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What tools should I have in the shop?

There are so many different methods of work out their it is hard to say exactly what type of tools you should have in your shop.  In this guide, I lay out the most common wish list that many woodworkers strive to add to their shops complement of tools.  By having these tools available will also make it easier to build the woodworking project plans sold through this website.

The links to the tools in this article are not an endorsement for the quality or brand of tool you should buy.  We are simply giving an example of what the tool looks like.  It is recommended that you do some research before buying your tools; to be sure, the brand and quality level of the tool will meet your needs and methods of work.

Thickness material
It is nice to have a thickness planer in the shop to bring wood to its final size.  The lunch  box style planers  work great for a small home workshop.  Power is not the only way to thickness board, if you are in for a little workout a jack plane can make quick work when thicknessing a board and flattening a side.

Edge Jointing

A power jointer is a great way to go, and makes quick work for jointing an edge straight and flattening the face of a board.  The most common question is, should I get a 6” wide or an 8” wide?  As soon as you get a 6” wide jointer you will want to face joint an 8” wide board, so get the widest one you can afford.  The lunch box size jointers do not have a long enough table to joint long boards straight so keep that in mind when shopping for one.  As an alternative to power tools a hand plane is a great alternative.

Ripping, cross cutting boards, and cutting dados.

A table saw is often times the central powerhouse of the workshop.  There are many jigs, blade types, and accessories that make it a versatile tool.  It will rip, cross cut, and cut dadoes all in one machine.

There are other alternatives.

There is a wide range of handsaws that are specifically sharpened to do either crosscutting, or rip cuts.  You can also use a circular saw to accomplish many of these type of cuts.

If you are looking for another versatile tool that will do a wide variety of task, including cutting dadoes, look into getting a router.  There is a wide range of bits, jigs, and accessories available to get the most potential out of your router.

For a hand plane option to cut dadoes or rabbits consider getting a few specialty planes such as a rabbit plane or a dado plane.


Cutting curves

Any band saw will make quick work of cutting gentle curves.  The band saw also excels at re-sawing lumber when making veneers or book-match panels.

If you are looking to make more intricate or tighter curves consider a scroll saw, these are great for many smaller projects that require detailed curves.  For a hand tool version not much beats a good coping saw.

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Arts and Crafts Dining Table – Downloadable Plans

Plans for an arts and crafts style dining table

Plans for an arts and crafts style dining tableThis downloadable plan is for an Arts and Crafts style dining table.  The overall table is  38″ wide 84″ long and 30″ high.  It will seat 6-8 people.

The plans include detailed measured drawings, a materials list, and tips to help you build the project.

Download PDF Guide Only:

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Download Combo – PDF Guide and Sketchup File”

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Example Drawings:

Woodworking project ideas for build a table Exploded-leg-view250px

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What Size of Floor Joists do I need

Floor joists are calculated by how much deflection they will give when placed under a load. If you use to small of a floor joist or space them too far apart you will end up with a bouncy floor or worse, a floor that could fail.

The deflection is typically calculated using 10 psf, (pounds per square foot) dead load and 40 psf live load; combined to a 50 psf. The table below is figured using a deflection between 3/8” and 1/2″. Meaning, if you place 50 psf on the center of a board supported only on its ends it will deflect between 3/8” and 1/2”.

It is also important to know what species of wood you are using and what grade it is. Each wood species naturally has a different strength. Lower grade boards are weaker because of the knots and defects in the wood weaken the boards.

Below you will find a general guide for selecting what size of floor joists to use. Be sure to consult an engineer/architect and your local building department before implementing. Other factors could require a different configuration and larger joist. For example, placement of interior walls or bathtubs, those soaking tubs get heavy when full of water.

Floor Joist Span Ratings
Species Grade 2″x8″ Board
16″ O.C
2″x8″ Board
24″ O.C
2″x10″ Board
16″ O.C
2″x10″ Board
24″ O.C
2″x12″ Board
16″ O.C
2″x12″ Board
24″ O.C
Douglas Fir-Larch 2 13′ 1" 11′ 3" 16′ 9" 14′ 5" 20′ 5" 17′ 6"
Douglas Fir-Larch 3 10′ 7" 8′ 8" 13′ 6" 11′ 16′ 5" 13′ 5"
Douglas Fir South 2 12′ 10′ 6" 15′ 3" 13′ 4" 18′ 7" 16′ 3"
Douglas Fir South 3 10′ 3" 8′ 4" 13′ 1" 10′ 8" 15′ 11" 13′
Hemlock 2 12′ 3" 10′ 15′ 8" 12′ 10" 19′ 1" 15′ 7"
Hemlock 3 9′ 5" 7′ 8" 12′ 9′ 10" 14′ 7" 11′ 11"
Mountain Hemlock 2 11′ 4" 9′ 11" 14′ 6" 14′ 8" 17′ 7" 15′ 4"
Mountain Hemlock 3 9′ 7" 7′ 10" 12′ 3" 10′ 14′ 11" 12′ 2"
Western Hemlock 2 12′ 3" 10′ 6" 15′ 8" 13′ 4" 19′ 1" 16′ 3"
Western Hemlock 3 9′ 11" 8′ 1" 12′ 8" 10′ 4" 15′ 5" 12′ 7"
Engelmann Spruce/Alpine Fir 2 11′ 2" 9′ 1" 14′ 3" 11′ 7" 17′ 3" 14′ 2"
Engelmann Spruce/Alpine Fir 3 8′ 6" 6′ 11" 10′ 10" 8′ 10" 13′ 2" 10′ 9"
Lodgepole Pine 2 11′ 8" 9′ 7" 14′ 11" 12′ 3" 18′ 1" 14′ 11"
Lodgepole Pine 3 9′ 1" 7′ 5" 11′ 7" 9′ 5" 14′ 1" 11′ 6"
Ponderosa Pine/Sugar Pine 2 11′ 4" 9′ 3" 14′ 5" 11′ 9" 17′ 7" 14′ 4"
Ponderosa Pine/Sugar Pine 3 8′ 8" 7′ 7" 11′ 1" 9′ 1" 13′ 6" 11′

