What's Your Best Advice for Novice Woodworkers?

Start with projects that have a good chance of success. It is far better to succeed making simple, modest pieces than to get overwhelmed, frustrated and disappointed because you bit off more than you could chew with an elaborate project. Start small around the house: Kill two birds with one stone and learn while you take on a smaller fix at home. Fix your porch, build a doghouse, make your own birdhouses, refurbish a piece of furniture, etc. To be successful at this craft, you need to be as knowledgeable and skilled at choosing wood, preparing it, and accommodating its peculiarities as you are at working it with tools. Your work will be no better than the materials you choose and your understanding of them. Unlike metal, glass or clay, wood is a product of biology and therefore extremely varied. Each species, each tree and each board is different — and the differences matter. Of course, this is part of wood's wonderful appeal, but it does create considerable demands on the woodworker. Like most crafts, woodworking requires a substantial infrastructure of tools. This can be intimidating and costly for a beginner, but it's also very tempting as you browse catalogs while anticipating shiny new tools. Remember: tools are for making things, not for mere acquisition. I suggest this sequence: Decide what you want to build, anticipate the steps required to build these pieces, then get the tools to perform those tasks excellently and efficiently. Avoid false economy — buy high-quality tools even if that means having fewer tools, deferring a purchase or spending more. Also, it is better to choose a top-quality, versatile tool than a highly specialized gadget, especially one that is purported to require little skill. Start with a table, clamps, some chisels, hammer, orbital sander, cordless drill, measuring tools, sandpaper, glue, safety glasses, and hearing protection. Focus on hand saws, jigsaws, and circular saws as they’re the cheapest and should work for 90% of your home projects. Never forget how dangerous a power tool can be, always do your research before using a tool you are not familiar with. Read the manual, do a dry run with the tool unplugged to familiarize yourself with how the tool works. Add tools as you need them. Softwoods such as pine or spruce are good woods to practice with, when you become more confident move on to the more exotic woods. Making shop fixtures and jigs is a great way to hone your skills, many of them can be made from used, scrap, or recycled material. I could go on but it would probably take up this whole site!

What's your best tips?
  6 answers
  • Rachel Rachel on Feb 22, 2017
    My tip is to make a fun wood project with someone who is experienced.
    My first (and most successful) wood projects were done with my dad. It was fun, informative, and I got to spend some quality time with my dad while learning a new skill.
    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Feb 23, 2017
      This is a very good tip. I am a pretty experienced woodworker, but have had tons of fun helping people with different levels of experience with projects. Some people need some help with power tools that are too scary for beginners. Others either have experience and/or pick up very quickly and just need the space and tools. Others need lots of help all the way through. But it has always has worked well for the "teacher" and the "student".
  • Hillela G. Hillela G. on Feb 22, 2017
    You're such a wellspring of information, thank you so much for your help, William!
    • William William on Feb 22, 2017
      Thank you! Been a woodworker for 40+ years! I could write a book but wouldn't know where to start. There's too many of them out there anyway.
  • Haysha S. Haysha S. on Feb 23, 2017
  • Shoshana Shoshana on Feb 23, 2017
    This is way better than a book William! This way we get to receive direct answers and tips from the expert himself  So thank you!
  • Lori Haught Harper Lori Haught Harper on Feb 28, 2017
    Taking a class is another good way to learn from an expert. If there is a Woodcraft in your area, they hold classes for all skill levels. They have free demos too. A shop safety class is a must also! Working with machinery can be intimidating so learn how to work safely then you'll be ready to take on your next project!
  • Yellow Barn Interiors Yellow Barn Interiors on Feb 28, 2017
    Go to pinterest for a lot of tutorials.