Surely there may be more rules, but these are a solid start ... and an important starting point to all those new woodworkers, and even a few more seasoned ones, on some of the most important aspects of woodworking and turning out work you are happy with.
And where else to start but with the wood ...
#1 - Purchase Decent Quality Wood
I know wood is expensive and not everyone is building "quality furniture" and sometimes we are building rough projects and just generally experimenting with wood so we don't want to get good quality wood that is only going to end up as scrap ... I get it, but there are alternatives. Woodworking is serious work, a place were we learn, experiment and most of all, receive enjoyment. I think we all know about purchasing quality wood for quality projects ... wood we can get from the wood store but what about lesser quality wood. Lesser quality wood could be used wood, or just less expensive wood from the wood store. Used wood, especially something like pallet wood, can be an enormous false economy and here's why. First of all it only comes in specific sizes which is limiting to the woodworker. It is almost always "under-thickness" (which is why it's pallet wood) this means in order to get consistent thicknesses, it all needs to pass through a thickness planer after it has been "jointed flat". And as we all know, pallet wood lives on the ground, which means it most often picks up little rocks and dirt which will go a long way to dulling and even chipping the blades on your planer, jointer and sometimes even your table saw ... all this after you may have spent hours driving around trying to find enough pallets to salvage the lumber off them that you can use. Did I mention I'm not a fan of pallet wood?
There is lots of less expensive wood, softwoods, seconds and more at the lumber or big box store and even buying thicker wood and cutting some of down ... many ways to save on lumber that are safer, quicker and much easier and cost effective on your tools.
#2 - Know the Moisture Content of Your Wood
This is one of the least understood hardest lessons to learn for new woodworkers. I get no end of emails and messages from newer woodworkers with all sorts of problems that all relate to using wood that is too wet and finding out after it has been turned into a project and dried, that many things have happened to that project. As a general rule, we like to use wood that is around the 9 or 10 percent moisture content for furniture or any wood project that is going into the home of office. There are a few reasons for this such as ...
Green wood, or wood that is often above 15% or 20% can (and often does) warp as it dries. When it has already be cut to size and incorporated into a project, it will still bend and warp as it dries sometimes making loose joints, furniture that's wobbly, edges that are uneven and worst of all, depending on the finish that was applied ... the finish can lift off in sheets or chunks or create other anomalies of color change, cloudiness and more.
You should know the even "kiln dried wood" from the lumber store is VERY OFTEN only "partially" kiln dried .. but you need to know this and that's why a moisture meter is critical.
You can save yourself a whole lot of grief by letting lumber dry before you use it.
#3 - Equip Yourself with a Quality, Steel Square
Also called Engineer's Squares, an inexpensive steel square will become your main tool for setting up your equipment and checking the quality of your wood cuts for being square and accurate. Even if you have a tri-square or combination square, you should STILL have at least one fixed steel square. I found out the hard way the most inexpensive combination squares are NOT necessarily square or accurate. As a rule, combination squares in excess of $100 can be relied on but the inexpensive ones are only good for building fences and maybe chicken coups.
#4 - Have at least One Good Quality Table Saw Blade
Table saw blade technology has made huge leaps forward in the past 20 years to the point where now, you can purchase combination blades that give near perfect cuts both ripping and crosscutting. There still remains a place for dedicated cross and rip blades for the ultimate speed and quality of cut for those of us who don't mind changing blades and have saws where it is quicker and easier to do. I still have have at least one "cheap" (disposable) table saw blade on hand when I need to cut into any "used" wood I may salvaged from another build or from an urban cut tree where nails or screws were driven into the wood and my wood metal detector did not find them.
Every woodworker should know the basics of table saw blade selection and what to look for the link to that video is - HERE
#5 - Knowing and Understanding Workshop Safety
Of course the first basics are Eye, Ear and Lung protection because who wants any of these damaged when you can easily protect them, but there is lots more on this topic which I will simply say is taking the time to think about what you are doing before you start - what could possibly go wrong with what you are doing. Work slowly, don't rush and know what you are doing and what you want to accomplish. Take smaller "bites" to help avoid surprise tool to wood reactions while you continue to hone your skills.
In terms of push sticks for table saws, the latest product from Mag Tool, a push stick that can sit on or beside your table saw is one of the best ideas I have seen in a long time.
Below is the picture & link to the Woodworkweb MagTool Store for more details or purchase of the SAVR Push Block
Note: it also comes with a metal foot and double sided tape for attaching to non-steel bases
Take your time with woodworking, enjoy what you do and make everything you do purposeful ....
Specific Tools Suggested or used in this episode available through
These Woodworkweb Affiliate Stores
Wagner Orion 920 Moisture Meter - https://bit.ly/3FjIctZ
6 inch Steelex Square Amazon Affiliate - https://bit.ly/3PZ8Bly
- - Taylor Tools Affiliate Store - https://lddy.no/18zkg