This woodworking tip of the week is all about keeping a notebook. This is something that few woodworkers do, but it should be a standard practice. Woodworking and wood finishing are highly driven by ideas. Having a place to store them and collect important discoveries for reference is very important.
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A woodworking notebook does several things. First, it is a single place to collect information about woodworking and wood finishing. Many times, you will come up with an idea and forget about it before you try it in the shop. If you write these ideas down, you will have a much easier time remembering them when needed.
Another thing that a notebook does is keep a record of past projects, dimensions, and finish recipes. Revisiting a project that was made a long time ago is made far easier when you have the important data right at your fingertips. If you ever need to duplicate the same project, all you need is your notebook.
When you use the notebook for a while, it will create a record of your projects, and become in itself a small reference book that you can use and share. Reading over ideas from a while ago can bring about new ideas, and those ideas can bring about even more. Woodworking is about making connections. The projects, techniques, and designs are all connected. A woodworker that is very deep in the craft will be constantly making connections between ideas, and forming new designs for projects and wood finishes.
The best notebooks are not expensive, but they are not super cheap either. You should have one main book that contains all of your data, ideas, and drawings. If you purchase a $1 notebook, you will tend to treat it like something that has little value.
The real value of the notebook will be contained inside the pages. Buying a nicer book that will hold up over time will make a difference in how well the book ages. Very good notebooks can be had for anywhere from $10-$40, and they will have a good weight and feel. Also, better notebooks will be cared for more, because it took more than $1 to buy. If you start writing in a notebook now, in ten years you will be very happy that you put a few extra dollars into the purchase.
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This woodworking tip of the week will get you taking notes and keeping a woodworking notebook. Years from now, this book will be one of your most valuable woodworking references.
My process involves two notebooks. My main notebook is has a hard cover, and is where all of my information lands. I have a second notebook that is very thin with a soft cover, which fits in my back pocket. This is what I carry around when I am away from the shop.
The smaller soft cover notebook is where my immediate ideas are stored. It also gets my quick notes, and drawings. The reason I carry the smaller book is so that I don’t have any excuses for not writing down my ideas. The small book fits in my pocket, and I never even notice that I have it. When inspiration strikes, or when I see something that I want to try in my shop, I write it down. Once I get back to the shop, I transfer the edited version to my larger book. Sometimes I will try out my idea first, and then transfer the best version to the main book. This helps keep the notebook free of ideas that do not work.
If you like this article, take a look at these other woodworking tips:
- How to Get Your Finish to Dry Properly
- How to Use a Cabinet Scraper
- Making A Sanding Block
- Finishing With Tru-Oil
This has been the woodworking tip of the week. If you have any questions about keeping a notebook, or about my process, leave a comment and I will answer them. Happy building.
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