The art of working with wood to create decorative and / or functional items. Woodworkers shape and decorate wood for a variety of uses, from house building to creating furniture or wooden sculptures. Those with the Woodworking skill are able to craft items of beauty or usefulness. Truly, this is a skill which can be seen in every home in Idalos. Woodworking is a general term for the use of wood cutting, shaping and carving techniques in practical applications. This might be furniture making, house building or construction of a ship. Whereas many of the same techniques are common across all types of Woodworking, there are specific techniques involved.
Types of Wood:
There are two main types of wood. It should be noted that the type of wood is determined by characteristics of the tree. Although they are named such, hardwoods can be soft and softwoods can be hard.
Hardwood: Hardwood is produced by deciduous trees with broad leaves. Hardwood trees have flowers and produce nuts. Examples include oak and mahogany.
Softwood: Softwood is produced by coniferous trees with needle leaves. Softwood trees are evergreen and are cone bearing trees. Examples include pine and cedar.
Although these two types of wood are broadly used as categories, there are a vast array of wood types. Just as each tree type is totally different one from another, so too are different woods. For example, ash and beech are both hardwoods, but whilst ash is open-grained and flexible, beech is closed-grained and prone to warping.
Cutting: The first thing to do is to cut the wood into the requisite number of pieces, each one being larger than needed although approximately the correct size. The adage 'measure twice, cut once' applies here as mistakes in this part of the process result in wasted wood. Each piece, if there are a number of them, will be named or numbered in order to make the later aspects of the job easier.
Sanding: Sanding wood at the beginning of task can help make it easier overall. This is also carried out at the end of a project or job. Sanding is the act of rubbing a sanding block or another suitable abrasive against wood to smooth it out. Sanding blocks comes in a variety of grades, varying from course to very fine in texture. Once the wood is cut to size, a coarse sanding is often used in order to smooth off rough edges and imperfections, fundamentally making the wood easier to work with.
Joints & Joining: The art and technique of joining two, or more, pieces of wood together. There are of many types of join including, but not limited to:
- The Butt Joint: The most basic join possible, this involves putting the end of one piece of wood against the edge of another, usually at a right angle. To make it a bit more stable, a mitered butt joint might be used, where both edges of wood to be joined are mitered (cut and sanded into an angle) in order to make an angled join.
- The Half-Lap Joint: Where two pieces of wood will be 'crossing over' each other, a section can be cut out of each piece so that the two sit flush together. Whilst the individual pieces of wood are obviously weakened by the removal of a section, the overall join is quite strong and can look very attractive.
- The Mortise and Tenon Joint:A join used when the two pieces are connecting at an angle of 90 degrees. This involves one piece having the mortise hole and the other having the tenon tongue. These are usually deep rectangular shapes and fit snugly together, the aim being that the tenon is completely flush in the mortise.
- The Tongue & Groove Joint: Often used in flooring and where plank-shaped pieces of wood are joined together, this join creates a flat surface. One piece has an indented "groove" in it, with the other having a matching ridge known as the "tongue"
- Dovetailing: The dovetail join involves two pieces fitting together by a number of "pins and tails" slotting together like a jigsaw. This is a very strong join and can also be very attractive if done well
- Dowels: Woodworkers will often use dowels to strengthen their joins. A dowel is a small cylinder of wood which fits into a hole in both pieces of wood. With the dowel half-embedded in each piece, it strengthens the join and negates any wobbling etc
Joinery is used wherever two pieces of wood are placed together. So, the finished product might be shelves, cabinets, boxes etc. Any finished product which is made from more than one piece of wood has used joinery.
Carving & Whittling: Cutting wood into shapes, often used to create wooden sculptures, ornaments and so on, crafted with a cutting tool. This might be a knife in one hand, a chisel in one or two hands, a chisel in one hand with a mallet in the other or a gouge. When done with a knife this is known as whittling
wood, whereas done with a chisel, gouge or chisel + mallet, this is wood carving
. These techniques are used to create sculptures, bowls, vases etc. The carving techniques are also used to create engravings on wood by gouging or chiseling out section to create relief patterns on the surface of wood.
Ornaments, wood sculptures or engravings on existing pieces of wood.
