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I’ve started the HobbyHack app to replace woodworking classes and decided to write about my progress and some of the woodworking projects I’ve completed to learn woodworking skills.

Why I started HobbyHack.

First, let me explain about why I started HobbyHack in the first place. Several years ago, before the pandemic I was starting to learn woodworking. Probably like a lot of you I went to YouTube, looked for woodworking classes online, or beginner woodworking projects and other resources trying to learn the hobby of woodworking. So, I started reviewing a lot of videos that taught different skills, but I was never sure that I was learning the right skills in the right order.

There are a lot of local options for woodworking classes and carpentry classes as well and other hands-on avenues to learn. But like many of you, I want to take advantage of convenience. I want to go to my garage when it suits me. I want to use YouTube and other online resources, but when I’m ready to sit down and watch them, not “go to class”. When you sign up for woodworking classes or carpentry classes, they’re at a specific time, a specific place and it’s up to you to show up. Check out my previous post about learning woodworking online here.

There’s a lot of great information on YouTube and other channels and we use YouTube videos within the app, but there’s no defined progression to know if you are learning woodworking skills in the right order. For example, what are beginner woodworking projects that are not only easy but teach foundational woodworking skills that will allow you to build more complex woodworking projects later? For some that’s not important, but for me I want to know and master the fundamentals to be truly good and make quality furniture later. I never really considered looking for woodworking classes near me, or local carpentry classes, there is an abundance of information online and thought I could take advantage of that.

So, with the help of our master woodworker Kevin Rodel, we created a nine-step guide that takes you from the very basics, like what tools to start with, all the way up through creating the most difficult woodworking projects. There are a thousand reasons why people enjoy woodworking or want to learn this skill, and we created HobbyHack for all those. Personally, I want to create cool furniture as a retirement hobby, so I’m starting in the app just like everybody else, and this is where I’m at today.

Starting at Level 2 and its woodworking projects

Everybody is different and you half to determine at which level you want to start within the app. There are short descriptions when you log in for each level designed to help you to make that judgement. You decide what your ability is and choose at which level to start. I chose to start at level 2, because level 2 has all the basic joints that I felt I needed the master, and I’m glad I did. Repetition is the key to mastering any skill and based on my experience so far, I got a lot of repetitions before I got it right. I started watching the prescribed videos and then went to the garage. The four joints that are taught in level 2 are the simple half lab joint, the dovetail joint, the half blind dovetail joint, and the mortise & tenon joint.

learning the Dovetail joint through a small woodworking project. Woodworking classes are an alternative in the HobbyHack app

Learning through repetition

For my first woodworking project I started with a small box to develop my skills on the basic dovetail joint. I’ve never attempted these joints before and this turned out to be a real challenge. As you can see in this picture, I had a lot of failed attempts at making a dovetail joint, but all this failure led to good learning and eventual success. Cutting a dovetail joint like this takes a lot of patience and there are some good videos out there that’ll help you get started in the right direction, but in the end, you have to master your own skills.

For this woodworking project the problems I had we’re mostly due to not properly aligning the pin board to the tails board. And the first tip I’ll share is to clamp everything when you’re aligning the work piece to get the most accurate marks. The second tip is once I started using a marking knife instead of a pencil, the accuracy of cutting my tails became much greater. The fit of the pins into the tails then became nice and tight. With just pencil marks I was chiseling too much wood out based on less accurate lines drawn by the heavier pencil versus knife lines. The chisel also “finds” the knife line giving you a good straight start cutting the tails.

As for a type of wood to learn on I would recommend Poplar. Poplar is considered a hardwood, but it is softer than most and a little more forgiving. It’s also inexpensive compared to other hardwoods and can be found in the big box retailers. Pine is way too soft, and you end up taking way too much material out when you’re trying to cut fine corners with a chisel. The dovetail joint also teaches you how to work with your chisels which is very important to learn early in your journey. In level 1 that is one of the first tools that we teach and how to sharpen chisels what was critical to the success of cutting these joints.

The second woodworking project to learn joinery. this is Level 2 in the HobbyHack app.

Successful Half-blind and regular Dovetail joints.

The next woodworking project in level 2 was another small box but this one had to have the half-blind dovetail joint as you can see in this picture. In the first woodworking project I simply cut basic dovetails on every corner then on this box I used a half- blind dovetail on two corners and the basic dovetail on two corners. As you can see, I used two different types of wood which highlights the quality of the cut (The walnut board was from my scrap pile, not purchased for the project). These are by no means perfect, but my skill got better and better the more joints I cut. That goes back to my point about repetition.

My final woodworking project in level 2 is a simple step stool with the focus being on the Mortise and Tenon joint. In this picture, I’m showing the almost completed frame which has 14 Mortise and Tenon joints. You can view this completed woodworking project at one of our social sites at some of the links below.

Woodworking project and woodworking skills in Mortise and Tenon joinery

Fourteen Mortise and Tenon Joints in the frame of a small step stool for a Level 2 project in Level 2 of the HobbyHack app.

This project really sharpened my woodworking skills with cutting fourteen Mortise and Tenon joints. Definitely made a few mistakes, but overall, most of the joints fit very tight which will make the stool very stable. As the creator of this app, this is exactly what I was hoping to get out of it. A way to develop my woodworking skills in a manner that will serve me throughout my journey.


Lessons Learned

Here’s the woodworking skills I learned in level 2, and I’ll start with the obvious, measure, measure, measure, and then measure again. Especially cutting joints when you need to know exactly where one board is going to connect with the other. Next, when you’re working on a piece, clamp everything. When you’re aligning 2 boards to mark where the joints are going to match, don’t try to hold it with one hand and mark with the other. For cutting, and even if you’re making a simple cut, using a clamp to hold the board will increase the accuracy of the cut and make things so much easier. I did a video about installing a vice on my portable workbench and you can find that here. That was a huge help especially cutting joints. As I mentioned above use a marking knife outline either the tails on a dovetail, or the or the Mortise for the Tenon. That will help you align the chisel a lot easier and improve accuracy. And finally, something from level one in this app is sharpen those chisels. I sharpen my chisels regularly, especially since they’re new and we’re getting a very fine edge on them which helps tremendously. Nothing will improve your woodworking skills like taking your time.

In the future we hope to offer woodworking classes online directly through our app, but they will still be aligned with our nine-step framework. But so far, without going to woodworking classes or carpentry classes I am getting a great woodworking online education through this app. Hope you join us and try it out.