Everyday Woodworking Podcast Ep 18
Woodworking Myths #2
Hey everyone. I’m Ricky with Everyday Woodworking, your Podcast Home for tips, tricks and information on how to make the most of your woodworking time and money, every day.
We are back at it this week with another episode of Woodworking Myths.
In case you weren’t around for our earlier Myths episode, I’ll leave a link to it at in the shop notes. But what we do is take several well-known myths that have made their way through the woodworking world, and dig into them and see if they’re fact or fiction.
I’ve been thinking through my own questions for this show, and I’ve gotten several suggestions for you guys. So thank you for that!
We had a blast doing it last time. It would up being one of our most popular shows. So I know we’ll learn a lot and have some fun this time too.
Before we get into it, let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come right back, and start debunking some tall tales…right here, on everyday woodworking.
Well in case you’re wondering how I determine the accuracy of these myths, it’s a combination of experience, Google and a lot of asking folks who are much smarter than me.
I know that doesn’t leave many, but we have to scrape by with whoever we can!
Alright. I don’t want to kill a ton of time not tackling these myths, so I’m just going to jump right in.
#1 – Pocketholes are for losers.
Let me just say that this sticks in my craw.
I use pocketholes a lot! And I can definitely say they are not for “losers”.
I think the general idea is that pocketholes and pockethole jigs made it possible for less professional woodworkers to create strong, tight joints, without a lot of joint knowledge. And that would be true.
I’m no craftsman. But I still need to join boards. So thank goodness God let folks like Kreg make the pockethole jig available to the masses.
Kreg is one of our partners, so we do use their products. But even if they weren’t, we’d still use them. They’re affordable, dependable and pretty dadgum accurate.
I’ve been using a K5 jig for about 4 years now, and it is a lifesaver for me. It makes creating pocketholes, incredibly easy. And although it is easier than doing it old school, there’s still some skill involved in it.
So with that, I’ll have to say, this myth is goobledy gook. All hail the pockethole!
#2 – If you dull the end of your screw or nail, you’ll eliminate splitting wood.
This is a mostly true “myth”. So with that, it’s really not a myth in the strictest sense of the word.
For years, the advice to dull the end of a nail or screw before driving it into a piece of wood, has promised to stop wood splitting. But there are cases where the wood still splits. And there are cases where that just isn’t practical.
The idea is that a sharp nail, for example, drives like a wedge through the wood fibers, pushing them to the side, and ultimately splitting whatever wood you’re working on. And a “dulled” nail will break through those same fibers, not pushing the edges outward.
It sounds great. And it’s true. Except…
When you do this in the last 1-2 inches of a board, the likelihood of splitting is almost a given. Regardless of sharp or dull points. Also, some wood species are just more prone to split. Something like pine or doug fir are much less likely to split than say oak or maple. And the moisture content of the wood greatly affects its tendency to split. A drier board is just easier to break.
Also, a thinner board is typically more prone to split. That’s because it obviously has few wood fibers “holding on” to the surrounding edges of the wood as you nail or screw into it.
Are any of these hard and fast rules though? No. Not at all.
And the only way to most certainly (and I say “most”) avoid wood splitting, is to drill a pilot hole before driving anything through your board. And even that isn’t 100% fool proof.
I know, it’s a pain in the butt to get out an extra drill just for pilot holes. Especially when you’ve got a ton of them. But it’s better than replacing the board…especially at today’s lumber prices.
#3 – If you angle a ruler across a board and find a common, easily divisible number as the “length”, then you can easily find the center.
This is one of my favorite myths. And again…it’s true so it isn’t a myth at all. I recently heard this from a dude I follow on TikTok named @magnatimusone, or the Last Living Craftsman. You should check him out if you TikTok.
Let me explain this a little more, just in case it doesn’t make sense.
