Learn from mistakes

Good people learn from their mistakes.

Great people learn from other people’s mistakes.

I mention this because I’m more the former than the latter.  I was not trained in woodworking.  I’ve had plenty of training in different trades, but this was not one of them.  Instead, I’ve stumbled my way through being an autodidact.  While I’ve read my way through the metro library’s collection of woodworking texts and what other books I could afford, there are still bits that only reveal themselves once I started working.

So, I thought I might share these little tidbits from time to time.  Maybe you can avoid making some mistakes along the way.  As the saying goes, you make good choices with experience…but experience only comes with bad choices.  Might as well be mine, not yours.

When I’m ripping a piece out, I always gauge the line I need to work to, even it it’s a rough cut, and even if I have to follow with a pencil so I can actually see the line.  A old-style pin gauge will leave a more legible line, but since a wheel gauge leaves a better quality of line on cross-grain scribing, that’s what I use.


So why do I gauge the line without fail?  Well, it comes down to an abundance of caution.  It doesn’t really cost me anything, and it’s quick to do, but it can really save a project.  On occasion, as I’m hand ripping stock down, those big rip teeth will catch on a tough piece of grain and splinter out the backside of whatever I’m working on.  The coarser grained ring porous woods (oak) are worse about this than diffusely porous woods (cherry), but it can happen at any time.  Scribing the line rather than simple penciling it on essentially provides a stop cut for your splintering, saving the face of whatever you’re working on.  I can’t really afford the cost of replacing timber, and I can’t afford the time to start over on a new piece, so this saves me from that.  It might not seem like much…until it does.