Wood Turning: This uses a piece of wood held on to a lathe. Tools are then used to cut that piece of wood in a rounded shape. This is used to create curved pieces, from chair legs to knitting needles and candlesticks. Wood turning can produce very detailed, exquisite results when precision tools are used, or can be used for large, impact pieces.
Candlesticks, tool or cutlery handles, bowls etc.
Equipment & Tools:
The tools and equipment of a Woodworker's Kit
and / or Woodworker's Kit
have everything needed for the character with this skill. For some, a small sharp knife and a piece of wood is all they need, others will require clamps and lathes. It is important that the character considers safety, as the tools for those with this skill are often very sharp. Leather or metal thimbles, protective gloves and so on might well be the order of the trial.
Sanding: Much more detailed and intricate than at the preparation stage, sanding as a finish means that the piece is even, smooth and pleasant to the touch. Sanding blocks are used, again starting with a coarse block and then moving on to increasingly finer pieces. It should leave the finished product even, without any variations in the feel of the piece and also make sure that there are no splinters or pieces which might catch. The detail and effort put into sanding at the end of a Woodworking project can mean the difference between good and great quality.
Varnishing / Sealing : One of the major problems with Woodworking is that wood is vulnerable to the elements. Therefore, almost all pieces are finished with either varnish or sealant. Varnish adds colour and sheen, whereas sealant works simply to protect the wood. The creation of varnishes and sealants is undertaken by a chemist, but most woodworkers will have a preference for type or colour. Varnishes range from very thick to a light colour wash. Sealant is usually clear and provides basic protection against the elements ~ and might be applied over a varnish if the woodworker thinks it is necessary.
Woodworking is related to a number of skills and works to enhance them. Examples of skills enhanced by Woodworking include: fletching, ship building, and construction. A character with the Woodworking skill might find their abilities enhanced by the following, depending on how they use it.
~ working out angles, joints and how to best fit pieces of wood together can be made easier and more accurate by the use of mathematics.
~ those who engrave wood might find that the pattern used is more aesthetically pleasing if the character has a high drawing skill.
- depending on what the woodworker is planning, being able to design effectively is a vital skill. Therefore, Design: Interior Design or Design: Architecture are often complimentary skills to Woodworking.
The novice woodworker is learning the tools of the trade, the types of Woodworking and the techniques in each one. They might well spend a lot of time on preparation and finishing, learning to be precise in measuring and cutting alongside how to sand and varnish. Once they have developed a good understanding of the types of wood, they start making basic pieces to develop each of the techniques. In Woodworking, the techniques themselves take time to learn but a novice is capable of learning them all if they put in the time. The difference between a novice and a master lies in the application of the knowledge. Items made by a novice woodworker tend to be very simple. If the item is ornamental, it will look amateurish and if it is functional then it will be able to perform no more than its most basic function. There may well still be imperfections in the finished product, from slight bumps and dents to ill-fitting joints etc. At novice, the woodworker will not be able to combine techniques, needing to focus on one thing at a time.
Competence in Woodworking comes with the attention to detail which the novice lacked. At this level of experience, the woodworker’s focus is on functionality and the character can produce pieces which are easily usable and meet expectations. Therefore, an ornamental object produced at this level will look as it should, though without any surprises or much originality, and a functional object such as a box will be made to fit everything exactly as it should. The competent woodworker is now able to combine techniques and can, for example, produce an engraved bowl. At this level, the woodworker will still produce their best work when focusing on one or two techniques. Introducing more techniques to the process increases the risk of the end product being less than satisfactory.
An expert woodworker is someone who can produce pieces which combine techniques to very good effect. They are able to produce items which exceed expectation. Thus, an ornamental piece of sculpture is beautiful and obviously well=crafted and a functional piece is not merely easily usable but also efficient; a tool handle will be well-fitting and balanced with the tool head, for instance. Decorative touches at this level are very nice and can be intricate or simple in their layout.
At mastery, the woodworker is able to produce wonders with wood. Techniques are combined to create complex or simple pieces which are way beyond expectations and standards are incredibly high. Items made by a master woodworker are more durable and even functional items are things of beauty. The master woodworker has truly learned how to utilise all techniques to their utmost, combining them in a finished product which is exquisitely beautiful, efficient and the pinnacle of the art.