I will now expand my thoughts on “…learning to do your work (safely) before entering the shop…” Please remember how I use this: Learn something new before going to the shop to try it out.
If some of you think this stuff is pretty basic, you will be right. My hope is that many fellow woodworkers just getting started on this journey will learn about some of the wonderful resources available to us. And also, I hope, that something I discuss will help even seasoned woodworkers who might just now be starting to use their computers a little more.
Three years ago I was mildly surprised to learn that many of my woodworking friends did not use the woodworking magazines’ online resources regularly. Instead, some rely on word-of-mouth, others on past issues of the magazines, and yet others ask questions, mainly after the fact – that is, after they tried something new in their shops, with less-than-satisfactory results.
In this article I will mention four popular web sites that help us do our homework.
The web sites created for our use by the woodworking magazines are a terrific resource. I know a few people who use these web sites extensively, and others who visit them only occasionally. While at least two have extensive video libraries (for example, FineWoodworking.com and WoodworkingOnline), others focus more on articles and illustration (PopularWoodworking.com and Woodworking-Magazine.com). Finewoodworking.com also has a paid web site, with all archived information going back to Issue #1 of the magazine; while some might object to paying for the information, others find it a wonderful resource, too. Like anything else, what you like may differ a little from what I like. Each option also has a cost associated with it.
If you are not familiar with the web sites I linked above, I suggest you try them. A simple suggestion, in case you have never visited their web sites before: Go to each web site, and do a search using any woodworking term you like. I suggest, for example, “dovetail”. Make sure to make mental notes of the search results; some results are simply amazing, in that they start to reveal the wealth of information available on the magazines’ web sites.
As you get used to nabigating the web sites, you will learn to narrow down the “number of hits”; that is, the sheer number of results. This is important, because it helps you get to the information you can use in your woodworking. I am certain that soon you will find yourself searching these web sites with phrases such as “dust collection”, “respirators and spraying”, “waterborne coating”, etc., etc.
Habit? Yes. Habit-forming? Yup! Addictive? Maybe. Helpful? Always, especially if we will be tackling something new in the shop and we don’t have time to go to the library to do the research. Or, if like me, you simply prefer to do it online, and get into information overload, and quickly sift through the information.
One more thing: Make sure to explore the blogs linked from each of the web sites. This is your assignment for extra credit. Each magazine updates the blogs frequently; once you find one you like, follow it, and interact with the author(s) and other woodworkers by leaving Comments, and asking questions.
Above all, enjoy doing your homework – and do it before you head to the shop to make saw dust using expensive lumber.
Now, how about using some of the same magazine resources to plan which tool we just cannot live without? The same magazine web sites will help your wallet lose a little weight. Of course, this is a topic best left for another time…
Next: I will touch on another wonderful source of information, and also interaction with fellow woodworkers: The woodworking forums.
Edit to add: