Last Updated on September 15, 2020
Most of my woodworking projects are built during the short periods of time that I can sneak away to the garage. This is usually when my toddler is napping or after bedtime. Because my project time is so limited, I have had to learn a few tricks to make the most of that precious time. This post includes my best faster woodworking tips.
But, I have to be honest with you guys, these tips are not glamorous. There is no big trick that I’ve found to magically make my woodworking projects move along faster.
Instead, there are a bunch of little changes I’ve made that together make a big impact on increasing my woodworking efficiency. Here are the changes I’ve made to make things go a little bit faster.
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Organize Your Shop
Maintaining an organized garage is so hard for me, but it makes a huge difference in how quickly I can complete projects. I used to spend the majority of my limited woodworking time looking for my tools and trying to clear a spot to work. When I wasted an entire 2 hour naptime trying to find my drill bits it was a pretty big “aha” moment for me. If I just organized my garage I could spend my time building instead of searching for tools.
Organization has been a long process and we still don’t have a perfect system, but some things that have made a big difference in our garage organization are: building a workbench with storage, adding a peg board to hang small tools, installing a french cleat wall to hang larger tools, building a wood storage area, and adding more overhead storage on the ceiling of the garage.
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Keep a Clean Work Space
A messy, cluttered workshop can not only slow down your projects, but it can also be dangerous. On top of being organized, keeping your shop clean will make a big impact on how quickly you can complete woodworking projects. Here are some little tasks that will help you to keep your shop clean.
- Sweep regularly – sawdust buildup on a cement floor can get slippery
- Put things away after you use them – why is this so obvious, but so hard to commit to?
- Keep your workbench top or tabletop work area clear of items
- Store work-in-progress projects to the side or in a space that leaves clear walkways
Take Care of Your Tools
Ensure that you can always get right to work by keeping your tools in good condition. This means cleaning your tools regularly and replacing blades or other parts as needed. Maintaining your tools has a lot of benefits. They will last longer. You will have less errors when working on your woodworking projects. And, performing regular maintenance will save you from having to stop mid-project to repair or clean a tool.
Use Good Quality Lumber
Start with good quality lumber to save time trying to make up for wonky boards during your project. When purchasing lumber look for straight boards that are free from cracks. You can learn how to spot all of the most common board flaws at How to Shop for Lumber for Woodworking Projects. Working with flawed lumber will add more time to your project as you try to figure out how to hide the flaws or how to work around them. Additionally, using lumber that is warped or flawed in some other way will leave you with a lower quality end product.
Start with a Plan
Knowing your plan ahead of time will allow you to complete your woodworking project so much faster than making it up as you go. Start your project by sitting down and writing out your own woodworking plans or check out all of my free woodworking plans. All of my free woodworking plans provide you with a shopping list, cut list and step-by-step written instructions as well as pictures. Using a pre-made plan is the most efficient way to get your woodworking projects done!
Double Check Measurements
I have wasted so much time when woodworking by measuring my boards incorrectly. I tend to get in a hurry and this hurrying causes me to make more mistakes which slows me way down. There’s not much you can do if you cut your boards too short. Hopefully, you have enough scrap wood to cut a new piece at the correct length or you’ll have to make another trip to the lumber yard to buy more wood.
Save yourself the trouble by double (& triple) checking your measurements before you cut your lumber. Making sure that your measurements are correct before you cut will save you so much time (and frustration).
Don’t Measure Every Time
Wait… isn’t the the opposite of what I just said? I’ll explain.
If you have several boards that need to be cut to the same length, you don’t have to measure every single board. Instead, measure the first board and cut it to length. Then, use that cut board as a guide for cutting the rest of your lumber.
I do this on my miter saw by putting the board that needs to be cut on the saw. Then, I place my already cut board on top. Line up the end of the boards and then position them under the saw blade so that the edge of the cut board will be against the saw when you bring it down to cut.
Once you have the boards in position you can remove the top already cut board before cutting the new board on the bottom. I usually leave the top board on when I’m measuring board this way. Either way will work fine, just make sure you have a tight hold on the board(s) before you start sawing through.
This method saves me so much time and I’m so much more confident that I’m cutting boards to the same length when I do it this way.
Measurement Charts & Calculators
You guys, I am not great at math, and there is so much math in woodworking!! One thing that helps me out with figuring out measurements is to use charts like the common board dimensions chart that I have in my free resource library. I keep this chart on hand in my work shop and it saves me from having to Google board dimensions every time I plan a new project. Another time-saving tool is a home project calculator. It measures in feet and inches which saves you from having to do the conversions yourself.
Batch your work
I do my woodworking projects in phases and it definitely saves me time because I can focus on using one tool at a time.This the process I usually follow:
- Cut all boards to size except boards that will need to be cut to fit during assembly. Usually the only board I need to wait to cut are trim pieces, but occasionally my projects have angled pieces that fit better if they are cut to size rather than cut to a pre-determined measurement.
- After the boards are cut, I go ahead and sand them all. I start with a low-grit sandpaper and work my way up to a finer grit to get a nice smooth surface. If the project doesn’t need to be super smooth, I still give a quick sand with a rough sandpaper. Sanding preps the surface for stain and paint.
- I almost always stain and paint the wood for my projects before assembly. I find it so much easier to stain and paint lumber first because I don’t have to worry about getting into corners and small spaces with a paint brush or stain rag. Also, I have a tendency to over-glue my projects, leading to drippy glue. Wood glue is not stainable so if you wait to stain until after assembly and some glue has dripped you’ll be left with a very visible unstained spot on your final project.
- Finally, I assemble my project. During assembly I cut any pieces that I didn’t cut at the beginning and make touch ups to the finish if needed.
My printed woodworking plans are always full of notes as I’m working through a project. If you’re like me and have to work in little spurts of time this is totally necessary! Without my notes I spend the first 15 minutes or so of my project time just trying to figure out what I have already done and what I need to next. Check off steps as you work through your project and make notes about what your next step is. Jot down measurements, sketch diagrams, write out a cut board inventory – whatever you need to stay on track.
Lastly, to help your woodworking projects go faster always keep a stock of basic woodworking items in your shop. There are some items that you will need for nearly every project you do. Those items include wood glue, wood screws, sandpaper, stain rags, drill bits and whatever else you use on a regular basis. I try to keep an inventory of what I have in my shop and when I run out of something or am about to run out I order more right away. There’s nothing worse than being stopped mid-project because you run out of screws or some other basic item.
The Ultimate Faster Woodworking Tip
And, one more tip – the real way to get through your projects faster is to just keep doing them. My first projects took me FOREVER. But, as my skills and comfort grew I was able to work faster and faster. The best way to improve your efficiency is to just keep learning and building. Working faster will come naturally with time.
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10 Tips for Faster Woodworking
I hope these tips help you to make the most of your woodworking time. There is no magic answer to woodworking faster, instead there are lots of little changes you can make to increase your efficiency.
I want to hear from you!
Do you have any additional tips to increase woodworking efficiency? I’d love to hear them! Leave me a comment below and I’ll get right back with you.