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Blog entry by Michael Wilson posted 08-01-2011 04:40 PM 2193 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Happy Monday o/

I recently moved from a teeny one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn Heights to a house in the sticks a few hours north.

It’s a lot of space to fill. I get to have a reasonable dresser, a bed AND couch instead of a ratty old futon, etc.

I started furniture shopping and my jaw hit the floor. I half jokingly suggested to my favorite bartender that I could outfit a wood shop for the cost of the dresser I wanted and make my own ugly as sin but sturdy and functional furniture.

Well, one drink led to another and thoughts did the same and now I’ve got a router (no table), a table saw (on loan) and a bunch of clamps.

I have never worked with wood before. An absolute noob.

My first project was a box. Unplaned, unsanded, 6×6x12” internal dimensions. I cut it, glued it, clamped it and nailed it (brads, while clamped.) I’m pretty sure I could run over the thing with my car and it would hold. And yes, it’s ugly as sin. Don’t care. Love it.

So my next project is to be an end table…sort of. Two box structures on top of each other. Each box is 18×18 inches across the top, one foot high.

I’ve got two problems…ok 3.

1) The board I have is a foot wide. I cut a bunch down to 9” wide just to keep the join centered. But how should I be joining them? Or should I? Would it just be sufficient to nail (or otherwise fasten) these things down to the side pieces? From an aesthetic sense it wouldn’t bother me a bit.

2) The table saw I’m using only has a foot clearance on either side. So cuts longer than that (for instance, cutting board down to 17.25 for the sides) is a real challenge to keep square through the cut. I’ve GOT to be doing something wrong here. Wrong tool, bad technique. Something. I’ve burned through a lot of wood with bad cuts (I’ll certainly use the scrap. But I’d rather get it right.)

3) I do want to add some leap of technique, however miniscule, to this. I’m thinking I want to either put it together with dowels instead of glue or some other simple joining technique. (I’m a LONG way from cutting dovetails or box joints ;) )

Anyway if you made it this far, thanks for reading. And if you’ve got any advice, I’d certainly appreciate it.

- Mike

18 comments so far

View HallTree's profile


5666 posts in 4777 days

#1 posted 08-01-2011 05:43 PM

Mike, you are on the right track for starting-out woodworking. Before you start working with wood you first have to think SAFETY.
You say you built a box. If you did not get a kick-back while cutting on the table saw, you were lucky or you knew what you were doing. You might ask “what is kick-back’”. Good question. It happens when the saw blade grabs the wood and kicks it back to you. That hurts. Why does the saw blade grab the wood? It happens when the fence is not parallar with the blade or when you are using the miter guide and the fence at the same time. Not a good idea.
This can also happen when using a Router. a planer, etc.
This is just a few of many things you should know before you start using power tools.
I would suggest you go to the woodworking section of your local library and do a lot of reading on how to safely use woodworking tools.
Also, click on ‘Forums’ above and go down to ‘Safety in the woodworking shop’ and spend some time there.
I hope I have not put in your mind that it is no fun doing woodworking, but doing it safely is the only way.
Don’t worry about asking a lot of questions. There are a lot of woodworkers here that will help you along the way.
And, don’t forget to use ‘push sticks’. What is a ‘push stick’. You will read about them when you go to the library.

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 4738 days

#2 posted 08-01-2011 05:45 PM

If you are using the tablesaw fence to cut boards to length, you need to stop doing that right away. I could be misunderstanding what you meant when you talked about cutting a board to 17.25” though. Assuming you are using the fence, you will want to stop doing that and start using a miter gauge or a crosscut sled.

I know you are anxious to jump right in, but I’d strongly recommend a book or two to get started. While you can certainly buy all the tools, and probably most of the lumber, for less than the cost of a bedroom set, the real cost of furniture making is in the knowledge and/or experience. There is no reason you can’t build good stuff right from the start. Many people do and the evidence is all over this site, but the key is to understand the principles involved and to know how to use the tools safely before jumping in. I hope this helps!

