The Quick Start Guide to Woodworking
Getting started in woodworking can seem extremely overwhelming.
There is now an overload of information available at our fingertips; everything from books to videos to articles to instruction manuals telling you what to do and what you’ll need to do it can deter even the most determined people from ever getting their feet wet.
The simple truth is that woodworking was not meant to be complicated, it was meant to be fun, enjoyable, and productive! So why does it seem like the barrier to entry is so high?
The industrial equipment used by many experienced woodworkers can be expensive, dangerous, and intimidating to the uninitiated.
These craftsmen have built up their collections through their years of experience with the trade and most definitely did not acquire all their supplies and knowledge in one day. So, what exactly do you need to get up and running? We’re here to break it down for your today.
The first consideration when getting started in woodworking is, well, wood. What type of projects are you looking at and what type of wood is best suited for them? You may not know the answer right off the bat, and that’s just fine.
Wood Types for Beginner Woodworkers
The majority of wood available in lumber stores is going to be pine. This is a less expensive option that is great for tons of applications ranging from framing a house to building a bookshelf.
It’s super easy to finish with paint, stain, oil, or nothing at all! Once you get more into woodworking, it’s worthwhile to try your hand at crafting with some pricier but more durable and attractive options like oak, maple, cherry, and more.
There are as many wood choices as there are trees, and even individual pieces of wood from the same type of tree vary greatly. Try out as many as you can to find what you like working with. It’s a good idea to test out different stains and finishes on different wood types to see how each one reacts. This will help set you up for success in your future projects.
The next consideration is often the one people are most apprehensive about: tools. Tools do not have to be super expensive, top-of-the-line brands or models in order to do a good job. Check out reviews of anything you’re considering purchasing to find out what is worth your money and what isn’t.
Must-Haves For Beginner Woodworkers
You’ll need a few basic things to start out with, some of which you may already even have. Things like a hammer, nails, screws, and a drill are found in most homeowner’s toolkits.
You’ll definitely want a power drill if you don’t have one already, as well as a durable measuring tape and a carpenter’s square. Power tools tend to be the bulk of the expenses when it comes to woodworking, but they really do make everything so much easier.
The next power tool you’ll need is some type of saw. A band saw is a good all-purpose option, and most can cut through just about any width and most thicknesses of wood. A table saw or circular saw are also extremely useful, but don’t provide the same flexibility in cut shapes and angles.
Lastly, you’ll need some way to sand your finished project. This can be as simple as a hand sanding block and a piece of sandpaper if you have a lot of time and patience or a smaller project.
For larger projects, an orbital (handheld) power sander is a solid investment that will allow you to save your arm strength for something else.
Lastly, a too-often overlooked aspect of woodworking is safety. It isn’t as much fun to discuss, but neither is sawing your finger off! First, you’ll need a mask that covers your mouth and nose to protect you from inhaling wood particles and fumes.
One of those cheap “surgical” type masks isn’t going to cut it. At the very least, you need a disposable construction-specific mask (available at all hardware stores) that fits snugly to your face.
Quick But Important Tip: Safety
It’s also important to make sure that your workspace is safe. Enclosed spaces aren’t ideal when working with power tools, so make sure you have adequate ventilation (and noise protection, like ear plugs!). This should go without saying but we’ll say it anyways: do not run a generator indoors.
They give off carbon monoxide gas which can be fatal. Finally, beware of sparks and heat in your workspace. Sparks can fly due to even the tiniest friction and are especially dangerous when there is dry wood and wood shavings hanging around.
Always have a fire extinguisher handy and be mindful of your surroundings. Cutting wood generates a lot of heat, so be mindful of your skin, clothes, and other flammable things near you.
Do not apply finishes, even paint, in an enclosed environment without adequate ventilation and respiratory protection. It might be a hassle, but it’s not worth your health!
Enjoy it For What It’s Worth!
Above all, remember to have fun and enjoy the craft! Woodworking is a great hobby and you’ll be on your way to producing things you’d never dreamed of in no time. Remember that there is a wealth of information available to you, both on this website and others. Happy woodworking!