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Cricket 05-16-2019 04:24 PM

What Tips Do You Have For New Woodworkers?


Woodworking can be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby. For some, though, the skill and equipment that some woodworkers have may seem daunting. Even the most masterful woodworkers were beginners at one point, however; donít assume that just because there are highly-skilled people doing woodworking that skill is a prerequisite to learning how to work with wood. Getting Started in Woodworking
I know we have discussed this several times before, but I am hoping to have a thread filled with tips we can reference for woodworkers just getting started.

If you were helping someone one brand new to woodworking, what tips would you offer?

What helped you get started?

Steve Neul 05-16-2019 06:41 PM

About all a hobbyist can do is ask a lot of questions. Every time a new project comes along it presents it's own problems and solutions. The person that wants to make a career of it I would recommend changing jobs a lot doing different types of woodworking. I've worked at places that made sailboat parts, foosball tables, residential custom cabinet, commercial cabinets, cabinets for video games, furniture repair and refinishing and architectural millwork where we made entry doors and windows as well as circular stairways. You gain so much experience from doing different types of woodworking you can then open your own business. It's funny the little things you don't think of that come in handy. I often have customers that want me to build new cabinets that go in next to existing cabinets. The experience I got mixing stains to match the color for a chair leg in the refinishing shop lets you mix color for a new cabinet to match the old ones, even if they have been there for a while and the finish has yellowed. You just never know what a customer might come up with and ask if you can do it.

difalkner 05-16-2019 07:17 PM

A good tip is to dry fit pieces on glue-ups that require a bit of planning for where clamps go, how long it will take to place them, apply clamping pressure without pieces sliding on each other, etc.

AFTER you've applied glue is the wrong time to find out your clamps aren't right for the job, that you don't have enough of them, that no matter how hard you work at it you simply can't pull the joint together to make it tight, and the absolute wrong time to find that you actually need another set of hands to get the glue joint where it needs to be.


gmercer_48083 05-16-2019 07:19 PM

Shop safety is the most important thing in my shop. Woodworking is made up of many steps. Each step has its concerns that should be thought out completely to prevent accidents. Make this a habit or routine. Never risk injury...If something looks dangerous, it probably is. Don't work tired. By working safely in your shop will allow you to practice woodworking for many years to come.

unburled 05-16-2019 07:39 PM

I'm with with @gmercer_48083. Safety is my first and ever-present concern. After you figure out how to do something, figure out how it could wrong. Don't work tired or under the influence. After yourself, the number two most dangerous thing in the shop is another person.

unburled 05-16-2019 07:58 PM

oh, and take internet advice for what it is, not what you might want it to be. especially this thread.

difalkner 05-16-2019 11:25 PM

Another tip is properly setting expectations - if you've been doing woodworking for a few years and always work in Pine, plywood, and scraps you pick up then don't expect your projects to look like they are made of Walnut, Cherry, Maple, exotics, etc.

And if you are using the least expensive big box store wipe on or rattle can finishes then don't expect your finishes to look like hand rubbed French polish Shellac or professionally sprayed finishes.

If you want your projects to take on a more polished and professional look then step up your game with better materials and techniques. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Pine, plywood, etc. but I often see and talk to people who are comparing their work to something they see online or in person but they're afraid to spend the money on better materials because they don't want an expensive mistake. Guess what - getting better won't ever happen if you don't try new things with better materials and techniques!

So, set your expectations to just beyond your level of expertise and skillset and then always try to push that limit. But don't set your expectations to a completely unattainable level, especially if you don'thave the tools, shop, materials, or experience to get there right now. All of us can get better but it's generally accomplished in small stages with a few mistakes along the way rather than in huge and always successful leaps.


woodnthings 05-17-2019 12:40 AM

Oh, just shoot for the moon!
I know that David ^ build guitars and to me there is no more challenging project than that. I mean an acoustic, not a solid body! I haven't done one, but I attended a Blues Class in Augusta, WVA where we walked by a studio where they were building them, a 5 week class, if I recall.


There are online classes on You Tube also.


My reasoning is you will learn more about wood, it's properties, carving, shaping, sanding, fitting, and finishing than on any other project I know of. When I was just 16, I found a classical guitar body on the trash with a missing neck. I knew nothing about guitars, but that didn't stop me from carving a neck a making a playable guitar out of it. I was too young and ignorant to know I shouldn't attempt it. :|

My next foray into musical instrument repair, about 50 years later, was when the neck on my bass fiddle/double bass snapped off and I and a luthier friend replaced it. I made some fixtures to hold the neck in place and apply clamping pressure while the glue set up which impressed my luthier friend. Guitars are way cool. My meager collection includes 2 steel or resonators, a D-18 Martin and a D70 Guild. A I have few assorted solid body guitars as well, but I prefer the acoustics sound. If you have never heard really good finger pickin' look up Doyle Dykes and then Brent Mason..... fabulous players.

