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If you are looking for “woodworking basics” you might be a beginner and want a little information to see whether getting into woodworking is a hobby you want to pursue. Sometimes when we are thinking of starting something new, we don’t have the people around us to introduce us to the basics or we hesitate to ask those who might.

Perhaps it’s just easier to see if you can find what you need on the Internet even before talking to others about how to get started.

What’s your story behind this idea of doing woodworking?

You may have the longing to get into woodworking because it’s something that your father or grandfather did. You may have old memories of watching how a cabinet or chair slowly came together. I remember an old friend who talked about getting into woodworking as a hobby for after he retired. His father was a successful producer of many fine monkeypod bowls, trays…in Hawaii in the 60s. Do you think that was why he had the idea?

Ted McGrath of Ted’s Woodworking tells his story about his grandfather, and how he was provided the inspiration to begin an amazing life work.

I have long admired fine woodworking when I see artistic creative furniture on display or even wooden implements, boxes, cutting boards on sale and created by craftsmen. As I’m typing on my computer right now it sits on an empty cardboard box–I wonder what it would take to get something simple yet pleasing to take the place of this temporary “standing desk.” Nothing online fits the bill. It needs to be custom-made.

But what about woodworking basics?

Here are the basics that this website will cover:

  • What do I start with
  • What tools do I need to start with
  • What instruction will I need
  • Where can I find beginner projects-plans
  • Are there woodworking tips
  • What skills or techniques are needed
  • How to get started with any new hobby

How to start with woodworking

To get a taste for the work involved and how woodworking suits you, choose a simple project to start such as a book case or storage box, simple with straight lines. In making this choice, you avoid becoming frustrated with tools you might not have and skills you need to master. Yet all the basic steps are taken: getting plans, basic materials to measure, mark for cutting, cutting wood, learning how to join pieces together; using the basic tools involved for straight cutting, mitering, sanding, finishing edges, otherwise preparing the surface for finish, applying the finish.

The rationale for choosing a simple time-limited project is obvious. There is reward is starting and finishing a project. You don’t invest a lot of money or time either…and you can finish the job. Something more complicated may be set aside until who knows when. Yes, simple and straightforward is a good thing.

Basic Woodworking Tools

  • Tools need to measure and cut—tape measure, level to mark for cutting, pencil, circular saw/tenon saw
  • Workbench with enough space and at the right height for working comfortably; work space so you can move around with ease
  • Safety equipment: glasses for the eyes, masks for the nose for particles and odors, ear plugs when using power tools
  • Finishing: router, rotary sander, planer
  • Joints: vises, grips, clamps, glue

(For a full discussion of more woodworking tools, Click here.)

What instruction will I need

When you search for woodworking online to find plans for your beginner project, you may discover that instructions that come with the plans are enough for this project. There are thousands of plans and projects online. Include “beginner” to narrow the field of results. As you will learn from Ted McGrath many are inadequate. Be sure that there are genuine positive reviews/recommendations for anything you purchase.

Another excellent source for instruction is going to Youtube and searching for instructions for what you need. Not only will you get the instructions but you’ll have a demonstration you can view over and over.

Where can I find beginner projects-plans

The first website I found was here:  the Instructables site.

On it I found a myriad of suggestions: including storage boxes, picnic or patio tables, wooden spoon, small boxes, wooden wardrobe, planter boxes, etc. Obviously my bias was straight and simple; there are others that may inspire you.

Another resource is found here a the : Minwax site

Then of course, there’s Ted McGrath of Ted’s Woodworking with more than 16,000 plans–all the plans you’ll ever need, whether you are beginner, intermediate and advanced.

Are there woodworking tips?

Here are some tips shared by some experienced woodworkers:

  1. Don’t forget safety: safety glasses and masks and gloves (for finish work); avoid loose fitting clothing; unplugging power tools when not in use and when changing blades (one expert suggests having only one heavy-duty extension cord so that you’re forced to unplug unused tools).
  2. Sharpen your tools: less effort is involved when your tools are sharp. Besides it’s safer so learn some basic sharpening methods and use your first few minutes before starting on projects to get your tools sharp again.
  3. Avoid being distracted. When you are working with power tools it’s important that your focus remain on your work. (I wonder what distracted my father who lost the tip of one finger when using a power tool.)
  4. Get over your perfectionism: In life and in woodworking, everyone makes mistakes. Learn from them. Don’t dwell on them. Emphasize the positive. You’ll probably feel better when you let go of being perfect.
  5. Enjoy yourself: It’s time to get off that task-oriented, intensive way of working—it’ll just get in the way. Hobbies are about enjoying yourself. See yourself smiling.
  6. Ask for help when you are confused, stuck. It’s an amazing principle: ask for help when you need it. In this Internet age, help is everywhere. You might find some online communities where woodworkers gather to befriend and help each other such as:

What skills or techniques are needed

Layout and Marking: Milling lumber results in lumber that can be warped, uneven or not square. Never assume the dimension or square-ness of a piece. Measure with a tape measure and mark with a V, so you’re never confused. Use a layout square to get perpendicular edges. You may need a longer straight edge or a marking gauge.

Cutting skills: you will need to have something to cut your wood. As a beginner, perhaps a tenon saw is best; circular saw may be the next choice but you need to be prepared to be around a power tool, and it’s limited for other cuts. But if you’re doing straight lines and simple, this is all that you need. It’s a matter of measuring correctly, marking it so you can know where to cut, securing the piece of wood so it doesn’t move and perhaps having something to guide you.

Besides instructions there are photos to illustrate the steps. The basic tools are:

Improvised bench (possibly hard on back because it’s low)
Pump cramps (to secure wood that is being cut, using Styrofoam to prevent marking wood)
Hardpoint tenon saw (can be used only for a limited time)
Pencil (to make fine lines)

As you move forward you will need to master cutting curves and tight turns but these are done on a table saw.

Driving a hole: Mark where you need the hole; find the right size drill; position drill properly until it makes contact with the wood; make sure the angle is correct, perpendicular to the surface.

Smoothing surfaces: choose a medium grit sandpaper to start to smooth surfaces. Sand with the grain of the wood in straight lines. You will move toward finer grit as the surface becomes smoother.

And guess what? This is just the beginning of skills and techniques you will need.



How to Get Started with Any New Hobby

Woodworking can easily activate the creative and artistic imagination in most people. If you’re considering it as a hobby think about how you can unleash your creativity and artistic inclinations. These are good goals or dreams to keep in mind because if you are starting from the beginning, you will have a long learning curve.

However, as we’ve indicated earlier, starting with simple and straight will get you started. Also choose a project that is practical as well: a storage box or chest if you needed one; a bookshelf or wardrobe rack is you one to store books, clothes, etc. It should give you complete something that you can look back and appreciate because of your workmanship and its utility.

Remember as a beginner you begin by taking the first step. You express more commitment by choosing the next project or signing up for a woodworking class or buying better tools. Always keep the long-term goal in mind: I was talking to a friend who is publishing his second book on Accordions. It took him ten years to acquire this knowledge: but now he has it, uses it, and is very skilled in accordion repair.

Join with others who are involved woodworking. There’s nothing like camaraderie and talking with others who love what you love and who are willing to be helpful to each other. Just as making a commitment to run with someone 3 times a week helps you honor your commitment to exercise because you’ve made two commitments.

Good luck and have fun!