7 Woodworking Mistakes to Avoid for Successful DIY Projects

Timisha Porcher, the woodworking expert behind Toolbox Divas, shares her tips for avoiding common errors when crafting projects with wood.

Woodworking can be an incredibly rewarding hobby, allowing you to create your own furniture and customize your home with your handiwork. As with any project that involves power tools, it requires a lot of concentration and precision, and even the most experienced woodworkers make mistakes from time to time. Some errors are as simple as making an incorrect measurement, but other mishaps can result in serious injury or force you to scrap the whole project.

We turned to Timisha Porcher, the DIY expert behind Toolbox Divas, to learn some of the most common woodworking mistakes as well as her tricks for success. "Yes, woodworking can be dangerous, but when it's done properly and safely, it's very empowering," she says. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned DIYer, follow Porcher's tips to avoid these woodworking mistakes.

Timisha Porcher of Toolbox Divas holding power drill and piece of wood that will be turned into a DIY project
Griffin Harrington

1. Not Being Mentally Prepared

You shouldn't work with power tools if you can't fully concentrate on the task at hand, Porcher says. Before using a sharp blade or power tools, do a quick self-check to ensure you're feeling confident and focused, not distracted or upset about something else. "If you lack focus, you could easily make a mistake or seriously hurt yourself," she says.

2. Wearing Improper Attire

Make sure you're not wearing anything that could get caught in a moving blade, including baggy clothing or dangly jewelry. Wear comfortable, fitted clothes, and tie up loose hair before you begin. "If you're wearing something with a drawstring, like a hoodie or pants, you want to make sure it's tucked in," Porcher adds. Safety goggles and comfortable shoes with good traction are also essential.

3. Angles That Aren't Square

Lack of squareness is a common woodworking mistake that can result in gaps or edges that don't line up. Use materials with straight, clean edges, and check angles carefully to ensure accuracy. Porcher recommends using a speed square ($10, The Home Depot), a triangular carpenter's tool that lets you quickly find and mark angles between 0 and 90 degrees. If needed, cut test pieces to ensure your angles are correct before cutting the actual project materials.

4. Taking Inaccurate Measurements

Precise measurements are key to a successful woodworking project; even small discrepancies can make a big difference. "Always measure more than once to make sure everything is accurate," Porcher suggests. You should also double-check the dimensions of purchased materials to confirm they're correct. Use the same tape measure or measuring tool throughout the entire project for consistency.

5. Causing Tear-Out

Tear-out happens when wood chunks or fibers get torn away by a tool, resulting in a splintered or jagged edge. Cutting with a dull blade is one of the main causes, Porcher says, but it can also happen when drilling into a piece of wood. "To prevent tear-out, you can apply painters tape on both sides of the wood before you drill into it, or tape along the edge where you're going to cut," she says. This trick holds the wood fibers in place to help you achieve a clean cut.

6. Using Low-Quality Wood

Working with wood that's full of knots and other irregularities can make your project unnecessarily difficult and more dangerous. Inspect lumber carefully before purchasing, and steer clear of pieces that aren't straight, contain a lot of knots, or appear dented or cracked, as these are signs of poor quality. And if you're creating something for outdoor use, be sure to use pressure-treated lumber or seal the wood yourself to prevent damage from moisture and UV rays.

7. Thinking You Need to Be an Expert

You don't need extensive carpentry experience to try your hand at woodworking. "If this is something you've always wanted to do, put fear aside and go for it," Porcher says. If stepping in front of a saw still sounds intimidating, sign up for a beginner's woodworking class in your area to learn the basics, she suggests. Then, when you're comfortable, jump in and start making. "It's OK to make mistakes," she says. "In fact, you'll learn more from your mistakes."

To hear more DIY ideas check out our new podcast, The Better Buy, where we share more information about decorating, home renovation, and finding your dream house.

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