is the forming and shaping of wood to make useful and decorative objects. It is one of the
oldest crafts and ranks as a popular hobby and an important industry. A skilled woodworker
with a well-equipped home workshop can build items as simple as a birdhouse or as
complicated as decorative furniture. Tools for a workshop can be purchased at hardware and
department stores. Lumber retail stores and hobby shops sell a wide variety of wood.
The construction industry employs carpenters who construct the wooden framework of
buildings. Other kinds of woodworkers include finish carpenters and cabinetmakers. Finish
carpenters do the inside trim work around windows, cabinets, and other features that must
fit exactly. Cabinetmakers design, shape, and assemble furniture, built-in cabinets, and
The history of woodworking goes back to about 8,000 B.C.,
when people first used an ax as a woodworking tool. In the Middle Ages, woodworkers and
other craftworkers formed organizations called guilds. The guilds were similar in some
ways to today's labor unions.
In 1873, electric power was used to drive machine tools for the first time. Through the
years came the development of the power tools now used for woodworking. The first
practical hand drill was patented in 1917. By 1925, woodworkers could buy electric
portable saws for their home workshop. Today, power tools can be used in most woodworking
operations, but many people enjoy shaping wood with hand tools instead.
Steps in woodworking
Woodworking projects, together with plans for their construction, can be found in books,
magazines, and manuals in bookstores and public libraries. There are five main steps in
woodworking: (1) planning and design, (2) cutting, (3) drilling, (4) fastening, and (5)
sanding and finishing.
Planning and design. Careful planning can prevent mistakes and save time and materials. A
scale drawing of the object being built should be made before starting any woodworking
project. This drawing includes the exact measurements of the object. The craftworker marks
the measurements on the wood with a pencil and lists all the steps to be followed in the
A woodworking tape and rule are used to measure dimensions.
A square can also be used for measuring and for making straight lines and angles. Various
gauges make marks and parallel lines for the woodworker to follow when cutting joints and
The parts of the finished object will fit together properly if the drawing has been
prepared correctly and if measuring and construction have been done accurately. A
well-designed object is both attractive and the right size for its purpose. For example, a
birdhouse must have an entrance that is large enough for the birds that will use it.
Cutting wood to the right size and shape can be done with a variety of hand and power
tools, including saws, chisels, and planes. The largest and most familiar handsaws are the
crosscut saw and the ripsaw. Crosscut saws cut across the grain of the wood, and ripsaws
cut with the grain.
Power tools can do a job far more quickly, easily, and accurately than hand tools. For
example, a circular saw has a toothed disk that spins at great speed. Different blades can
be attached for a variety of cutting operations, such as crosscutting and ripping.
A common hand tool for cutting joints is the backsaw, which has a thin rectangular blade
for fine work. The blade has a metal bar along its back to make it stiff. Chisels, which
can cut deeply into the surface of wood, can be used for making joints or for trimming and
carving. A portable electric router has attachments called bits that can be used to trim
or shape wood and to make joints and decorative cuts. A hand tool called a coping saw
consists of a metal frame that holds a narrow blade used for cutting curves in wood.
Jigsaws and saber saws, power tools that cut curves, have a thin blade that moves up and
down at great speed.
Mechanical planes, called jointers, and hand planes have sharp blades that smooth and
shape wood. A wood-turning lathe shapes wood into rounded forms by rapidly spinning it
against a cutting edge held by the operator. A file shapes wood in places where a sharper
cutting tool does not fit. Files can also sharpen tools.
Drilling enables a woodworker to connect sections of wood with screws, metal plates, and
hinges. Drilling may also be required when constructing some joints. Braces and hand
drills have bits to make holes of different sizes for various purposes. Portable electric
drills and drill presses also use bits to drill holes. They have attachments for sanding
and other purposes.
Fastening. Sections of wood are fastened together with metal fasteners, such as screws and
nails, and with adhesives. Tools for fastening include screwdrivers and hammers.
Screwdrivers insert screws that connect sections of wood and hold hinges and metal plates.
Hammers are used to drive in nails and a variety of other types of metal fasteners.
Gluing is one of the oldest methods of fastening sections of wood, and a variety of
adhesives are used in woodworking. Polyvinyl resin emulsion glue, or white glue, can be
applied directly from the bottle. It should not be used if it will come in contact with
water or high temperatures. Urea-formaldehyde resin glue and resorcinol formaldehyde resin
glue both must be mixed by the user. Urea glue can resist cold water for short periods,
but it cannot withstand high temperatures. Resorcinol glue is waterproof and heat
resistant. After gluing, wood should be put into clamps for as long as 12 hours. The
length of time depends on the temperature, kind of wood, and type of glue. Clamping holds
the wood in place and spreads the glue into the pores.
Sanding and finishing. Sanding removes tool marks and makes wood surfaces smooth for
finishing. Sanding should not begin until the wood has been cut to its final size. Most
abrasive paper manufactured for use by hand has rough particles of the minerals flint or
garnet. Aluminum oxide is a common sanding material used in such machines as a portable
belt sander or a vibrating sander. Portable belt sanders work better than vibrating
sanders on large wood surfaces.
Woodworkers use a variety of finishes to protect wood and to bring out the beauty of the
grain. A stain is a dye that colors wood without hiding the pattern and feel of the grain.
Paint covers the grain of the wood and provides a color of its own. Varnish, shellac, and
lacquer add a hard, glossy finish while exposing the beauty of the wood. Wax protects
varnish and has a smooth, shiny finish when polished. Enamel is a type of glossy paint.
Tool care and safety
Tools are made to be safe when used correctly. They can be preserved--and accidents can be
prevented--by using the right tools for the job and keeping them clean and sharp. A
woodworker must use extra pressure with a dull tool, and injury could result if the tool
slips. Many tools can be sharpened on the rough surface of an oilstone. A broken or
damaged tool does not work properly and should not be used.
Whenever possible, wood should be held in a vise or by clamps, so that both hands are free
to handle the tool being used. Floors should be kept clean of such substances as sawdust
and finishing materials, which are slippery and also could catch fire. Safety glasses
should always be worn during cutting and boring operations in order to protect the eyes
from flying particles of wood. Loose clothing and jewelry that could get caught in a
machine should not be worn in a woodworking area.
A craftworker can prevent accidents by holding a portable power tool until all the moving
parts have stopped. A machine should never be left running unattended. In addition, a
machine should be disconnected when not in use. The hazard of receiving an electric shock
can be reduced by connecting ground wires to machines that have not been previously
Wood for woodworking
Woodworkers classify wood as hardwood or softwood, depending on the type of tree from
which it comes. Most hardwood trees are deciduous--that is, they lose their leaves every
autumn. Most softwood, or coniferous, trees have narrow, pointed leaves and stay green the
year around. This classification system does not indicate the hardness of wood, because
various softwoods are harder than some hardwoods. However, the two types of wood have
other characteristics that are important to the woodworker.
Hardwoods have beautiful grain patterns and can be used to make fine furniture. Some
hardwoods have large pores and must be treated with a paste or liquid called filler before
being covered with a finish. Wood to be finished with paint does not need a fancy grain to
be attractive because the paint covers the pattern. Hardwoods used in woodworking include
birch, mahogany, maple, oak, and walnut.
Most softwoods can easily be sawed, planed, chiseled, or bored. They are used mainly for
structural work, but such softwoods as Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, redcedar, and white
pine can be used for woodworking and furniture.
Hardwood or softwood can also be used to make a type of manufactured board called plywood.
Plywood consists of an odd number of thin layers of wood glued together. It is lightweight
and strong and can be purchased in many sizes and wood patterns.