How to fix 10 common woodworking mistakes

Fix common mistakes you wish you hadn't made

By Steve Maxwell



Every woodworker makes a mistake sooner or later, but the good ones know how to fix them. That’s what really matters. And that’s what you’ll get here: real-world tips for fixing your real-world woodworking problems.

1. Removing Router Burn

Hard, light-coloured woods such as oak and maple are great to work with in most ways, but there’s a problem: both have a tendency to burn when edge-routed. And once the dark brown marks are on these woods, it’s surprisingly difficult to sand them off. In fact, it’s almost impossible. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a complicated routed profile.

You can remove router-burned edges in a matter of seconds with this easy fix. Simply adjust the depth of cut on your router bit a smidgen deeper than the cut that burned your wood in the first place. If you take off about 1/64″ to 1/32″ of extra wood while moving your workpiece past the bit relatively quickly, you’ll mill off all the burned wood without causing further damage.

2. Tightening Sloppy Mortise-and-Tenon Joints

Mortises and tenons are mainstays of good woodworking, but they need to fit snugly to perform right. And that doesn’t always happen, especially when you’re learning. If you cut a mortise-and-tenon joint that wiggles, even a little, don’t just glue it up and hope for the best; you’ll probably be disappointed. Instead, take the time to cut thin pieces of wood to glue and clamp to the sides of the tenon. If you orient the grain of your patch to match the grain of the undersized tenon, you’ll get another shot at cutting the tenon, and the joint will still be strong.

3. Eliminating Gaps in Face Frame Joints

Face frames are the narrow pieces of wood that cap the front edges of cabinet bodies, and it’s easy to miscut face frame rails so they don’t fit tightly with their neighbouring stiles. If the gap is 1/32″ or less, don’t toss the piece of wood into the scrap heap. Instead, get your pipe clamps out. You’d be surprised how far you can pull in a set of stiles so they fit tight and gap-free against the ends of an otherwise loose rail between them. As added insurance that these joints stay together after the clamps come off, reinforce them with 1/4″ dowels. Drill a hole down the middle of the joint, swab in some glue, then tap the dowel into place. The result is an easily cut, simple tenon that helps keep rails and stiles united, even if you did need to draw them together under a bit of pressure. It’s an easy way to create a kind of tiny mortise-and-tenon joint.


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Nov. 13, 2014

7:55 am

I think I may have figure out what you are saying... If the bullnose is like a miniature of what one might find on a stair tread, then I would attach the "flat of the trim to the edge of the door and the rounded "bull nose" would wrap around to the front. Correct?


Nov. 13, 2014

5:54 am

Great article thanks. I have a question though. I feel silly but am having a hard time visualizing number 7. "Widening Cabinet Doors That Are Too Narrow." (I have this exact problem). Is the bullnose 1/4" wide? or 1/4" thick? What I am seeing is a strip of semi-circular material that is 3/4" wide (to match the door thickness) and 1/4" thick glued to the edge of one of the doors. So what I would end up with is one door with a flat edge, and one door with a bullnose edge, meeting together. Am I visualizing this right? Seems like this would look odd having one door with a round edge and a mating door with a square edge. Also, when you say "plane the pair to fit the opening" do you mean plane the outside edges to achieve an appropriate gap in the middle where they meet? Or do you mean plane the bullnose that was just installed? I am confused.

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