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 4153 days

#3 posted 08-01-2011 05:52 PM

First off, welcome to LumberJocks! You have certainly come to the right place for woodworking knowledge. Now let me try to answer some of your questions. Be aware that these answers will raise two more questions each, and they multiply geometrically.

If your two boards have square and straight edges, all you have to do is put some titebond wood glue on each edge and clamp them together. The joint will be as strong as the board, if you try to break it, the wood will split before the glue fails.

As far as your table saw goes, I’m not really clear on your situation. Do you mean the TS capacity is only 12” ? Or is there stuff in the way(boxes, wall)? If it’s the capacity, it sounds like you have a bench top model. In this case, seek out a good circular saw (skilsaw) and use that in conjunction with a straight edge that’s clamped to your board for a straight cut. If it’s the second , move the boxes or move the saw, because it sounds like a dangerous situation. Kickback from a TS is not a laughing matter and tends to leave red spots on the floor.

As far as a new skill, have you mastered miter cuts yet?

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View willy66's profile


44 posts in 3612 days

#4 posted 08-01-2011 06:25 PM

Well Mike,

Welcome to the world (vortex) of woodworking. Let me make a few suggestions to you, that I wish others had made to me. Check out the book : “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” by Christopher Schwartz. He explains, (like you and most hobby woodworkers), how he started in woodworking because of low quality high priced crap that dominated the market. He also gives a good idea of what you really NEED to build, and what is nice to have.

Also, check out this place, its in Brooklyn, and they offer workshop space and tools at a reasonable-ish rate. This way you can see if your really interested in woodworking with minimal investment:

Also, check out this place…seems a little more expensive-

Check out the website- for awesome tools.

Agree with the guys, make sure you are practicing safety before all else…the router and especially the table saw can cause serious damage. There are many free outlets online to guide you through the basics. Ask questions, don’t be hesitant, because none of us know everything.

Good luck!

-- -Willy, White Plains, NY

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4280 days

#5 posted 08-01-2011 06:41 PM

First, welcome aboard….always room for someone wanting to enjoy this challenging hobby. I second all the info above….you can never be too safe in the shop…..remember it is not brave to work on a tool without eye, ear and hand protection…just foolhardy.

Remember never to do woodworking while drinking or while impaired on drugs…it is jut too dangerous. With those words in place…and after nearly 40+ years playing with wood….I can tell you that I still love it….I am still learning new things….I am still figuring out better and safer ways to use my tools. If anyone suggests they know it all….avoid them like a plague.

There is nothing more satisfying than making something useful…and something beautiful (nature helps here). I learned by listening, reading, watching, challenging myself, having lots and lots of patience (you will always make mistakes)...and most of all enjoying.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Richard's profile


1944 posts in 3700 days

#6 posted 08-01-2011 10:05 PM

I think everyone else has already given the advice you need, so all I can say is welcome and now that you have got started it is never going to end. The more you make the more you get hooked on makeing more.
And then there are more tools you will want to get as well. Have fun and let us know how your doing with it.

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3500 days

#7 posted 08-02-2011 02:29 AM


I go be busy for a couple hours and look what happens! You guys rock!

Ok, one at a time:

1) Yes, That’s really what I was doing, cutting a 4’ board into 18” lengths on a table saw with 12” of table on either side of the saw. It was pretty scary and perfectly clear that I was doing something wrong. On my way home I bought a circular saw, but now that I’ve got it here it seems… small. 6” blade. Debating returning it or using it. Could use help deciding soonish.

2) The phrase “kick-back” sounds perfectly descriptive. I’m guessing it means getting the unguided wood out of alignment with the blade such that a tooth at too acute an angle torques down on it and sends it flying back at you.

3) I know I probably have more finishing technique within reach, to produce attractive first-pieces. But one thing I’ve learned about the way I learn is that “adding one technique at a time” is critical. I’ve been a software guy for 30+ years. I teach myself most that I know. So I’ll make a bunch of “boxy but good” stuff without reservations.

