The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Gift list addendum.


Last week, I posted a “gift guide” which featured a short list of inexpensive items that I feel are useful to any home woodworker or DIYer. I stand by that list completely, as I own and use every item on it. And, 4 of the 5 items are made in the United States (I am not sure where ACE Hardware sources their pencils to be completely honest and it does not say either on the pencil or on the ACE website). This all being said, I would like to make a small addition and/or substitution to that gift guide.

One of the recommended gifts on my guide was a ‘Write’ brand spiral bound pocket ledger. Keeping a small note pad handy while working on a project can be a life saver, and jotting down measurements or any general project information is a smart habit to get into (I fully admit that I sometimes forget to do this, myself).  I like using spiral bound pads because they lay flat on the bench, and the small ledger pad is nice because it easily fits into a front or back pocket. If it has a drawback, it is its smaller size. Sometimes I will sketch some basic information rather than or in addition to making a written notation, and this isn’t necessarily easy to do on a smaller pad. However, just as I was completing the gift guide post, I went onto the ‘Write’ website to verify the current cost of the ledger pad I recommended and noticed a product which they refer to as the ‘Reporter’s Notebook’, which is in essence 4in x 8in version of the pad that I’ve been using. Cost, at $11.99 each, is a bit more than the ledger pad, but still fairly inexpensive. On a whim I ordered two, one in black, and one with a natural kraft cover.

The new pads arrived the other day and I am very pleased with them. They have the same tough construction as the ledger pad, offer a larger writing surface, and though they will not comfortably fit into a front or back pocket, they are still small enough to easily fit into a drawer or toolbox, or perhaps most importantly, they will not get in the way when they are on the workbench top. I highly recommend them if you are looking for a larger notepad that is not a full-sized copy book.

So what do I usually write down while working on a project? The first thing I write down is all of the relevant measurements. I rarely, as in almost never, follow woodworking plans. Nearly every project I build usually has measurements that fall into two criteria: the space I have to place the finished project, and the dimensions I can get out of the material that I am using. For instance, if I have space for a bookcase that is 6ft, 6inches tall, but the material I have on hand will only allow a bookcase 6ft, 2inches tall, then it doesn’t take a psychic to figure out what size case I’m building.

Another project aspect that I will usually notate is the type of finish I used, the name and number of the finish if I am using a stain, where I purchased it, and the time and date I made the applications, including any applications of finish wax; I’ve found doing this to be quite helpful as well.

Lastly, if there is hardware in the project, I will usually note the type and amount that was used. For instance, if I used hinges for a box lid, I will write down the brand, size, part number, etc. and any relevant information that I can find on the package just in case I need to purchase a replacement. Once again, this may sound like common sense, but trust me it can really save a few headaches. Some people use their phone to take a photo of the package, but rather than fill my phone with photos of screws, hinges, and cans of stain, I find it simpler just to write it down on a notepad that is always at my workbench. And, I know that I already mentioned this, but a date is always a helpful addition to any notations.

And my little list of rules doesn’t only apply to building furniture. I would highly recommend doing this for any home improvement project, perhaps even more so. For instance, I recently had to replace the door switch in our dryer, and when I did I made a notation of the switch part#, the date I ordered it (and installed it), and where I purchased it.

So, as I said in my last post, I don’t generally like making gift recommendations, but I do feel safe in recommending both the list and this addition to it. I am hoping to start a new project this coming weekend, and I am hoping even more so that my next post is about actual woodworking.


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