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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey Everyone,

I've been wanting to get into woodworking as a hobby for quite some time and have put it off for too long. I have very limited experience--I took a couple shop classes in high school about 10 years ago.

I was thinking about either taking some woodworking classes at a private instructional facility or taking a course at a local community college. Do any of you recommend (or discourage) either of these routes? Perhaps you suggest taking a different route?

Thank you in advance.
 

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Welcome!

I'd highly recommend both/either of those if you have them available.

Another good way to get started is to see if there are any woodworking clubs in your area that could help you get started.

Of course you've taken the most important step and joined this forum. It's full of members with all experience levels and we all love to share what knowledge we have.



p.s. We have an introduction section and a good start is to introduce yourself a little more - what part of the country are you from, what tools (if any) do you already have, what types of woodworking are you interested in pursuing, what other hobbies do you have? There are members here from all over the country and you may live close to one who might be willing to help guide you along. Knowing a general area where you live will also help members direct you to resources you may not be aware of.
 

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You might need some instruction on how to safely operate power tools and saws but as far as building something there are more than enough folks here that are more than willing to walk you through it. Just post a picture or sketch of something you wish to build and you will get the help you need.
 

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Welcome! I would probably weigh the cost of the classes vs. the cost of power/hand tools. I would probably be frustrated if I spent money on classes but didn't have the tools to do any of the projects or exercises. That's just me though. I say go with your gut feeling on what you want to do.

I am new to woodworking as well but it is going to be my hobby when I retire so I have begun accumulating tools and doing small projects so that by the time I retire I have a basic understanding of the hand tools, power tools, and technique to get me started.

Above all, have fun doing it :smile:
 

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Sometimes classes can take away from your creativity if you have that propensity.
They will teach the use of tools (many you will never use). Problem is, if you have a venue you are interested (cabinet/furniture/wood sculpture/live edge/ bowls/etc) they can help or hurt.

I make hi-end live edge furniture with a contemporary bent, and never took a class or learned from anyone. I won't do fine joinery. I also did construction of residential homes, self taught.

Another thing to consider is to buy good tools used and only what you definitely need. You will find the tools you buy, about 1/4 of them will ever get sufficient use to pay for their purchase.

Gnarlywooddesigns.weebly.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Thank you all for your responses.

The problem with doing this without taking a class is that I really wouldn't know where to start. I wouldn't even know what tools to buy. In shop class in high school, we had just about everything ( table saw, drill press, a variety of routers and sanders, etc.).

I actually would prefer to get started on my own, so I can save the money. I just feel like anything I build would be junk, because I haven't learned how to do it right. Now, some people are blessed to be able to pick up a piece of wood and turn it in to something great, but I just don't know if the average person has that ability.

ETA: To be a little more specific, in shop we did a few projects, most notably a mantle clock--which was awesome--but we were pretty much walked through the entire process. Seems like things like using proper router technique, sanding technique, and finishing would require some direction.
 

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I'd just start with a book. Leaf through a few until you find some that show projects you'd be interested in making and have a tool list you'd be comfortable buying. Alternatively you can find a picture and ask here about how to make it, but there are so many variations of joinery that require completely different tools and skills that you might be overwhelmed. After you get a few projects under your belt you'll feel more confident and have your own opinions on joinery like pocket holes, mortise and tennon, when each might be more appropriate and what you need/want to build.
 

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Most of us never took classes. My recommendation is to pick a project.....wether it's a tool box, a bird house or something else.....and try to build it. Get the tools you need to build it ( feel free to ask lots of questions here). After you finish the first project, pick a new project with a slightly harder skill....and keep repeating the cycle. The first projects are often throw aways....but their valuable learning tools.
 

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Or check out the wood smith shop website....lots I free step by step plans available.

And they're all free.
 

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I'm going to advocate a little for two approaches suggested above. Do either, or both. I suggest both because in the long run the two will total to a pittance of the money you will have spent on woodworking, yet they will have gotten you off to a sound start.

1) Start with a good book.
This one is pretty good.

2) Take local classes. Sure, you are going to use tools in those classes that you might never buy. But it's good to know anyway. A good example for me is the jointer. That's a pretty hefty machine that I may never have in my garage shop. But in the class I learned why it was useful, and learned some ways around the need, thus putting off that acquisition for a while. Or another way to put it, I learned how to avoid projects that really need a jointer.

After one or two classes and one or two projects from that book you will have a better idea of the direction you want to go at least for the first year. You might also consider a subscription to Wood magazine. It isn't very expensive and you might pick up on some things while flipping through it and sipping coffee on weekend mornings.


UPDATE: I was just browsing the Amazon reviews on that book. I found the most recent one amusing: "Holy. Crap. My husband never reads. I bought him this book for Christmas because he is getting into woodworking. He reads it ALL. THE. TIME. It's very useful and covers everything from terminology to tool functions to what type of wood is best for a particular project to how to build furniture. Very conclusive, but easy to read, and lots of full color pictures for examples. A DEFINITE recommendation for any woodworkin' man or woman!"
 

