Rules of Woodworking, Rules of the Shop

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by JK0702 posted 08-15-2012 02:48 PM 3050 views 0 times favorited 41 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JK0702's profile


138 posts in 3209 days

08-15-2012 02:48 PM

As I’m fairly new to this site, I have found the forum topics very interesting and enlightening. One of the most helpful was the “Acronym Glossary” posted recently. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful/interesting to know what are the rules of woodworking, or rules of the shop that you employ. For example, there’s the obvious, “Measure twice, cut once”, but I’ve also picked up other gems such as:

- Only one person pushes a board through the saw
- Crosscut with the mitre gauge, rip with the fence
- Always unplug the saw when changing the blade
- Always router left to right (why, by the way?)

One that I’ve seen, but still don’t know the rule, is the thumb and finger rule for routing. Can anybody explain that one?

So I’m interested to know your “Rules of the Shop” ... or simply your “Rules of Woodworking”, and any explanation or description that would help. Any takers?


-- John - Huntington Beach, CA --- Growth occurs when we get out of our comfort zone.

41 replies so far

View agallant's profile


551 posts in 3964 days

#1 posted 08-15-2012 02:57 PM

Here is my #1 rule. The shop is not a storage area for the wife. She does not even have a key to it.

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 4162 days

#2 posted 08-15-2012 03:09 PM

I live by this guys rules:

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View woodenwarrior's profile


255 posts in 3272 days

#3 posted 08-15-2012 03:13 PM

I have a couple actually…

#1 (taught by my Dad to me when I was a kid) “Don’t ever fear the power tool, respect it for what it can do to you”

#2 Mistakes happen. Fix them or deal with them and move on.

#3 Even though you may have used the tool a thousand times, check your set-up again. I don’t know how many times I’ve overlooked something as small as tightening a collar on my laminate router only to figure it out as my new beautiful piece has an odd edge…in this cae refer to rule #2.

-- Do or do not...there is no try - Master Yoda

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4310 days

#4 posted 08-15-2012 03:28 PM

I have several shop rules that I need to organize, get printed and post on the wall.

#1. No you may not borrow my tools. #2. NEVER attempt to take my attention away from any task I am doing when operating any powered equipment, or anything with sharp edges such as chisels, planes etc… #3. The storage area allotted for lawn and garden is limited to that area, it is not to intrude into the shop area, or vise versa. #4. Smoking is absolutely forbidden in my shop. (for safety as well as health reasons). #5. Operation of any power equipment, or anything with a sharp edge shuch as chisels / planes etc… is forbidden once ANY alcohol is consumed. Simply put, the first drink brings shop time to an end. The phrase “hold my beer and watch this” doesn’t impress anyone other than the paramedics. #6. You want to come out and visit in the shop while I clean? Great! You want to help clean. No problem as long as you verify with me where things are supposed to go. Last thing I need to find is my taps in the drill bit index. #7. If the do not enter sign is on the man door, obey it. Sometimes quiet things need to be left alone, such as when finishing. I want the air to be as undisturbed as possible… #8. Please ask me if you want to do some sort of work in here. (usually painting craft projects or what not). That way I can prepare the space for you so that you don’t hurt yourself, of those things around you. Remember there are sharp, pointy, spinny things in here. #9. None shall enter my shop unaccompanied by me. There are things that can hurt you in there. Again, I can prepare things so that the sharp pointy world isn’t quite so harsh…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View LukieB's profile


966 posts in 3408 days

#5 posted 08-15-2012 03:43 PM

I like all the suggestions so far, especially DBhost’s list. I agree that once the beer comes out, no more sharp objects or power tools….except the palm sander. I don’t know, something about sanding makes me wanna drink :)

More of a saying than a rule but I also like “A clean shop is a safe shop” Crap on the floor or piled up on a bench or outfeed table can become a safety issue in the middle of a cut or operation. I also say “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place.” Yeah…I’m one of those guys, LOL

-- Lucas, "Someday woodworks will be my real job, until then, there's this"

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3326 days

#6 posted 08-15-2012 03:57 PM

Here are a few to add since my wife as recently taken to woodworking and joins me quite a bit:

1 – If I am wearing safety gear (respirator, eye/hearing protection) so are you. I don’t care where you are or what you are doing.

2 – If I am at the table saw or router table, you aren’t doing anything until I am done. You are also not standing in front of or behind me.

3 – Clean up your dust after each operation. I hate piles of saw dust (no proper dust collection yet)

4 – no sanding or cutting while finishing is in progress (applies to each of us)

5 – Don’t touch any settings on anything ever. I will set up the cuts ( cutter/blade height or angle, fences, jigs, featherboards, edge guides, etc). If you need something set up, ask. Also, do not make any cuts until I have set it up

6 – If I find a cutting impliment such as a saw blade, drill bit, router bit, chisel, etc out of place or tossed on a bench after use, it’s game over forever. I take very good care of my stuff in order to make sure it stays clean and sharp. If one of my 50+ dollar router bits rolls off the bench onto the concrete, I am going to be pissed. Alternately if you don’t tell me that happens and the carbide breaks up the next time I use it due to a stress fracture, I will be even more pissed


View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 3266 days

#7 posted 08-15-2012 04:24 PM

JK0702 :
“Routing left to right” is not always correct. If you think of an edge as an inside or outside edge (eg take a doughnut shape, with an inside circle and an outside circle) ,the proper characterization is “rout the inside in a clockwise fashion, rout the outside in a counterclockwise fashion”.