Anyway, I know it's a bit of a stretch, but you can enroll in a local class and I promise you will never regret it. :vs_cool:

I have one of these Mule resonators which was custom built for me using a piece of Honduran Rosewood I supplied:

BernieL 05-17-2019 01:11 AM

All exceptional advice above, but here are a few basics...

Working with pine is cheaper but more challenging. All soft woods are harder to work with because they aren't crisp like hardwoods. The fibers tend too bend under tool pressure unlike the hardwoods... But softwoods are excellent for the basic learning curve...

Don't buy tools until you need them. We woodworkers all own neat looking gadget tools that we never use.

Build workshop fixtures, storage units and jigs now, as your practice projects... Workshop projects don't have too look good. They simply need to be functional. In the future, workshop projects will remind you how far you have progressed.

Last - Don't throw away your cutoffs - use them to practice more advance joinery

Bob Vaughan 05-23-2019 11:36 PM

Best advice I ever heard: "try".

kalopsia 05-24-2019 01:41 AM

Being a novice myself:

Donít become married to a particular brand/manufacture. Thereís a lot of good stuff out there made by the other guys.

Buy once, cry once. Bought a DEWALT contractor table saw because it was a good deal, but itís seriously undersized/powered for what Iím interested in now. Should have saved that purchasing power and put it towards a decent used table saw.

Dust collection is more important than you realize. Dust deputy or a similar product is worth the money in spades if you canít invest in a dedicated unit. Starting out, use a dust mask at a minimum. Coughing or sneezing after your finished working on a project is a sign that something is probably wrong.

Ask friends/family if you can borrow a tool before you buy it. Depending on what it is, it may be the only time you need it, or you can use it as research into what you like or prefer should you decide to buy it.

Look at OfferUp, CraigsList, or Facebook Marketplace before buying anything. There can be insane deals on quality equipment, tools, and material there.

Set up makes the process go faster. Nothing like being in the middle of glue up when you realize that your clamps or brad nailer isnít anywhere near you. Sketching out a project can really help, especially to reference hours or days later.

Get in the habit of wearing safety glasses and ear protection so you realize when youíre not.

CutListOptimizer.com has helped me out a lot in planning projects, but make sure you look through your scraps before you cut into new stock, especially towards the end of a build.

Use the right fasteners for the correct wood.

Biscuit/dowel joints are amazing for alignment, as long as you align/control the tool correctly. Practice and double check measurements before cutting.

Cordless tools are awesome until the battery dies. Drills and random orbital sanders are the only two tools that I canít cut the cord on.

Mistakes are okay; itís part of the creative process to conceal them.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

DesertRatTom 05-24-2019 04:02 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Here's a pdf of the 17 things that helped me accelerate my learning curve. It's kind of long but has some pictures. Hope it will same someone the trouble and expense and hard lessons that were experienced as I moved from DIY to woodworking. And if you're just starting, don't try to do all of the suggestions, or get all the tools at once. I spent more than a decade accumulating my shop and tools. Dust collection ranks high on my list of must have, I'm a throat cancer survivor and many kinds of woods are carcinogenic when inhaled.

Mikhail2400 05-24-2019 10:42 AM

As a new woodworker I can say the absolute best tip I have ever gotten was "Go join a woodworking forum and ask questions."

#2; Do your homework before buying tools.

unburled 05-24-2019 11:57 AM


Originally Posted by unburled (Post 2055213)
oh, and take internet advice for what it is, not what you might want it to be. especially this thread.

Case-in-point (Q&A on a digital angle meter):


mmwood_1 05-24-2019 02:18 PM

My suggestion to beginners is regarding tools. Many will say, "get the best you can afford to get". I say, get whatever you can get your hands on, and learn how to use it. Every tool, even new ones, has its idiosyncracies, and you need to learn how to adapt to and work with your tools. Hand tools are an excellent place to begin, because if you learn to understand and work with a hand tool, then the motorized versions will be so much easier and more effective to use.

Don't be embarrassed about using 'garage sale' tools, if that's what you can get. I'm a professional woodworker for 26 years now and I still use some of my cheapo garage sale tools. In fact, many of my tools are begged, borrowed or needing frequent maintenance. You DO NOT need great, expensive tools to do good work. You need time, practise, patience, and determination. If some of the people on this site saw my shop and my tools, they would laugh at it. Or groan. But I think my website proves my point.

The best tool investment I ever made, though, was $120 on a Bridge City Tool Works C12 combination square, which I bought new. It changed my whole perspective on measuring accurately, which in turn, improved the level and quality of my work. So, in no way am I saying those high quality tools are not worthwhile. I am saying that for a beginner, it is NOT necessary, and if you are daunted by the costs, go cheap and learn to work with the tools you can get.

