One of the most important aspects of woodworking is understanding the properties of wood. I know this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised about how many woodworkers I talk to who don’t know why wood acts the way it does. Wood changes with the weather and the stresses put upon it (such as when it’s stacked in a pile under a bunch of other wood). It expands and contracts and can twist, warp, or cup depending on the stresses that exist within it (from the direction of the grain in the board). Being able to look at a board and determine where those stresses are and how they may impact the board as it experiences changes in humidity requires some basic understanding of wood and how it’s made.
Whether he’s teaching at North Bennet Street School or working in his home shop, furniture maker Dan Faia wants certain essential hand tools close by. As it happens, the compact tool rack also featured in this issue holds them all. Your list may vary, but this comprehensive list of hand tools for layout, surface prep, shaping, and joinery is a good starting point for any aspiring hand-tool woodworker.
The key to making furniture is having a plan. (Or is that the key to life? I always forget.) The good news for beginning woodworkers is that you don’t need to develop the plan; you need only to follow it. Project plans are abundant and easily found (check out Chapter 21 for some project-plan resources). After you get familiar with the way plans are written, you can build just about anything (depending on your skills, of course).