Woodworking Progress, and why I hate plywood and woodworking books

So first, the progress report:

I’ve had a few days off due to the holidays, and I got a $100 Lowe’s gift certificate for Christmas. I requested Lowe’s because they have a nicer, and wider selection of wood there for me to use in my small projects. When I get to the larger projects or nicer woods, there’s a great mill nearby that I’ll get to when I can afford it.

So, I went and bought enough poplar to build a bookcase that is sized nicely to double as a sofa table, which is great. Even after adding a couple of other essentials I still didn’t even use my whole $100 allotment. Of course, I haven’t actually *started* on the bookcase yet, but this leaves me in a good position. Namely, it puts me in a place where I am actually working on three projects simultaneously. This sounds like nothing until you realize that I am starting with *zero* jigs in my shop, so really, when you factor in the building of the jigs and the fact that I’m still pretty new to woodworking, it’s kinda like I’m working on about 5 or 6 projects.

The first project is the oak medicine cabinet from the New Yankee Workshop book. This involves building a box-joint jig. I’m sorta saving this one for later because I have only today found a dado set for my table saw that got good reviews and isn’t $300. Once I get that, I’ll be on my way. In the meantime, there are still some pieces I can cut to length and stuff.

The second project is the one that has most of my focus right now. It’s the desk organizer from the book “Furniture you can build” which is a fantastic book. Buy it if you haven’t already. The main reason this one is taking so much time is lack of clampage. I have to make bigger boards from smaller ones, which involves, at a minimum, 4 clamps. Preferably 6. I’m using 4 because the rest are too big for the job and I don’t have any of the bessey-style ones that can go *under* the panel being glued. This has been a decent learning experience, though. I’ve learned to make better use of my block plane, my old Stanley No. 5, and my shiny new card scraper, which I also learned how to sharpen.

The last project is the bookcase, which is from the same book, “Furniture you can build”. They built it from white oak I think. I’m using poplar because it’s probably 1/3 the cost of white oak. If it works out, I can always give this one away as a gift and, wife willing, build another one from white oak.

Doing a few projects at once is kinda nice, because it means there’s no downtime in the shop. If things for one project are at a standstill because of a pending glue-up or something, I can cut pieces for another project to size. Things still take me long enough that I don’t get a whole lot done in any kind of a hurry. Everything is still extremely slow and deliberate. I’m still often referring to books to see the best way to do just about anything. By the time I futz around with stuff and finally get stuff cut to size, my glue-up (with 30-minute glue) is ready to be unclamped. If I really have nothing to do, I can sharpen my plane blades.

Side project No. 1 is a crosscut sled, which brings us to why I hate plywood. I can’t seem to touch it without getting splinters. This, if you don’t already know, sucks. From now on I need to remember to just break down and wear gloves when I have to carry it anywhere. This is the cheap plywood. I don’t seem to have the problem with the oak veneered plywood I bought. The crosscut sled is an enormous pain in the buttocks, because it seems just about impossible to get the rails to the point where they a) allow smooth movement on the table saw, and b) *don’t* allow any side play in the sled base, which will screw up your accuracy.

As for woodworking books, I own many of them, and they all have the same problem, and it’s pissing me off because the problem is so basic and easy to fix, and yet nobody does anything about it: NOT A SINGLE ONE shows a “materials list”. They *call* what they show a materials list sometimes, but it’s not. It’s a ‘parts’ list. This list shows the dimensions of the parts of a project. It does *NOT* show a list of stuff you need to *buy*. This leaves me in the position of having to go through the parts list and figure out what size boards I need and how many I need. This, if you don’t already know, sucks. I think it’s ShopNotes magazine where I’ve seen a real “this is what you need to shop for” guide in the projects, and they even lay out diagrams of which parts will be cut from each board you buy. This is invaluable to newbies.

So, this is where I’m at. I have the vertical dividers for my organizer cut to rough size, to be planed-to-fit later. I have my panels glued up from which my sides, bottom, and back will be cut. This last glue-up went badly, and I learned that you shouldn’t do a glue-up on top of a plastic bag that has red ink on it, because the glue soaks up that red stuff… so my card scraper and plane are gonna get a little extra workout tomorrow. Once that’s all ready to go, which should be tomorrow morning, I should be able to get *ALL* of the pieces for the desk organizer cut to size by tomorrow afternoon some time. I’ll still need to cut dadoes for the project, but these pieces are small enough to just run across my router, since there’s no special joinery involved like box joints.

Wish me luck!