PM

hahah that’s funny, P.J. lol :)

Thanks Max, PJ, Dick.

No, nobody is asking advice yet, but I’m full of it!! lol

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4821 days

#5 posted 08-01-2007 08:50 PM

love the first item, but what kind of fish is a “SNIKPAN”?

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4675 days

#6 posted 08-01-2007 08:53 PM

I’m not sure Rob, but it looks like it is a PAN fish :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View john's profile


2382 posts in 4896 days

#7 posted 08-01-2007 08:54 PM

Wow Debbie you sure fooled me
I thought you have been a woodworker for years.
You have the enthusiasm and you certainly aren’t short on creative ideas.

-- John in Belgrave (Website) ,

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4821 days

#8 posted 08-01-2007 08:55 PM

oh napkins….silly me :)

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4675 days

#9 posted 08-01-2007 09:55 PM

how kind of you, John. :)

Rob—a little dyslexic this afternoon?? :D

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Joel Tille's profile

Joel Tille

213 posts in 4759 days

#10 posted 08-02-2007 02:00 AM

Debbie – this is Susie (Joel’s wife) I think your work is awsome and your attitude even better! I need to find some of that within myself. It’s too easy to just ask Joel to make it for me. I think of myself as being creative, just not much of a doer. Thanks for the inspiration! Suz

-- Joel Tille

View Karson's profile


35202 posts in 4915 days

#11 posted 08-02-2007 02:11 AM

Glad to have you online Suz. Tell Joel to move over and let you sign-in with your own name. So we’ll know who we are talking to.

Debbie: Great job. You’ve never been lacking on talents – just skills. And, they are coming along. Get over your fear of table saws and routers by starting like Obi says ” we take large pieces of wood, and make them small. Then we take small pieces of wood and make them large.” So take some larger pieces of wood and run them through the saw so you can see how to hold them and push them safely. Then an additional skill will emerge. You can just keep going. The doweling has come and gone. You’ve gained a new skill. Time to move in additional ways.

Once you do your wonder why you were afraid, or timid. Or looked to Rick for his efforts to help. It’s not hard. I spent 6 hours today cutting on the table saw at the toy club. Only once did a small piece of wood get into a position where it could be out of control. We stepped back, turned off the saw and removed the wayward piece. It was a small piece of cuttoff that could have gone flying and we didn’t want to touch it while the saw was on.

I don’t want to scare you, but I want you to work safe, and I want you to expand your skill set.

Enough said.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4494 days

#12 posted 08-02-2007 03:23 AM

Hi Debbie,

It certainly appears as though you’ve come a long way in a short amount of time.

Some food for thought: There’s no rush. Learn at your own pace. A certain amount of fear of power tools is quite healthy. Some call it respect. I still maintain a healthy respect for my tools and machines. And I hope that never goes away.

Since I am unaware your experience level, I want to throw in a few tips. I hope I’m not preaching to the chior. If so, forgive me.

I never turn on my saw without thing first thinking if what I’m doing is safe. If I’m uncertain, I’ll do it another way. Unless cutting only part way through the board, ALWAYS use an anti kick back device. Even if you use no other guards on the saw, use that one. If you’ve ever seen a board leaving the saw at a couple hundred miles per hour, you’ll know why. A board sticking out of your forehead makes it difficult to turn corners.

The router, (your friend), has a few things to watch. Always keep two hands on it. Try to develope the habit of letting the bit stop spinning prior to removing it from your work. This way you are less likely to damage the workpiece, and even more important, brushing against your leg with the spinning bit. What a mess that makes.
Make several light passes , instead of one heavy one. Its easier on the tool motor, the cutting bit and you.

A router bit spins clockwise, so rout from the left to the right. The exceptions are if the router is mounted upside down in a table, so right to left is the proper way to go. If routing a wood that is prone to tearout, you can make LIGHT passes from right to left. When the cut is almost complete, make the final pass or two in the proper direction.

An easy way to dertemine if it is prone to tearout is look at the top of the board you are about to rout an edge detail on. Looking at the grain, see if it starts at the edge of the board, and goes in towards the center of the board, in the direction you are routing. If it does, with the bit turning clockwise, the bit can grab a piece of grian and tear it along the grain line, causing a big tearout. If the grain starts in the middle of the board, and heads out towards the edge, if the bit grabs some grain, it will tear it out towards the edge, rendering it harmless. On a curved piece, we often end up routing from two different directions, so we are able to minimize tearout. A lso, the speed of feeding the router is important. Too fast, and you’ll have a rougher surface than necessary. Too slow, will burn the workpiece.

Sometimes in spite of your best efforts, burns will still occur. An easy way to deal with them is sand them with wet / dry sandpaper, dipped in mineral spirits. This speeds up the process considerably. On very rough or highly figured boards, I’ll spray the wood itself with mineral spirts, prior to routing it. It cuts down on tearout and burning, resulting in smoother work, and less wear and teart on the bit and router. This will not effect the finish in any way, as it evaporates quickly. I use this with carving as well. Not only does it help in cutting the wood, it also shows what the wood will look like when finished. It exaggerates the flaws, making them easier to see.

Running boards through the jointer and planner is the same as far as what direction to feed the board. You always want the tear out to leave the board, not travel deeper into it. (whenever possible).
When the cut is almost complete, make the final pass or two in the proper direction. On boards where the grain is wild, pick the lesser of two evils. Mineral spirits will help here as well.

Another important tidbit is always use sharp blades. Dull bits have more resistance so you have to push them harder. Doing so is more likely to cause accidents.

I hope I haven’t spoken about something you already know, but I just wanted to be sure you do know it.



-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4829 days

#13 posted 08-02-2007 03:27 AM

You are doing great just remember the long run goal of woodworking is to be able to count to ten on your fingers. Everything else is just showing off!

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4051 posts in 4578 days

#14 posted 08-02-2007 04:42 AM

You make me proud to know you everyday. I see the exuberance and bonhomie you bring to these pages, and every newbie that is here long learns that you have a word of encouragement or direction to give them (and if it’s something you don’t know you tell them who to ask). No fakery, no super-expert snobbery (not that I see much of that around here from any of the LJocks). The good humor you have shown me in the “Where In The World” quest and it’s collateral incarnations has been nothing short of miraculous.

So about the wood and the acquisition of skills. Just let your inner artist lead you to the projects you want to accomplish. If you don’t know how to do it, I have no fear that you will ask for assistance when needed. And I am also sure you know who to ask about any skill set that might come up. Just be patient, practice safety first and enjoy the ride. Anything you want to learn or do is within your grasp (as to whether it’s within the budget is always a question up for grabs with most of us here). Here’s to years along the journey… Salud!

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

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