uv maps and texturing questions.

how do i make clean uv maps? i know the basics but my maps always end up with a lot of different islands and become quite cluttered. i end up having to reorganise them in segments.
Also, how do i texture a uv map realistically? i tried to add some wood to a table thing i was making and it didn’t look very impressive, the spec map didn’t work out well either, how do you make a spec mp for wood? or dont you?

I am not sure about the forst question without seeing a picture of your UV layout, but as for the second one, one way is to take the image of the diffuse texture, and change the levels in a program like photoshop or gimp, and convert it to grayscale. you could also do it with nodes, but I am not a nodes wizard currently.

i dont have any uv’s i could show you at the moment but i will see about it tomorrow, and thats what i currently do. I took the uv into gimp and built up some layers over it, then merged them into a single layer as the diffuse, for specular i desaturated it and increased the contrast, then copied that (i was going to turn it into a normal map) and i then used some brushes to add some finer detail and such to the spec map, but it still didn’t look very good at all.
And being a beginner, learning the blender internal and the new cycles is getting a bit muddled in my mind, i forgot how to texture in cycles already. So much to learn, but only so much time : )