It has been a year since we opened My Own 2 Hands. We are a makerspace, a workshop, a woodworker’s haven. But to be clear, I knew next to nothing about DIY wood preparation when we opened our doors.
I love that we are an easy and economical solution for people who don’t have their own workshops. Plus I love that I am surrounded by our staff and customers who are creative and represent all points on the skill spectrum. While no one would ever mistake me for a woodworker, I have slowly started to learn and understand why people do what they do before getting to a finished project.
So here are this novice’s top 5 things to know before starting DIY wood preparation:
1. Wood Comes From Nature
I mean duh, right? But we live in a society where just about everything we buy is fabricated, cookie-cutter, or pre-portioned out for us. Even “some assembly required” purchases come pre-measured and with straight lines. So it can be disconcerting to go to a hardware store or lumber yard and get home with wood that isn’t always flat or straight. A less informed version of me would have just hammered the wood together and called it a day.
But now I know that if you want your project to look good and have longevity, wood needs to be milled. Now that sounds intimidating and like something “they” should have already done for us. And even though lumber companies have milling operations, we’re talking about natural wood. It does not come pre-packaged at perfect 90-degree angles.
Hip to be square
And you WANT your wood to have 90-degree angles or to be square (as the folks in the shop say). That means that the top and bottom of a piece of wood are exactly parallel to each other and the top and bottom are exactly 90-degrees to its sides.
Why is this important?
Let’s say you lay two pieces of wood together. If one of the pieces is not a perfect 90-degrees, you will see a gap between the two pieces. Even if you force the two pieces to align at one end, you will see an ever-widening gap across the length of the wood.
So now I know that I have to use the jointer, planer, and table saw to mill every piece of wood to get it square.
2. Wood Moves
Just because you get your wood square doesn’t mean it will stay that way. You can spend a lot of time milling and preparing your wood, but remember that wood is a natural material and typically contains some level of moisture. When exposed to hot, cold, arid, or humid environments . . . wood can and will react to its environment. Even after milling, your wood can become cupped, bowed, twisted, or curved.
Three recommendations from a novice:
- The absolute best option: Use your wood as soon as possible after milling
- Seal your wood after milling if it won’t interfere with construction or other finishing plans
- Store your wood somewhere with good and stable climate control
To save you from aggravation and wasted time, check out this great Wood Movement 101 article.
3. Wood Can Be Glued Together
I felt pretty dumb when I learned that I didn’t have to buy large pieces of wood to accommodate the size of my project. I was shown the magic of wood glue. You can use wood glue on smaller pieces of wood to get the size you need. While you can certainly buy a single, larger piece of wood, the ability to glue pieces together is a great way to reduce waste.
4. Finishing Isn’t Just For Looks
Make a plan for how you’re going to finish your project. It might be obvious how you want your completed project to look when you’re finished, but it’s also important to sand and apply some type of finish. This will help prevent your wood from moving and prolong the life of your project. Get color and protection by applying paint or stain to your project. If you want to leave your wood looking natural, you should apply a sealer.
5. Wood Can Be Expensive
If you are a novice like me, you have to be prepared for the mistakes you will make when doing DIY wood projects. It’s inevitable. Just know that some types of wood can be expensive, so practice with scrap wood.
This has also given me a better appreciation for the price tags on furniture and wood art pieces. Not only do I have a better understanding of the material cost, but also the skill that goes into making something from wood.
DIY wood preparation will ensure that your projects will be sturdy and beautiful!