So you want to start woodworking?
Maybe you need a hobby, or you want to make a cool bunk bed or a tree house for your kids, a wood kennel for your family pet, a wooden coffee table for the wife or a storage shed for yourself?
Either way, you’re going to need to know where to begin in the world of woodworking. You can’t just go and buy a collection of woodworking tools, get a free storage shed plan, a plank of wood and expect to have a new shed in the yard by the end of the day, what you’ll most likely end up with is, well, a slightly smaller plank of wood.
Buy the Woodworking Tools You Need, Not the Ones that You Want
The first step in taking the leap to woodworking is buying the right tools. At the least you’re going to need an electronic saw and a drill, these will enable you to do the cuts and sculpt the fittings. So you’re at the wood shop, you see a nice jigsaw that will benefit your woodworking, and an expensive battery-operated drill or fancy woodworking machinery; you think they would be perfect, so what do you do? What you don’t do is buy them! Why? Well, it’s simple, you’re a beginner! A beginner shouldn’t buy expensive woodworking tools, there’s simply no need….. just yet! BUT your time will come!
It will help carve your woodworking skills if you get the most basic of carpentry tools and hand tools possible (see here for the list of tools you need as a beginner woodworker).
Extravagantly advanced tools will do more of the work for you, “oh great!” you’re probably thinking, no, don’t think that. When you start off on the first step of woodworking, you want to find the perfect balance between automation and manual work, in order for you to carve your own skills rather than just testing the accuracy of your fancy new drill.
So what do you do? You buy the basic woodworking tools needed to start out a woodworking. That’s what. But if you are disappointed by that, don’t be, your time will come where you can buy the high tech woodworking tools and machinery once your skills are up to speed, possibly after for the first bunk bed plan or bird house plan has been completed, chirp, chirp!
Basic woodworking tools won’t do all the work for you, and regardless of what the man in the store might tell you; they will last a long time, this is precisely what we want. Don’t buy professional tools until you’re at a professional work level, it makes sense!
You should also buy a basic wood plane (the tool for smoothing and shaping wood – not the flying type), dowels, wood glue, ‘L’ brackets, and some fine grain sandpaper- nothing special, just enough to do the basic beginners woodworking with (Here’s the full list of beginner woodworker tools to get started).
So you’ve bought a nice good value drill, jigsaw, plane, and you have plenty of fine grain sandpaper, dowels, and glue. Now what? Next on the agenda is your workbench. When you become a master woodworker you will be able to build your own workbench, so ask yourself; “am I a master woodworker?” If the answer is yes; stop reading, I don’t know what you’re doing here and neither does anyone else.
Work Bench – To Build or Buy?
Regardless of what you may think; you’re not going to be picking up the tools and a workbench plan and immediately building an extravagantly functioning workbench, it takes some time to master that. Instead, you should stop being arrogant and just buy a woodworking workbench (see the best value range or woodworking benches here).
The workbench doesn’t have to be expensive but it should be a good quality bench. It should have a vice that will let you clamp wood in place whilst you work on it. The last two things you should add to your new found woodworking hobby shopping list are a dust mask and some work gloves. Both of these will stop wood from getting stuck in your hands and you breathing in wood dust.
Believe it or not, but the tools you have just purchased will allow you to build all things wooden, a bed, table, shoe racks, workbench, storage shelves, a playhouse, a car… made of wood. And much more might I just add. With the world of options in mind; it’s time not to get too comfortable and to get starting!
Set Up Your Woodwork Area
Set up your workbench in a room with adequate ventilation and space, an ideal room is a garage; it’s naturally ventilated and it doesn’t matter that you’ll be getting wood shavings everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Make sure you have a local outlet for your power tools and plenty of room to move around.
The next aspect to consider is light; you need to have plenty of light in order to see all the minor aspects of your wood, such as the grain after sanding and the cleanness of your cuts. If you don’t have large windows in your workshop then you should buy some lighting. Basic incandescent lamps will do, providing you hang them so that the spotlight illuminates your entire workbench.
If your workspace is lacking good natural lighting and you want really, really good light, my best recommendation is that you should invest in LED bulbs and lamps; LED’s give off incredibly clean, white light, and they essentially mimic daylight.
Good lighting makes all the difference to woodworking, especially when you’re just starting out; you don’t want to drag your new bench or shoe rack out of the garage, just to find that in the daylight, it looks like the surface of a pensioners forehead.
The above can seem like a mountain for some just starting out at woodworking, so take a breath, it will all come together slowly.
Get the right tools, set up your bench, ensure good lighting and sit for a beer whilst you continue reading on for Part 2 of the beginner’s guide to woodworking (including how to make a table!) – Starting Out at Woodworking.