Beginners Guide To Woodworking Tools

Correct use of hand tools is important, both for safety and to achieve a high standard of work.

Cutting. Always saw on the waste side of timber. As you near the end of the cut, support the wood so it does not break off and splinter.

Hand saw. Use three fingers and the thumb as a clamp on the saw handle to steady the work. Stand with the feet comfortably apart in a boxer-like stance; the body should be relaxed. Make sure that your body does not obstruct the work, for this may throw the saw off line. The arm should be able to move with a piston action and not catch against the body.

Start sawing at the front of the work.

Use your thumb as a guide and first make a small, backward movement at an angle of about 45 deg. Then allow the saw to drop on to the work across the marked cut line. Initially, keep the blade vertical during cutting. The blade should be in a position that enables the eye to sight down the cut line without contorting the body. Gradually allow the saw blade to fall while cutting until the handle end is on the guide line.

Use a steady, easy-flowing movement and avoid short, jerky strokes, as these may cause the saw to move off line. Allow the saw to cut with its own weight and avoid excess pressure.

Tenon saw. This should be held with its teeth almost parallel with the work surface. Use your left thumb to guide the blade for the starting cut. Draw the saw backwards two or three times, for as much as possible of the length.

Keep your line of vision over the saw, as this helps to keep a straight line. Once you reach the bottom of the cut, make three or four extra strokes so that you do not leave a protruding fibre fringe.

Planing. Use the plane with long, even strokes. Set the plane iron to remove only a thin sliver of waste. Plane with the grain and from each end in turn. Test the surface for squareness by holding a straight edge across it up to the light; there should not be a visible gap

Chiselling. Chisels are used for paring, cleaning up saw cuts or for chopping out, together with a mallet or a soft-faced hammer.

When paring, keep the free hand from straying in front of the cutting edge. For horizontal paring, hold the work in a vice and the chisel with both hands.

Hammering. Drive the hammer using a short upward swing and follow through. To reduce the risk of hammer “bruises” on the surface, keep the hammer parallel with the surface for the last few strokes.

Marking. Mark the best face side of timber with a looped letter “I” and the best face edge with a small letter “x”. These are carpenter’s marks to show which are the best faces.

To set a marking gauge, adjust the crosspiece with a rule to the distance required from the spike. Slide the tool up to the edge of the piece of timber being marked. The crosspieces keeps the spike at a constant distance from the edge, while the spike scribes a straight line. Mark always against the grain to prevent the grain from pulling the spike into the non-waste section of the wood. Mark away from the poorer timber edge.

Hold the timber with three fingers and the gauge with one finger and thumb so that the stock of the gauge is against the face edge of the work. Do not push but drag the gauge spike so as to provide a firm, clean line for planing. Continue the line right round the work; always mark from the face edge.

Drilling. Spot-mark with a punch the point of drilling, first marking the centre with a cross. This prevents the drill tip from wandering. Keep the drill sighted upright. Make a pilot hole and then progressively use larger bits. Keep the drill hole free from debris.

To withdraw the drill, slide it backwards while continuing to turn in the direction of drilling.

Try-square. Hold the stock of the square firmly on the face edge of the work, with three fingers and the thumb forming a clamp. Ensure that the work is held steady as you mark with knife or pencil.

Bench hook. A work aid which you can make is a bench hook. This is used to hold timber firmly when cutting with a tenon saw. The hook consists of a baseboard and two battens at each end, one at the top and the other underneath. The battens are slightly shorter than the base width, to serve as a guide for the saw. The board is reversible in use.

Power tools.

The basic power tool is the electric drill as this can accept a variety of attachments. Buy a twin- or multi-speed drill to provide maximum versatility.

Power-drill attachments include saws, jig saws, orbital and disc sanders and paint stirrers.

Putting up shelves

There are three main types of shelving: cantilevered, bridging and framed. Cantilevered shelving is a system of adjustable brackets which fit into wall-mounted columns. The columns must be spaced so that the load is supported without sagging of the timber shelf. The shelving is normally fitted to brackets made of steel, aluminium or timber. Metal brackets are made in various colours and finishes.

  • Cantilevered shelving has the advantage that the height can be easily altered to suit various arrangements and storage requirements. It can take relatively heavy loads.
  • Bridging is generally used in a recess and is ideal for alcoves. Here, perforated metal strips are fitted to side walls. Small metal toggles or pegs fit into these to support the wooden shelf.
  • In addition to solid wood, veneered chipboard can be used for this shelving. In some cases, glass presents an attractive finish but the edges of the glass need to be smoothed (arrised) for safety.
  • Framed shelving is free-standing, with a frame of steel or wood and shelves which slot into the frame, It is very stable but can be clumsy for domestic use.
  • Baskets and drawers can slot into metal framework with runners in a variety of proprietary systems. These can be fitted into cupboards, under kitchen work surfaces or beneath washbasins.
  • Fixing. Shelf-fixing methods are similar to those for hanging cupboards. It is important that the fixing is adequate for the load to be carried.

Fixing cupboards

One of the most common jobs around the home is fixing cupboards and shelving.

Wall cupboards must be anchored firmly to walls. It is also important that they are carefully lined up; a cupboard fixed out of true will quickly catch the eye and the error will always be apparent.

It is easier to paint wall cupboards before hanging them. Make sure, however, that the paint is dry before handling the cupboards, or you may have to prepare and paint them afresh.

While the height of cupboards, particularly above worktops, is an individual choice, a good, general height is about 17 in. (or 43 cm) between a worktop and the base of a wall cupboard.

1 Start by holding up the cupboard and, with help, test whether the height is convenient. For everyday access to it, you should not have to crane and stretch or stand on steps.

2 Once the height has been established, mark a guide mark on the wall along the bottom of the cupboard. In theory, matching wall cupboards should be fixed so that the bases are in line. This assumes that floor, worktop and ceiling are level, but this is seldom the case. So check. Establish also whether the distance from a worktop to the ceiling is the same at both ends. If you correct a visual error beneath the cupboard, make sure that you do not accentuate any error above it.

3 Once you have established the position of the bottom edge of the cupboard, use a straight edge to mark the horizontal line of the second cupboard if one is to go alongside the first. Mark accurate vertical lines, using a spirit level. If the wall is uneven, small packing timber wedges can be inserted at the back of the cupboard or cupboards to correct this.

4 During fixing, you should constantly check all levels.

5 Firm anchoring is essential. Masonry walls need to be plugged with a proprietary fibre, metal or plastic plug.

Toggle fixings.

It is possible to hang cupboards on dry-lined walls using toggle fixings. These comprise gravity toggles, with a swivel toggle which drops vertically when inserted through a pre-made hole; spring toggles, which have two spring-loaded gripping arms which expand after the toggle is pushed through a hole; and nylon toggles, fasteners with a slotted collar which slips over a nylon strip attached to the toggle. These provide fixing points for screws and collapsible anchors which remain in place if the screw is removed. Drilling. When drilling masonry walls, use a sharp carborundum-tipped bit. Hard walls or concrete are best drilled using a power hammer drill with a percussive bit. A hand drill can also be used or you can use a hammer and a jumper.

In general, use a No. 8 masonry bit in a hand or power drill. Drill lightly into the plaster with a No. 8 wood twist bit.

On smaller wall units, four No. 8 screws, each about 3 in. (7.5 cm) long, one in each corner, should be sufficient. On larger cupboards, six or more screws may be needed.

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