Woodworking 101

In the world of computer programming, there’s a sort of tradition which dictates that the first program you ever write in a new language does nothing but print out “Hello World!”. Usually, the program can be written in seconds, in only a couple of lines of code. Even this small a program is encouraging to new programmers, because once they run it, it’s an indication that everything is working properly, so that nothing stands in the way of programming greatness.

In woodworking, the “Hello World!” appears to be making sawhorses. Completing this project gets the new builder familiar with the tools and techniques needed to go further, like clamping, drilling, and making cross cuts and angled cuts. It gets them more comfortable with their tools in the process. What’s great about a project like this is that you don’t get too stressed out over screw ups, because it’s all just 2×4 lumber from a home center – not $50/bf Cocaboca! Also, it’s just a shop project, for use in the shop only, so nobody is likely to ever see it.

Unfortunately, I had a somewhat incomplete set of directions that failed to mention measurements for a couple of the parts. No big deal, I fudged it and things are fine with my first sawhorse, and I’ll make corrections on the second one. But it was frustrating, to be sure, not to have complete instructions.

The most annoying part, however, wasn’t the missing measurements. There was a part where you had to clamp two opposing legs together to a subtop that was sandwiched between them. The legs were cut 15 degrees on the floor side, and then 15 degrees leading to the top, so that when the legs were flat on the floor, the top part of the leg tapered to be perpendicular to the floor, and that part screwed into the subtop. Well, they tell you “just clamp it up”, like it’s no big deal. What they don’t tell you is that it’s just about impossible to do.

Clamps really like things to be square. Needless to say, that makes it challenging to clamp together things that are at an angle. So you make a little block to put on the leg to fool the clamps. But when pressure is applied, the blocks slide all over the place, and nothing gets done. I’m pretty sure it took me the same amount of time to get the legs clamped as it did to do the rest of the measuring and cutting and such. In the end, I do admit, I have a pretty solid sawhorse, and I also admit I’m now a bit more comfortable with my bevel gauge, combination square, and my shop in general.

  • Gye Greene

    Spiffy! :)

    Just found your blog by googling on ”Linux woodworking” (IIRC). Trying to find a beginner’s CAD-type app for sketching out woodworking projects).

    I’ll take a few peeks at your other entries. (Landed first on your ”all Linux desktops suck”; seem o.k. to me — but maybe I don’t have standards as high as yours.) 😉

    –GG