There it was. A beautiful cabinet that stood tall and deep with a beautiful wood grain finish that was as smooth as glass to the touch. Large deep shelves made up the bulk of the cabinet. Inlaid panel doors enclosed a velvet lined storage area near the bottom and a scroll faÃ§ade crowned the top. It was a beauty to behold and I experienced a great deal of satisfaction and pride having planned and created my first wood piece.
I was just seventeen when I built that cabinet. I remember the feeling of satisfaction like it was yesterday. There is a certain feeling that nothing else can match when you create something beautiful out of a chunk of wood. With a wide variety of species, wood lends itself to a countless number of uses that is enjoyed by both beginning and advanced woodworkers. Woodworking is a reliably inexpensive and ready source of material that instills pride and a sense of accomplishment to the woodworker as he or she creates and finishes a given project. Woodworking can also be a therapeutic source of relief after a stressful days work. Few things in life offer the satisfaction of woodworking!
A Brief History of Woodworking
Woodworking as a craft can be traced back as far as the Egyptian and Chinese civilizations. Ancient Egyptians created pieces of furniture from wood and these have been found preserved in tombs. Mortise and tendon joints are attested as early as 3100 BC. Ancient Chinese furniture is famous for its intractable glueless and nailless joinery. Later in the New Kingdom period, 16th to 11th century BC, animal glue came to be used.
Throughout the years as human skills developed and with advances in techniques and design, woodworking became works of art. Skills such as parquetry, carpet and wood carving became part of the beautiful concepts in the art of woodworking. Today with advances in tools, materials and the availability of easy-to-follow plans, anyone can experience the satisfaction and joy of woodworking!
Time and space for this article does not allow for an in-depth discussion of the best wood types to be used; although most woodworking projects fall into three different categories; softwoods, hardwoods and plywood, the latter being manufactured panels. Most beginning woodworkers start out using softwoods. The more common softwoods come from trees that are cone-bearing, such as evergreens. Softwood such as pine and spruce are easy to work with and do not require expensive tools to obtain a good result. Most softwood tends to absorb moisture when left in the outside weather, so a durable finish should be used when creating outdoor projects.
Hardwood comes from trees that shed their foliage annually. The more common hardwoods are cherry, oak, poplar, walnut, maple, ash and birch. Stains and clear finish coatings accentuate the grain patterns of hardwoods better than softwood, thereby making hardwood a desired material for high quality furniture and smaller pieces of art. Cutting and working with hardwoods require more expensive and very sharp tools.
Plywood is made from uneven layers of wood laminated together or a type of manufactured sheet. Plywood can be purchased with a thin finished layer of hardwood called 'veneers' and are great for cabinet or large pieces requiring flat surfaces. Advances in manufacturing and technology have allowed for the production of 'man-made' wood materials; however for the purpose of this article we prefer to stick with nature's wood.
Working with Nature's Wood
Most wood that is available for purchasing today has already been discharged and ready for woodworking. Freshly cut wood needs to 'season' for a minimum of six months in a particular prepared dry environment, so for this article we will address working with wood that has already been properly discharged.
Choosing the right wood for your project is critical to the look of the finished product. For the sake of argument, we are assuming you want your finished project to show off the natural grain of the wood. A great source for previewing different wood species before you make your final selection can be found at Woodworker's Central.com. Woodworker's Central has an online directory exhibiting some of the world's most popular woods with a full-sized photo for each species.
Smoothing wood prior to applying finish coatings is best done by sanding. Sandpaper is available in grit sizes. Sandpaper with a larger grit is best for removing rough or bent areas, while paper with a smaller or finer grit works well to get a final smooth surface. Generally the harder the wood species, the more sanding that will be required. For projects that require a lot of sanding, there are many different power tools from which to choose.
For a natural look to the final finish, a clear coat of varnish should be applied using a soft brush. A deer rich finish can be accomplished by applying several thin coats of varnish. Each coat should be allowed to dry before applying the next. Sanding between each coat with a fine grit sanding paper will help bring out the luster of the final finish. Commercial stains are also available for adding color and bringing out the natural grain of the wood. Stain should be applied in even coats. Deeper color can be achieved with multiple coats, however each coat should be allowed time to soak into the grain. Once the desire color is achieved, a final clear hard coat of varnish, lacquer or shellac can be applied to preserve the finish.
Just Do It!
While we have just touched on the basics of woodworking, the best way to get started in this fun and rewarding craft is to just do it! Start with a simple project, find an easy to follow plan, and get started. Welcome to the wonderful world of woodworking!
Source by Paul R Norman