5 pro woodworking techniques any DIYer can master

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Look, we can’t all be Kevin and Andrew. Trust me; I’ve tried.

But just because we’re not the Brojects brothers doesn’t mean we can’t still do great work that would make the pros proud. And honestly, it’s not as hard as you think to take your DIY projects up a notch. Some people call these lifehacks; others call them tricks of the trade. For us, let’s just stick with techniques that are so easy to grasp, and yet so useful, that you’ll be rushing to share them with your pals. Some of these might seem simple, and honestly, they are. That’s the beauty of them! Read these over, bookmark them, print them out and staple-gun them to the wall in your workshop. No matter how you study up, these are the techniques that will have you rushing out to TIMBER MART for materials to start on your next great project.

No stressing when distressing

We all want our furniture to develop a natural patina, but patience is a virtue we can’t all afford. It’s easy to be scared off by the thought of manually distressing your furniture, especially when it’s something that took considerable time, effort, and money to make. But it doesn’t have to be scary, and the best way to go about distressing your newly built bench or table is to just go for it. Seriously—don’t overthink it. One of the keys to distressing something without it looking machine-made is to emphasize the human element, which means you want to be a little random in your approach. To do that, vary your approach: Whack it with a chain, scrape it, poke sharp holes in it. Use whatever’s at your disposal and don’t overthink it. This is one of those times where chaos can be good. Just don’t overdo it, either. You want it to look worn, aged, and used—but not destroyed.

It’s a sled, not a toboggan

Haven’t heard of a table saw sled? There’s your first problem. A crosscut sled is essential for any woodworker looking to make precise (and repeatable) 90 degree cuts, and you can make one in less time than it will take for the glue to dry. There’s no shortage of tutorials on how to build one quickly, from Izzy Swan’s YouTube guide, which will help you make a finished product in about 10 minutes, to FineWoodworking’s clever mitre sled solution. Before long, you’ll have a simple way to create consistent, refined pieces that look like they were made by a pro.

Pop the grain

So you’ve spent some time picking out the perfect piece of wood, carefully agonizing over its texture, colour, density and, most importantly, grain. But how do you make the grain pop? Here’s an easy trick that will really make your piece stand out. After sanding the wood’s surface, spritz it with a little bit of water. Let it dry, and then after another quick sanding, the grain will really stand out. It’s a simple bit of science at work: the bit of moisture you sprayed on—remember not to drench the thing—will raise the grain, and the quicksand after it dries brings out the details.

Always have painter’s tape, even when you’re not painting

This one is so simple you’re going to kick yourself for not having thought of it yourself. You know the blue painter’s tape you used when masking your man-cave before it’s last Super Bowl makeover? Chances are you have some left over. If not, buy some—it’s absolutely essential when it comes to splinter-free table (or circular) sawing. Simply mask the cutline with a bit of tape (masking tape works fine if you don’t have painter’s tape) and your saw will come off of the wood way smoother, leaving it (and your fingers) splinter free.

Two hands are better than one

Are curved cuts coming off of your jigsaw a little wonky? Things not quite perpendicular? While you’re probably used to making cuts with one hand, doing so with curves can result in sideways pressure on the blade, which is the easiest way to make your lines just off enough to bother you. The solution is a simple one—you have two hands, so use them. While that means you’ll need to stabilize your wood with clamps or a vice, it’s worth the extra effort when the results are pretty much perfectly perpendicular.