Frequently Asked Woodworking Questions


How do I make a tack rag?

What do I use to finish a cutting board?

What finish can I use that is clear without that amber hue?

Why has my oak got black spots on it?


How do I build a web site to show my work and my shop?

How do I get started in woodworking?

Is it legal to sell items made from plans that I have purchased?

Is there a woodworking glossary?

What do the abbreviations I see such as ras, tpi, t&g, etc mean?

Material and Supplies

How do I cut a 4 X 8 sheet to smaller sizes by myself?

What is a board foot?

What is the big deal about square drive screws?

Where do I find free plans?

Why are boards smaller than the size that they say they are?

Why are some hardwoods soft and some softwoods hard?

Why is plywood always made up of an odd number of plies?


Should I buy a band saw or a scroll saw?

Should I buy a table saw or a radial arm saw?

What are bench dogs?

What is "Scarry Sharp" that I see referred to in discussion groups?

What is snipe and what causes it?

What is the difference between a jointer and a planer?

Where can I find a cheap straight edge for my circular saw?

Where can I learn about the different power tools and what they do?

Will a router speed control work with a bench grinder?


How to make a tack rag.

Soak a cheese cloth in water, wring out the water, soak it in turpentine, wring it out again, drip enough clear varnish on the cheesecloth to make it evenly gummy throughout. Store it in a jar with a lid to keep it from drying out.

Cutting Board Finish.

One of the best finishes for cutting boards is mineral oil, available at your local drug store. Vegetable and most nut oils should be avoided because they may go rancid.

Clear Finish

Use a water based product, it will be milky white in the can but will dry absolutely clear.

Water Based Finishes

My oak has black spots on it.

Oak contains tannin, which will react with iron, if you used steel wool to finish it and small particles broke off the pad and remained on the wood black spots will appear.


Web Site has a page that guides you through building a web site and getting it hosted for free.

Getting Started In Woodworking has a page with suggestions as to what tools to buy first and how to build up your collection.

Selling Items From Plans

Making items to sell from plans that you have purchased seems to be allowed by some and frowned upon by others. It would probably be best to check for a FAQ page on the plan suppliers web site or shoot them off an email if there is no information regarding this printed on the plans.

Woodworking Glossary

Sawdust Making 101 has a glossary that includes most of the common terms related to woodworking.

Woodworking Abbreviations

bf = board foot

blo = boiled linseed oil

cfm = cubic feet per minute

cms = compound miter saw

dc = dust collector, dust collection

hvlp = high volume low pressure

m&t = mortise and tennon

mdf = medium density fiberboard

mdo = medium density overlay

ras = radial arm saw

ros = random orbit sander

rpm = revolutions per minute

s2s = surfaced on two sides

s4s = surfaced on four sides

t&g = tonge and groove

tpi = teeth per inch

ts = table saw

Materials and Supplies

Cutting 4 X 8 Sheet

The easiest and safest way is to use a skill saw on a sheet rack using a straight edge.

Board Foot

A board foot equals 144 cubic inches of material. To calculate board feet multiply the width in inches by the thickness in inches by the length in inches and divide by 144.

Lumber Terminology

Square drive screws.

Square drive or socket head screws are also known as Robertson after the inventor. Rather than a slot, the head has a square pocket of which the sides are at a slight angle, this allows the screw to remain on the driver even when pointing downward.

More info

Free Woodworking Plans

Hundreds of free plans can be found at

Lumber Sizes

S4S finished lumber is labelled according to the size of the rough board before it was planed smooth.

Lumber Dimensions

Hardwoods and Softwoods

The terms hardwood and softwood refer to the type of tree the wood has been harvested from rather than the density of the wood. Hardwood trees are deciduous, softwood trees are conifers.

Number of Plies in Plywood

I order for the sheet to remain stable it needs a center ply and at least one layer on each side of it . When adding veneer to thinner stock it is recommended to add a layer on the opposite side as well to stabilize the sheet.


Band saw vrs. scroll saw

Both saws are used to make curved cuts, for finer work a scroll saw is usually preferred, the blades are available in much narrower widths. Inside cuts can be made with a scroll saw by drilling a hole to slip the blade through, this cannot be easily done on a band saw. Band saws really shine when it comes to resawing and stacked cutting.

Band saws

Scroll saws

Table saw vrs. radial arm.

This depends on what you will be doing , and what other tools you have, table saws are best for ripping, radial arms are better for cross cuts or miter cuts. If you have a miter saw or plan to get one then a table saw would be your best choice, if you will only have one saw then possibly a radial arm would be a better choice. This usually comes down to personal preference, both saws will do most types of cuts are equally dangerous to use if you don't respect them.

Table Saws

Radial Arm Saws

Bench Dogs

Bench dogs are pegs that go into holes in the top of a workbench so that material may be held between them and the bench vise, they are usually square with a slight taper.

Workbench Vise

Definition and cause of snipe.

When a board is run through a jointer the last inch or so will be cut deeper than the rest of the board. This is usually caused by the out-feed table being set too low allowing the end of the board to drop down as it leaves the in-feed table.

Using a Jointer

Scarry Sharp

"Scarry Sharp" is a method of sharpening plane blades and chisels using a sheet of glass and sandpaper.

The D&S Scarry Sharp (TM) System

System from Rockler

Jointers and Planers

Both machines are used to make wood smooth, a jointer will also straighten a board, a planer will make it an even thickness. The usual procedure is to joint one edge and one face of a board, run it through a planer to make it an even thickness, then run it through a table saw to make it an even width.


Thickness Planer

Straight Edge

About the cheapest straight edge you can find will be the factory edge of a plywood cut-off. If you go to this link there are instructions to make a circular saw guide from one.

Power Tools

Sawdust Making 101 has pages on the use and safety of all the major power tools.

Router Speed Control On Bench Grinder

Unfortunately not, most bench grinders have an induction type motor, routers have a universal type motor. Your router speed control will work with any motor that has brushes. Rather than slowing your bench bench grinder down to sharpen turning tools, you can change the type of grinding wheel you are using from the common stock grey coloured wheel to white or pink coloured one made for that purpose.

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