Read a lot, there are many great books out there to help you understand concepts and principles of joinery, and tool usage. Don't get stuck on what any one book or person tells you, though. Let them inspire you and instigate your own thinking.

keith204 05-24-2019 04:13 PM

1) Steve Ramsey (WoodWorking for Mere Mortals) does a great job at helping beginners get up to speed. He sort of de-intimidates woodworking yet still articulates safety issues.

2) Watch videos that explain the physics woodworking. Matthais Wandel has several that have helped me. Understanding what forces happen in which direction is immensely helpful to stay safe.

3) Go to IFTTT.com and set up some reliable Craigslist alerts for cheap routers!

woodnthings 05-24-2019 06:37 PM

I have said this for years .....

Originally Posted by keith204 (Post 2056203)
1) Steve Ramsey (WoodWorking for Mere Mortals) does a great job at helping beginners get up to speed. He sort of de-intimidates woodworking yet still articulates safety issues.

2) Watch videos that explain the physics woodworking.
Matthais Wandel has several that have helped me. Understanding what forces happen in which direction is immensely helpful to stay safe.

3) Go to IFTTT.com and set up some reliable Craigslist alerts for cheap routers!

The physics involved with high speed rotating cutters is very important to understand. Throwing apiece of wood against a 3600 RPM saw blade without knowing what to expect can be dangerous. Let alone the internal stresses within a piece of wood which are unknown until you make that cut. Then, having router bits spinning at 20,000 RPM and not knowing which direction to feed the work into them can have disasterous results. Ripping wood on a RAS without knowing that the work will tend to lift OFF the table is another common mistake made by beginning woodworkers and has given the RAS a bad reputation.

Proper wood preparation before using a table saw is vital to not only get good results, but to accomplish it safely. Twisted boards do not sit well on the table saw, either literally or figuratively. This is why there's a jointer in every professional and well equipped woodshop that uses powered machines. Jointers are NOT thickness planers and there's another source of confusion for beginners.

Everyone thinks they can make a mitered corner picture frame using the miter gauge on their tablesaw, only to find out the joints don't mate correctly. Precision cuts are necessary for even the most simple of operations and that requires knowing how to set up your equipment properly. You may need a special tool just for setting up your machine that is never used in making your woodworking project ... a dial indicator comes to mind, as does a digital angle indicator.

Experience using different species of wood gives you knowledge that you can apply when making a new project. How they look when stained, when clear coated, how they move across their width will all affect the look and even the performance of the finished piece.
Knowing which joints have the most strength against racking will give the piece added strength and make it last longer. Which glues to use and when to use them always comes up here. How much clamping pressure us required and how closley should the pieces mate before gulling them up are other commonly asked questions.

Do I need 220 Volt service in my shop? Countless questions on shop wiring deal with electrical issues. I probably have 10 220V outlets in my woodshop alone. The motors that require a 220 V servive are 3 HP or greater. There is no such thing as a 3 HP motor that runs on 120 Volts, regardless of the label on the side of the cabinet. :surprise2:

And speaking of wiring, if you can't see what you are doing, then you won't be safe or get good results. Get adequate lighting before anything else.

A solid, non-movable secure workbench is as much a safety item as it is a convenience. If your workpiece is jumping around while you are handplaning it, it won't be easy to work on OR be pretty afterwards. Sharp tools work better than dull ones, so learn how to make them sharp and keep them that way, especially handplanes and chisels. There are You Tube videos on the process and the various types of stones used for each one.

There Ya go, that will get you thinkin' :vs_cool:

epicfail48 05-24-2019 07:31 PM

Dont be afraid to make mistakes, with the exception of safety

Make no mistake, you will ruin a workpiece. You will screw up finishing, cut a part too short, glue something up crooked. You will cut a rabbet too deep, cut a box out of square, you will blow a nail through the edge of a workpiece. You will tear out end grain when routing the final detail. You will apply the wrong stain. You will screw up the finish. You will learn new and interesting forms of profanity.

But you will also learn everything not to do, and in doing so you will learn how to do things properly. Every project is a learning experience, even if all you get out from it is firewood. Take your lumps and move on with them, and dont let fear of failing stop you from trying.

All that said, dont **** around with safety. Feeding your hand into a table saw blade isnt making a mistake, its being careless, and about the only thing youll learn from hacking a finger off because you didnt wanna find a push stick is how much an ER visit costs. Wood is cheap and plentiful, make your mistakes on it. Youve only got one body and those are somewhat rather hard to replace

Bob Vaughan 05-25-2019 01:47 AM

Get this book.

Sure, some of the designs are dated and some of the machines are also, but it covers everything woodworking from A to Z from the days before pocket screws and Incra jigs.

Its low cost, too. Woodworkers like low cost.

gj13us 05-25-2019 09:53 AM


Originally Posted by unburled (Post 2055213)
oh, and take internet advice for what it is, not what you might want it to be. especially this thread.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Focus on getting the work done.

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