O.C = On Center
Strength – 10 PSF Dead Load plus 40 PSF Live Load
Deflection – Limited to span in inches divided by 360 live load only.

The information provided here is only intended to be used for general knowledge. Before implementing into your project consult an architect/engineer, your local building department, and the manufacture of the products you are using.

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Nominal vs Actual Lumbers Size – Why my 2×4 measures smaller

Construction lumber is often referred to as its nominal size or trade size. This size does not match the actual measurement of the wood you are buying. It is used in name only to identify the general/approximate size you are getting. For example, it is much easier to say “2×4” that it is to say “1-1/2×3-1/2”.

Referring to construction materials in their nominal sizes have become the industry standards for many of the products used. Other examples you will see nominal sizes used are windows and doors. Each product category has its own reasons and story for how the sizing reference came to be.

In the instance of dimensional lumber, the sizing refers to how the mill does its first cuts from the log. For an example, the mill may initially cut a 2×4 at 2”x4” but as the wood is further processed, it will end up at a final size of 1-1/2” x 3-1/2”. The reason being is that when a tree is freshly cut cell structure of the tree contains a lot of water. Once the boards are rough cut they are kiln dried, as the wood dries and loses that water it shrinks. Then the board is ran through a plainer and smoothed to its final size.

Below is a chart of nominal vs actual size of common boards used in the construction industry.


Nominal vs Actual Board Sizes in inches
Nominal Size Actual Size
1×2 3/4 x 1-1/2
1×3 3/4 x 2-1/2
1×4 3/4 x 3-1/2
1×6 3/4 x 5-1/2
1×8 3/4 x 7-1/4
1×10 3/4 x 9-1/4
1×12 3/4×11-1/4
5/4 x 4 1 x 3-1/2
5/4 x 6 1 x 5-1/2
2×2 1-1/2 x 1-1/2
2×4 1-1/2 x 3-1/2
2×6 1-1/2 x 5-1/2
2×8 1-1/2 x 7-1/4
2×10 1-1/2 x 9-1/4
2×12 1-1/2 x 11-1/4
4×4 3-1/2 x 3-1/2
6×6 5-1/2 x 5-1/2

7-1/4 x 7-1/4

12×12 11-1/4 x 11-1/4

The information provided here is only intended to be used for general knowledge. Before implementing into your project consult an architect/engineer, your local building department, and the manufacture of the products you are using.

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Ladder ratings – What ladder is best for the job

Have you ever wonder what that sticker on your ladder means, or if that ladder was strong enough to support you and your tools. Here is some basic ladder info to help you decided what ladder to use for what task.

Ladders are typically rated by the weight they can carry per rung.

  • Type III Ladder – 200 pounds – rated for light duty.
  • Type II Ladder – 225 Pounds – rated for medium duty.
  • Type I Ladder – 250 Pounds – Rated for Industrial use/heavy duty
  • Type IA Ladder – 300 Pounds – Rated for Extra Heavy Duty


Info on the different materials ladders are made from.

Aluminum Ladders:

These ladders are typically inexpensive and lightweight, which makes them ideal for job where you need to carry the ladder by yourself. However, it is not recommended to use an aluminum ladder around live electrical wiring. Aluminum is a conductive metal, thus increasing your chance of electrical shock if you come in contact with a live wire while working from an aluminum ladder.

Fiberglass Ladders:

A fiberglass ladder is one of the more expensive ladders, but will last you a long time. The fiberglass is strong, rot, and rust resistant, and is non-conductive making it ideal to work around electrical wiring.

 Wooden Ladders:

Wooden ladders have fallen out of popularity over the last few years. They are prone to dying out, cracking, splintering, and if left in the wet weather, rotting. However, they are usually less expensive than fiberglass, fairly lightweight, and non-conductive.

Homemade Job site Ladders:

Even if you are building a homemade ladder, you should still follow all the OSHA standards for building ladders. To build your ladder you should use a minimum of structural rated 2×4’s for the sides of the ladder, and 1×3’s for the rungs. Be sure to inspect the wood for large knots, as knots will weaken the wood and could cause a failure.

When attaching the rungs to the sides, do not just nail them on. For the strongest attachment notch, them into the 2×4’s then nail or screw them.

For ladders that are up to 12 feet tall should have the sides spaced 16 inches apart (inside measurement), and for ladders up to 20 feet tall should have an inside measurement of 18 inches between the sides.


The information provided here is only intended to be used for general knowledge. Before implementing into your project consult an architect/engineer, your local building department, and the manufacture of the products you are using.