When you measure across, let’s say a piece of plywood that’s 16 3/8”, and you need to cut that in half. Dang. Well, normally, I’d be like “OK, half of 16 is 8 and then half of 3/8 is well…6/16 and half is 3/16. So halfway is 8 3/16”.
Man. I’m tired, just typing that. It’s doable, but it’s just too much.
So I tilt my tape measure. And using the edge of the tape that’s contacting the edge of the board, go out (adjusting the angle) until the measurement on that edge says something whole like 18”. Holding it in place, find 9” and that’s the middle.
It’s SO easy.
Want to do thirds? Fine. Take that same 18” and find 6” and 12” and you’ve got thirds.
Quarters? Find 4 ½”, 9”, 13 ½” and you’ve got fourths.
Somebody really, really smart…or really, really lazy figured this out years ago and just blew everyone’s mind on the jobsite!
It’s pretty new for me, but now I use it nearly every day. Definitely not a myth!
#4 – The pine trees that produce antique Heartpine wood are extinct.
If you’ve known me for long, you know I am a junkie for heartpine. It’s been my go to from day one. I love nearly everything about it…the feel, the durability, the smell. I just hate the sap it leaves on my tools.
But heartpine is definitely my jam.
So just to educate you, in case you aren’t aware…heartpine is the vernacular for wood from the Longleaf Pine. That’s a little misleading, but nevertheless, that’s what most people call it.
Heartpine is “heartpine” because it’s predominantly made up of what we call heart wood. Typically, when you look at a tree’s growth rings, the lighter rings are much more abundant and wider than the dark rings. The light rings are sap wood. The dark ones are heart wood. The heart wood is typically prized for its premium qualities.
Now, hundreds of years ago, and as recent as around 100 years ago, the longleaf pine was abundant. Particularly in the Southern US. Stories of longleaf pines as big as giant redwoods abound, many yielding huge timbers over 120 feet long.
The trees were enormous. And they had been growing, undisturbed for, some estimate, hundreds of years. This is the wood may refer to as “old growth” heart pine, and it looks nothing like the pine you find in your local lumber store.
The trees were strong, plentiful, easy to log and because of their historical slow growth rates, their high heart wood content made them naturally rot and insect resistant. They were considered by many to be the perfect wood. And consequently, heartpine lumber was used to basically build the South, as well as much of the country.
As is true to American form, we harvested it with reckless abandon. Clearcutting, neglecting to replant and generally just decimating the longleaf pine population. By the time any serious realization took hold, longleaf pine numbers were somewhere around 1% of the original growth.
Today, the longleaf pine is not extinct. But still only about 3% f their original numbers remain. And to my knowledge, the only way to get the old growth heart pine is through reclaimed or resawn lumber.
I still read online, many accounts of longleaf pine being lost to over forestation, but that isn’t true. They still remain. Pockets here and there in protected areas. A few in peoples’ backyards. But they are not extinct as is something like the American Chestnut.
Like I said, I’m a heartpine junkie, but I’m still a newbie in this area. But we’ve got a lot of friends who aren’t.
Like Craig over at Novelty Woods in Commerce, GA. And Matt Hobbs with the Sons of Sawdust. Both in Nashville and right here in North GA.
I’ll leave a link below to reach these guys. You won’t be sorry, tapping into their wisdom and experience. I do it all the time! Plus, they’re a great source for materials if you need them.
I could talk all day about this. That was fun.
I love the Myth episodes and Q&A shows. I think we’ll do a Q&A in two weeks.
I hope that was fun for you. And of course, I hope you learned something. I’m finding more and more, we’re sort of evolving into more of a general craftsman discussion podcast instead of a “small shop” centered thing. That wasn’t my original intent, but I sort of like the way this is going.
Hey if you have any thoughts on it though, let me know!
And if you have any myths of questions to share with me give me a shout and we’ll see about getting yours in an upcoming show.
And until then...thanks for being here with me.
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And I’ll see you next time…right here, on Everyday Woodworking.
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