It's not so much that Professional Woodworkers or Carpenters will not share their tips and tricks with novice workers, it's more a matter of "they have so many, they forget they even use them"  ... so what this means is when we work with these people we need to be KEEN observers.

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Lucky for me, I have an inquisitive streak in me, so I am always watching others to see what and how they do things, sometimes they are not the best but when you work with seasoned pros, you know .... your going to learn some handy tricks ...

 I happened to be over at a woodworking buddy's place one day, many years ago and he happened to be building kitchen cabinets. I knew I was in the way so wasn't going to stay long, but when I entered his workshop, where he was with a large sheet of plywood laid out on say horses and he was marking it up with a T-Square. I thought that was a brilliant idea and commented on it. He told me that this was a T-Square from his old Draftsman days but now he was using it in his workshop. I told him that I too had taken Drafting courses and still had a T-square kicking around doing nothing but now I could put it to good use again ... 

Drafting T-square
I can't remember where I learned this trick from but it is very common with Finish Carpenters who need exact measurements for things like moldings and trim because they don't want any gaps. Instead of using pencils, which get dull quickly, they often use a sharp chisel to mark a nice clean edge, and sometimes it also serves 2 functions, it makes a nice clean, straight edge, but if you score hard and deep it can also help to reduce tear-out in some woods as well. 

Using a chisel to mark wood

I wish I knew how old the paraffin wax trick was, I can tell you it was back when hand saws were much more popular than they are now and one carpenter I worked with would frequently use his hand saw to make smaller cuts, he argued that it took longer to go and get the circular saw set it up and cut than what he could do with a hand saw, and usually, he was right, but that was a long time ago and his saw was always super-sharp and he was frequently uses was on them and could cut through a 2x4 stud in like 2 or 3 passes ... honestly he was a quick as a circular saw, but his favorite little trick was using paraffin wax on many things, and since then I have found even more ... 

paraffin wax on you thinckness planer

paraffin wax on your edge planer

paraffin wax for the table saw

paraffin wax on hand saws

paraffin wax on hand planes

Bert seemed to hate using a tape, he would constantly grab scrap or wood or his level (he had 2 of them, one big long one and a shorter one) and mark right on the edge of the level what he needed to measure off. Sure he used a tape, but I have never seen anyone as adept at using levels in place of a tape measure and especially if they needed to double duty, like making "level" as well as distance.

Square and a tape measure

I love it when experienced carpenters and woodworkers can use existing tools for dual purposes and often use them quicker or accurately in their modified use but I guess that is a part of working with wood and being able to adapt quickly with what you have at hand to do the something and make a good job of it too.

Copyright Colin Knecht