Woodworking – A Beginner’s Guide

Woodworking basically has to do with the preparation, joining, and fastening of wood to form objects of different shapes, sizes, and aesthetical appeal. Therefore, it is important for any individual who wants to be a professional woodworking craftsman to have a good grasp of the methods involved in woodworking which are essentially the methods used to join and fasten pieces of wood together.

In woodworking, it is a known fact that raw wood, as it is, may not be ideal for making objects; as a result, it has to undergo some processes which will ready it for being transformed into useful objects of different shapes and sizes. Thereafter, the processed pieces of wood will be cut into different shapes and sizes and joined with other pieces of wood which have already been dimensioned (cut into different shapes and sizes).

In this guide, you will learn basic methods in woodworking: from how to plane and dimension large pieces of wood down to how to fastening the pieces of wood together. Though each of the processes may sound simple, you can only know the difficulty involved when you attempt to do it.

Nevertheless, there is no lesson or method in this guide that can’t be learned properly and mastered. So, I encourage you to take this guide as seriously as you would take an online class, a PhD course, or anything you deem important to your life and career.

The following are methods of woodworking every serious-minded woodworking craftsman should know:

Planning and Dimensioning

Planing and squaring is the most basic to do in woodworking – the same way you have to lay the foundation of a house before building it. Planing involves flattening, reducing the thickness of, and giving a smooth surface to a rough piece of wood. Furthermore, dimensioning involves cutting the piece of wood into the exact size and shape it needs to be before joining and fastening with other pieces of wood.

There are many devices and equipment that can be used to plane wood, and they are called planes. Planes can be grouped into woodworking planes, bench planes, bevel-up planes, smoothing planes, and so on. They can either be hand or power tools. Some of the most common planning tools.

  1. Hand plane
  2. Electric planer with rotating cutters
  3. Spokeshave for shaping round or curved woodworking components.

Joints and Joining

Every woodworking craftsman should be skilled, or at least, have a basic knowledge of combining pieces of wood together to form tight, strong, well-made joints. A joint can be defined as a point or space where two pieces of wood are joined together. Usually, the two pieces of wood to be joined together are called members.

There are two major steps to be taken in making joints, and they include the following:

  1. Layout the joint on the ends, edges, or faces
  2. Cut the members (that is, the pieces of wood to be joined) to the required shapes for joining.

In laying out joints, there are some basic instruments that are used which are the try square, the miter square, the combination square, the sliding T-bevel, the marking or mortising gauge, a scratch awl, and a sharp pencil or knife. To cut more complex joints without using machinery, the hacksaw, dovetail saw as well as different kinds of chisels are important.

There are different kinds of joints which may be simple or complex. Some of the simple joints include butt joints, lap joints, miter joints, and so on, and they are useful especially in rough or finish carpentry. Occasionally, they also find use in millwork and furniture making. The more complex joints include rabbet joints; dado and gain joints; blind mortise-and-tenon joints; slip-tenon joints; box corner joint; and dovetail joints are mostly useful in making furniture and also in millwork.

There are also edge joints which include the dowel and spline joints; the plain butt; and the tongue-and-groove joints which find applications in furniture and cabinetwork and all types of woodworking.

To fasten joints, one could simply nail them together, toenail them at an angle through the faces of the abutting member to the face of the abutted member, or with glue. Additional strength may also be harnessed using dowels, splines, corrugated fasteners, keys, and other types of joint fasteners. On the other hand, the dado joint, gain joint, mortise-and-tenon joint, box corner joint, and dovetail joint have a natural interlocking character which is an additional fastening factor.

A Brief Description of Some Joint Types

  1. Half-Lap Joints

In making half-lap joints, the members to be jointed should be of the same thickness. There are three kinds of half-lap joints which are end butt half lap, cross half lap, and corner half lap joints, and each of them are made in a different was from the others.

  1. Miter Joints

A miter joint is made by cutting the edges of the members that are to be jointed at a specific angle. Informing a miter joint, the angle at which the miter is cut is one-half of the angle formed when the members are jointed. For example, if the angle formed by a miter joint is 900, then the angle at which each member is cut is 450. However, this is not a strict rule as some other mitres can be formed without adherence to the rule.

  1. Tenon Joints

This type of joint is mostly used in furniture and cabinet work. There are two common types which are the mortise-and-tenon joint and the slip-tenon joints. Informing the blind mortise-and-tenon joint (a kind of the mortise-and-tenon joint), the tenon does not penetrate the mortised member through. But in the through mortise-and-tenon joint, the tenon penetrates the mortised member thoroughly.

  1. Dovetail Joints

The dovetail joint is usually regarded as the strongest of all the woodworking joints by many professionals. It finds its primary use in the joining of the sides and ends of drawers in furniture and cabinets. Dovetail joints are quite difficult to make, so they may cost extra labor and time than when making the other types of joints. There are different kinds of dovetail joints which include dovetail, through single dovetail, blind single dovetail, through half-lap single dovetail, through multiple dovetail joints, and so on.