Thanks for the book and site resources. Anarchist’s Tool Chest doesn’t show up on amazon. But if it exists, I’ll find it.

Thanks for your help. It’ll be a couple projects deep before I start even taking pictures to post.

View clieb91's profile


4208 posts in 4944 days

#8 posted 08-02-2011 02:40 AM

Welcome to LumberJocks and the madness of getting into the woodworking hobby. I too joined the ranks when I refused to pay retail price for my office suite. I am still working on getting the entire ensemble assembled but love doing it and all the other projects. The folks here are great and have no problems answering questions.

Got a lot of good information in the notes above, the main one I will second is check out your local library. I know mine was huge help, still waiting for them to get some woodworking books I have not borrowed at least twice.

Good Luck and look forward to seeing some projects, no matter how ugly they might look. Just take a look at my first project I posted on here :)


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2080 posts in 3649 days

#9 posted 08-02-2011 02:50 AM

Welcome to Lumberjocks, madwilliamflint.

That’s a great definition of kickback, and I’d say you’ve got the idea.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3500 days

#10 posted 08-02-2011 02:58 AM

Yeah. I’m guessing that’s bad.

Is a 6” framing circular saw a mistake or “just a little small”?

View Manitario's profile


2818 posts in 3892 days

#11 posted 08-02-2011 05:09 AM

Welcome to the expensive, addictive world of wood working. As you’ll see by my projects, I’m only a beginner myself. What I’ve found helpful though, is to get a couple of basic books on wood working, especially on using powertools. Tauton press publishes a great book on tablesaws, and another on routers which have helped me a lot in learning how to use these tools, safely. I basically read through them before I even started using the tools Would also recommend being an avid reader of some of the woodworking magazines.

In answer to your specific question; a 6” circ saw will be fine to cross cut your boards, depending on the thickness of them; I think that a 6” blade will be able to cut wood up to ~2” thick.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3500 days

#12 posted 08-02-2011 05:13 AM

Yep, thanks. That’s about what I’ve done. A couple magazine subscriptions, a couple book purchases, tools as I need them and LOTS of sawdust.

Plus I’ve got the machine shop setup I’m getting my feet wet with. That’s going to help me tool up to be sure. There are already a couple woodworking jigs I’m planning on making from steel.

Looks like the 6” is a little small, but the more I think about it the more it seems like it will be fine for an awful lot of what I’m going to be doing, so I’ll stick with it.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3664 days

#13 posted 08-02-2011 03:17 PM

I’ll be the guy who says it. It sounds like you are pretty limited on space, and your work area shares a space with your living space.

Have you considered hand tool use? Ripping an 8 foot long board by hand takes about 9 ft worth of space, doing it with a table saw takes about 18. Not to mention kickback is a non-issue with hand tools (but be careful with chisels and hatchets). If you get a jack plane and a straight blade, you should be able to joint the top with a simple glue joint that will hold together well. If you never want to be stumped crosscutting a board get yourself a Disston d-8 or d-23 (both are 8tpi) and use it. I would recommend this saw to you even if you were a power tool fiend, as it’s a great tool to take to the lumberyard to break down stock for the trip home.

Here is a link to the Anarchist's Tool Chest and I will second the recommendation.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3500 days

#14 posted 08-02-2011 04:06 PM

I’ve got a full (small) house to work with occupied only by me. I moved from a teeny apartment, but in to a house in the sticks. Currently the makeshift woodworking/machine shop is the basement, though once I get the 20×20 add-on room floor finished (epoxy paint) the machining gear is going in there, so that will free up the basement for all kinds of woodworking/home brewing madness.

BUT I am quite interested in hand tools.

Thanks for the link. That’ll be on it’s way soon.

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3500 days

#15 posted 08-02-2011 05:32 PM

Ok, a few other people have convinced me that $100 is too much for a circular saw that I’m eventually going to outgrow. So back it goes tonight. I’ll probably end up spending up for the 7.

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