Learning To Use Your Tools

I’ve been an educator most of my life so I’d also need to define myself as a career student as well. Before you can become an effective teacher you must first understand how you learn. I spent 45 years as an electronic technician, a troubleshooter. I fixed things, any things. That type of job requires a lot of deductive reasoning to be effective. The same processes can be applied to any new skill development.

Woodworking as a hobbyist demands that I use a wide variety of hand and power tools. Before you start building a major project it behooves you to learn how to use your specific tools.

When I taught students how to use a personal computer years ago, I explained to them that they needed to “play” with a computer before they began using it for critical work. There’s an old cartoon I used to show them of a poor office worker with unopened computer equipment piled next to her desk. As she began opening the equipment she grabbed the first manual she could find that might teach her how to setup and use all that technology. As she turned to the first chapter her boss walks up and dumps a thick printout of data and tells her he wants a spreadsheet compiled on that new computer before the weekend. The look on her face was of shear panic.

My computer students laughed at the concept behind that simple cartoon. You don’t learn well under extreme pressure to perform. She needed time to develop a skill set that would give her the abilities to use her new tool, that computer. She needed to “play” with it before she could “work” with it. Make sense?

The same principle applies to woodworking and tools. When using a new table saw you need to make a simple birdhouse instead of trying to start with a new chest of drawers. The techniques you’ll learn in play mode will carry over to a bigger project and you’ll not be under a lot of pressure to learn on the fly.

Thus it is with my new tablesaw accessories, especially my new Incra 1000SE miter gauge. In the short time I’ve owned it I’ve learned to assemble it properly, calibrate it and check its accuracy as well as  modify it to meet my needs for a specific task. The more I “play” with it the more I realize how fantastic an addition it will make to my skill set and ability to make accurate, repeatable cuts for any project. It’s such a versatile tool I literally threw away the miter gauge that came with my tablesaw.

So let the games begin! I need to play with some scrap wood in making no miter picture frames. These are ideally suited to my Incra miter gauge because of its precision and repeatability. I need to cut 16 dados to make just one picture frame and each cut needs to be precisely made. It’s time to cut up a 2″x4″ for scrap pieces I can use to “play” with during my next learning lesson. What fun!

Incra 1000SE miter gauge and extendable fence & stop system.

Incra 1000SE

No Miter Picture Frames

No Miter Picture Frames


3 thoughts on “Learning To Use Your Tools

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