  1. Box Corner Joints

The box corner joint shares many similarities with the through-multiple-dovetail joint asides the difference in the layout.

Methods of Fastening

Fastening devices are inevitable in the woodworking industry. Many of them are used by Seabees in construction with nails being the most commonly used fastener. There are other useful fasteners in the woodworking industry, and these include the use of staples, screws, bolts and adhesives like glue.

In the following paragraphs, we’d probe a little into the details of the various methods of fastening woodworking projects. Pay attention as we go because these are very basic and important for every woodworking craftsman to know.


Nails are the commonest metal woodworking fasteners, and as there are several elements in the world of chemistry which can combine to form compounds, so are there different kinds of nails used in the woodworking industry. In this guide, we, obviously, won’t look into all the types because of space, but we will explore as much as we can.

The most common nail is designed for rough framing purposes. The box nail is used to achieve toenailing and light work in the construction of frames. Casing nails are used in finished carpentry work to fasten doors, window casings, and more. Finishing and brad nails are useful for light materials.

The size of a nail – in lengths – is measured in “penny” and is denoted by the letter “d”. The use of penny as a means of measurement applies only to common, box, casing, and finish nails. The other kinds of nails – brads and small box nails – are measured from their literal length and gauge number. Generally, nails should be three times longer than the thickness of the wood to be nailed.

Some nails are even designed for more specialized purposes. Such nails are usually coated with special metals, threaded in a special way, specified differently from other nails, and also designed to be slightly different from the others. These kinds of nails are used for special purposes including temporary construction like scaffolding; anti-rust properties; greater holding power; ease of removal (like the double-headed nails); and so on.


Staples are not so common in the woodworking fastening tools industry, but they are certainly rising in relevance. They come in handy in different shapes and sizes. Heavy-duty staples are useful for fastening plywood sheeting and also for subflooring; they are driven into objects using electrically operated tools, but can also be hand-driven. As for the light-duty and medium-duty staples, they find relevance in the attachment of moulding and other interior trim.


Screws are alternatives to nails. They are designed to look just like nails, but the difference is that unlike nails which are driven into objects by hammering them (manually), screws are screw-driven (using a screwdriver manually). There are some factors that dictate whether a nail or a screw is the more proper fastening tool to use, and they include the type of material to be fastened, the required holding power, the finished appearance desired, and the number of fasteners that can be used.

Unlike nails which are the cheapest and the easiest fastening tools to use, screws are more expensive and time-consuming. However, using screws are more advantageous than nails because they have more holding power, can easily tighten the items being fastened, appear neater if properly driven, and can be easily withdrawn without causing harm to the object.

Screws are made of many metallic materials such as steel, or metal-plated steel. However, common wood screw is often made of unhardened steel, stainless steel, aluminium, or brass. The steel material used to make the screw may also be coated with metals such as zinc, cadmium, or chromium to prevent corrosion.


Bolts, used alongside nuts, are fastening tools which offer greater holding power than both nails and screws. No wonder it is the major fastening tool used in automobiles, aircraft, large machinery, and other things that require a lot of holding power and strength. Another advantage of using bolts is the ease with which it can be dissembled, though it can be though to dissemble if not lubricated properly. When using bolts, it is important to also use washers to prevent the surface of the material being fastened from being marred.

The use of bolts depends on the strength of the material being fastened, the purpose of the object being designed, the nature of the material, and some other technical factors. Also, there are various bolts which can be used to fasten materials and they are briefly discussed below.

  1. Carriage Bolts

Carriage bolts are in three categories namely square neck, finned neck, and ribbed neck. They have round heads which can’t be driven but are merely threaded up the shaft. The length of the threads in a carriage bolt are usually between two to four times the diameter of the bolt.

  1. Machine Bolts

Machine bolts are precise, stronger, and externally driven forms of bolts designed for application majorly between metals. The head of a machine bolt may be square-like, hexagonal, rounded, or flat countersunk, and the nut usually has the shape of the head of the bolt.

Other types of bolts are stove bolts, expansion bolt, molly bolts, toggle bolts, drift pins/bolts, and so on.


Adhesives are mainly classified into Glues and Mastics. Glues are made from plastics while mastics are made from asphalt, rubber, or resin. Adhesives vary in the way they are applied; they also vary in properties, too. For example, some adhesives are flammable while others are not.

Glues help to hold joints together in mill and cabinet work. They are usually sold in powdery form (which must be mixed with water) or in liquid form. Some of the popular types of glue include polyvinyl resin, also called white glue; urea resin glue; phenolic resin glue; resorcinol glue; and contact cement.

Mastics are thicker adhesives which are prevalent in the construction industry. They are used to fasten insulation materials to concrete walls, gypsum board to furring strips, and more. Mastics are very useful fasteners, and they also help to increase the stiffness and strength of the floor unit.


Woodworking is an interesting profession like any other profession, but it can be boring, too. Therefore, I encourage you to give yourself to more learning. Read this guide over and again, and share with your friends and colleagues who may also be interested in woodworking. I hope this guide is really helpful and answers all your questions!

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