The thinking here, of course, is that you want to oppose the tendency of the router to “run along the wood” due to bit rotation.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4386 days

#8 posted 08-15-2012 04:30 PM

I have been routing for many years and I always rout counterclockwise. I presume this is right to left and I works just fine and gets the results I want. I guess it depends on if you are using a hand held router of a table mounted router (upside down opposed to right side up).

View NedB's profile


659 posts in 4643 days

#9 posted 08-15-2012 04:30 PM

I’m trying to train my family that when I’ve got a tool running, IF they come out to visit or ask a random question, that they need to wait until I turn it off before trying to get my attention. So far it seems to be working. and I still have only the usual allotment of 10 digits, vs say, 9.5 or 11

-- Ned - 2B1ASK1

View pintodeluxe's profile


6373 posts in 3891 days

#10 posted 08-15-2012 04:37 PM

I would like to speak to the router rule. Basically 1+ with what Montecristo said.
The way I phrase it is …
“Counterclockwise, endgrain first. Unless inside a frame, then clockwise.”
Rout the endgrain first – because if there is any tearout, the long grain pass will clean it up.
Following these rules will help you control the router.
There are rare exceptions for advanced woodworkers, when you can reverse this direction when making very tiny trimming cuts (1/16” or less material to remove).

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View JK0702's profile


138 posts in 3209 days

#11 posted 08-15-2012 04:46 PM

MonteCristo & Pintodeluxe … thanks for the clarification on the router rule, it makes sense now.

-- John - Huntington Beach, CA --- Growth occurs when we get out of our comfort zone.

View nwbusa's profile


1023 posts in 3364 days

#12 posted 08-15-2012 04:58 PM

Yep, routing with (or in) the direction of the bit rotation is known as climb cutting and can be very dangerous if you don’t take special precautions.

My shop rules are pretty simple. Don’t touch any of my stuff without asking me first. Aside from that, common sense usually prevails (even with a wife and three daughters who sometimes forget that my machines are not temporary counter tops, places to lean their bicycles against, etc….)

-- John, BC, Canada

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9884 posts in 3406 days

#13 posted 08-15-2012 05:00 PM

1. Don’t rush it…. if I’m in a hurry… time to stop.
2. If the DC or Shop Vac is on… ears are on.
3. all tools are unplugged when blades or bits are changed.
4. the TS gaurd only comes off when I dado or use the sled.
5. Dust mask goes on whenever I power sand.
6. kids must pay attention and do exactly what I say, when I say it, or they can’t be in the shop.

obtw…. I think climb cutting has a place…. but is best left to operations done on the router table.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View Richard's profile


400 posts in 3769 days

#14 posted 08-15-2012 05:16 PM

I have a few simple rules:

For others:
If I am in the shop, you’re not.
If a power tool is in use, wait outside until I am done before you attempt to get my attention.
Don’t touch my tools without my explicit permission.

For me:
No power tool use if alcohol has been recently consumed.

-- "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

View ITnerd's profile


263 posts in 3677 days

#15 posted 08-15-2012 05:33 PM

Good Eye Protection is cheap, eyes are not; keep multiple pairs around the shop, and use them for any High speed cutting, Grinding or impact work, be it hand or power tools. The reason I say good and multiple pairs is this – if they’re low quality and hard to see through, you may not use them. If there’s a single pair and it gets smudged, you may put them down until you can clean them.

If you cannot guarantee that people not approach you during critical table saw or router table manuevers, get a mirror/CCTV, etc, whatever you need to prevent being startled. Keep distractions to a minimum; the first time I had a router table kickback was due to a cell phone on vibrate in my pocket. it went off right as I was feeding into the bit, I looked down thinking something had vibrated loose in the table, and bang – fed it in off kilter and destroyed the piece and a perfectly good pair of boxers.

Pre-flight Checklist
I’m away from my shop now, but if memory serves, this list is printed in 36 point font on the door.

Eye & Ear Protection On?
Featherboard & Fences in place? Pushsticks/Grippers ready and set correctly?
Bits and Blades tightened?
Long sleeves rolled up & Rings/Watches Off?
Do I understand the start/middle/end of the cut, and how I’ll divert/abort if things go wrong?
Where will I be standing at the start/middle/end of the cut?
Where should the main piece end up? The off-cut?

You don’t need it written down, but running through this list before each operation helps me ensure I’ve checked the critical boxes, and also gets me focused on the work at hand. Many times I thought I was ready, ran through this list and found one or two things I didn’t have solid in my mind.

I know some of the old timers and pro’s will laugh at a list, but I did not grow up around power tools, and do not use them often enough to have it ingrained in me yet.

In terms of router cutting direction, +1 to MonteCristo – the general goal is to avoid or carefully control the situations where you make a climb cut – ie feed wood in the direction that cutting is occurring. Normally, you will feed ‘against’ the cutting direction of the router bit.

There are times when you will want/need to do climb cuts, but you need to understand the problems it poses and plan accordingly (use power feed or very solid work-holding techniques and jigs) or avoid it all together.

Also, make sure to start a curved/fenceless flush trimming operation with the ‘pin’ in place to steady the work. Failure to do so can also ruin a piece and/or boxer shorts.

Stay Safe,

-- Chris @ Atlanta - JGM - Occam's razor tells us that when you hear hoofs, think horses not zebras.

showing 1 through 15 of 41 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics