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Carpentry basics for beginners

If you’re keen to tackle a DIY carpentry project, you’d better be prepared for some hard – and rewarding – work!

Carpentry can be as taxing on the brain as it is on the body – all that planning, calculating and measuring before you even get near a piece of timber. But when you get a kick out of creating and love what you do, there’s no better hobby. 

What does a carpenter do?

If you live in a timber-framed home, you can be certain that a carpenter will have laid out the whole structure from walls to floors, windows to door-frames. They also:

  • Create concrete formwork – the moulds for foundations, slabs and shoring etc.
  • Construct staircases
  • Install windows and doors as well as your interior finishes and trims
  • And can build and install cabinets and countertops.

If that sounds like something you might be interested in learning, then carpentry is definitely an avenue worth exploring. But first, you need to understand how wood works. 

How wood works

We all know that wood has a grain, which is the product of how its fibres have developed. Each grain has a distinct pattern, depending on the type of wood.  For many people it’s considered nothing more than a visual element, but for carpenters it’s a whole lot more. 

Knowing how the grain impacts wood’s use is critical to harnessing its strengths and mitigating its weaknesses. That’s because:

  • Wood is stronger along the grain than across it
  • Wood moves less along the grain than across it
  • Understanding its pattern allows you to predict how the wood will move and by how much.

Another core piece of knowledge is that wood is constantly expanding and contracting – whether or not it has been treated or dressed. Wood will always move as its moisture content varies, and you have to ensure that construction allows for that movement across its lifetime.

That creaking you hear in your home when there’s a sudden change in temperature or humidity? Don’t panic! In all likelihood, it’s probably standard timber expansion or contraction.  

Choosing wood for carpentry

When you’re working with solid woods, you can choose from either hardwoods or softwoods. Hardwoods typically come from a deciduous tree, like oak, ash, walnut and so on. Whereas softwoods come from conifers like pine trees – redwood, cedar or pitch pine and the like. Pine is the most widely available wood and is typically the most affordable.

That said, the wood you choose should be dictated by its purpose, because each varies in terms of how it can be worked with, how dense it is, and whether or not it will have the desired appearance. 

Hardwoods tend to be used for things like furniture, flooring and decking. That’s because they’re:

  • Durable
  • Provide a high-quality finished appearance.

However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that hardwoods are usually:

  • More costly
  • Trickier to work with.

Softwoods are pretty versatile and widely used in construction – framing up your walls, doors and windows for starters. Like any option, you have to weigh up the pros and cons:

  • It’s typically cheaper than hardwood and, from an environmental perspective, quicker to re-forest
  • It’s easier to work with
  • However, it can also be a bit less durable.

So, before you pick up a tool or a piece of timber, it’s wise to think about the factors that influence your choice of wood. 

From there, you’ll need to understand a bit more about how you go about fixing it together. And there’s no better place to start than with Carpenters Mate. 

Choosing a wood screw

Wood screws work with hardwood, softwood, chipboard and MDF. In cases where you might once have needed to drill a pilot hole, our clever self-drilling screws have been designed to make the job much quicker and easier. No pilot hole, just straight down to business.

So, with one crucial decision already made, you’ll need to think about screw sizing. That means length, thickness and load bearing capacity. Heavier screws, as you’d imagine, should be used wherever you’re dealing with larger weights or burden on the joint, to maximise holding power. The width, diameter of thickness of the screw is known as its ‘gauge’, and should be dictated by the width of the wood you’re using. 

When it comes to length, your chosen screw should – at a minimum – reach half way into the bottom material and should never protrude out the far side.

Wood screws can be either partially or fully threaded and have a pointed tip for precision. Usually, you’ll chose a screw with fine threads for hardwoods and a coarser thread for softwoods and plywood – the latter delivering a better grip to compensate for the wood. 

Another variable is, of course, the screw head type. But, never fear, thanks to Carpenters Mate, you’ll never again have to scramble about looking for a matching drill bit again… our screws all come with correct bit for the job.

But that’s not where the help ends!

Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, it’s time to delve into the planning. And with planning, comes mathematics! Luckily, our bespoke Calcumate tools are designed to take some of the pain out of your projects.

So if, for example, you’re getting ready for a loft conversion, let our handy tool calculate the number of Carpenters Mate Pro Hex Screws you’ll need for each joint.

Or, take advantage of the Multiple Member Spacing Tool, which calculates the space required between each Carpenters Mate Pro Hex Screws for multiple member connections.

It really couldn’t be simpler.

Get help from the experts today – http://mycalcumate.co.uk/ 

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