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Is there something that you would like to build? If so that can kind of guide you as far as the tools you will need and skills you will want to learn. Depending on where you live if there are either Woodcraft or Rockler stores that might be an educational option for you. If you get a chance visit The WoodWorking Show if they come through your area. They have lots of free seminars where you can learn a lot and ask questions. You might even want to look into WOOD magazines Weekend With Wood event this spring. It's a three day event where you can attend up to eight different classes taught by top woodworking talents and the staff of WOOD magazine. It's held at their headquarters in Des Moines Iowa this may 16 - 18th.
 

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Thank you all for your responses.

The problem with doing this without taking a class is that I really wouldn't know where to start. I wouldn't even know what tools to buy. In shop class in high school, we had just about everything ( table saw, drill press, a variety of routers and sanders, etc.).

I actually would prefer to get started on my own, so I can save the money. I just feel like anything I build would be junk, because I haven't learned how to do it right. Now, some people are blessed to be able to pick up a piece of wood and turn it in to something great, but I just don't know if the average person has that ability.

ETA: To be a little more specific, in shop we did a few projects, most notably a mantle clock--which was awesome--but we were pretty much walked through the entire process. Seems like things like using proper router technique, sanding technique, and finishing would require some direction.
All you have to do is post a picture or sketch of something you wish to build and you will get more help then you can probably use. Just ask what tools do I need to do this. Be sure to let us know if you are really into it and have money. You can tie up a lot of money quick buying tools. Many times you can use less tools and improvise solutions.
 

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Depending on how good your shop classes were in high school, you would probably be repeating the same things if you took classes now. A good way to freshen your memory and get some good tips is to watch as many Youtube woodworking videos as you can. They are free and you don't have to leave the house to view them.

If the classes have open lab time so you can get acquainted with all the machines and do your own projects, then it is worth it for you to get hands on experience before you actually buy your own tools and machines. On every machine that you use, take note of all the things you like and don't like about the machine. You can bring those points up on this forum for discussion. You will find lots of advice here for buying the right tools and machines and for setting up a shop.

Welcome to woodworking. The best way to learn is by diving in.
 

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I second the suggestion to watch YouTube videos. It's amazing how much you can learn from watching skilled craftsman reach you how to do something. A few really good ones are The Wood Whisperer, KennyEarrings1, Steve Ramsey, and Steve Carmichael. I have learned a ton of information from these fine teachers. The woodworking guild of America also posts YouTube videos that are great. Norm Abrams is also one to check out on YouTube. There are so many free resources available.

Of course, this forum is also a huge resource. I have learned a lot from the members here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Very useful information, everyone. I'm interested in building furniture (e.g., a desk, coffee table, work bench, dresser, etc.). I assume, however, that furniture is considered intermediate to advanced. I suppose I would start small and build a nice small wooden box or a birdhouse. Thanks again for all the help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Is there something that you would like to build? If so that can kind of guide you as far as the tools you will need and skills you will want to learn. Depending on where you live if there are either Woodcraft or Rockler stores that might be an educational option for you. If you get a chance visit The WoodWorking Show if they come through your area. They have lots of free seminars where you can learn a lot and ask questions. You might even want to look into WOOD magazines Weekend With Wood event this spring. It's a three day event where you can attend up to eight different classes taught by top woodworking talents and the staff of WOOD magazine. It's held at their headquarters in Des Moines Iowa this may 16 - 18th.
There actually is a Woodcraft where I live (St. Louis). They have a class where you build a coffee table.
 

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I'm a huge proponent of learning from other people's mistakes and being a cheap bastard whenever possible. For me, classes weren't an option when I got "back" into woodworking as an adult. I just read everything I could put my hands on about building the thing I wanted to build at the time. Then I asked questions on forums like this one (though related to boat building at the time).

I have the type of personality that I think I can do anything, though, so that choice is often much easier for me than for people who want a little more hand-holding or who might second guess their own skill more than I do.

If you're not comfortable delving into new ventures by yourself, I say take a class. If you're a little more "I can do anything", ask specific questions here if you have projects in mind and find out what tools people recommend. Buy tools to do the project you want to do and then move on to other things and new tools when you finish. You'll find it's remarkably easy to progress as slowly or quickly as you want and there is no more mastery of wood than you can find amongst the members right here.

We range from complete beginners to hacks (like me) and true masters here and almost everyone is willing to help others. We all started somewhere.
 

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I'm kind of a beginner myself. I have built various things over the years but never considered myself a woodworker. I took 3 years of woodworking in high school and it taught me a lot. I remember our very first projects, a sanding block, small saw horse, stool. As a senior the class spent the entire year on one project...building a modular house. Each year the seniors built a house that got sold. Over the years I never pursued woodworking as a hobby or trade. I only used the limited skills I had learned when necessary to repair things around the house or build small projects as needed.

It wasn't until last year when I inherited some of my fathers woodworking tools/equipment that I seriously took an interest. Besides some basics, I really didn't have any knowledge though. I started by reading books and watching tons of videos on youtube as others have already mentioned. Youtube is an invaluable resource for beginners and experts alike.

How do you learn? Everyone learns differently. Some can learn by watching or reading while others learn by doing. Some prefer to do things conventionally and exactly as instructed and find success. Some break the mold and think outside of the box, letting creativity flow and imagination run wild to the point where it crosses over from woodworking to artistry and invention.

Experiment in different areas. In the beginning, don't limit yourself to only one or two areas. Try your hand at carving, turning, scrolling, jigs, furniture, cabinets...everything!
 
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