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It can be very intimidating when learning how to get started in woodworking because of all the information you must learn before you can start your first project. Some of these overwhelming topics include what tools you need to get started in woodworking, the height of your workbench, what type of wood to purchase, etc. If you’re new to woodworking and you need a little guidance, We’ve compiled a list of a some of the important information you need to get started and a few tips to ensure your success.
Tip #1: What Type of Wood to use
As a beginner, going down the aisle of Home Depot and seeing the hundreds of different types of woods may be a little intimidating. Trust me, I was there along with every other woodworker at one point. However, it’s not as complicated as you think. Yes, there are literally thousands of different categories of woods with varying factors such as moisture level, density, stability, and appearance. However, when you narrow it down to a few simple categories, it starts to make a lot more sense.
The four categories I would advise any beginner woodworker to research are softwood, hardwood, plywood, and Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). Basically, when it comes down to purchasing a wood, choose something inexpensive and easy to work with. While hardwood is a popular choice among woodworkers, it can be costly difficult to work with. Hardwood is great for long lasting and stable wood projects, but because of it’s density, it can be difficult to make perfect cuts—especially without a table saw. For the average beginner with little to no experience, I would suggest looking into plywood or softwood. Both of these woods are great to work with and you can make some pretty awesome projects without breaking the bank or making costly mistakes. I would highly recommend checking out my most recent post on How to Choose the Right type of Wood for Woodworking to gain a deeper understanding on what type of wood is right for you.
Tip #2: What Tools you need
Obviously, tools are a necessity when it comes to woodworking. So, you might be wondering—what tools do I need to get started? Well, the first thing you’re going to need is a drill. You’re going to be drilling holes and driving screws so a decent drill is one of the first tools you should pick up. A chisel set is another must-have tool for woodworking. Many people think power tools are most important, but a beginner chisel set will allow you to do various tasks such as cut, chop, and shave wood. You’re also going to need a good router.
A router is very multi-functional tool that can do various tasks such as cut rebates and grooves, hollow out wood, cut dadoes and rabbets, and a million other things. Another great tool I recommend for a beginner would be a circular saw or table saw. These will be primarily used for cutting wood. The biggest difference between a table saw and a circular saw is price and functionality. Circular saws are cheaper, but table saws will make woodworking projects a lot easier. It’s not a big deal whether you get a table saw or circular saw, both will suffice just fine—It’s just a matter of what you’re willing to spend. Another great tool is a random orbit sander. These will save you a ton of time from hand sanding all your wood. The random pattern it creates will help avoid any squiggly lines and ensure even sanding.
These are just a few of the tools I would recommend for a beginner. Be sure to check out our post on the 7 Must-Have Tools for Woodworking to learn about the various tools you need to get started in woodworking. If you’re on a tight budget or prefer fine woodworking, check out our article on Woodworking Hand Tools.
Tip #3: Find Good Woodworking Plans
Woodworking is a massive industry and there are literally thousands of different types of plans out there for all types of projects. Some of them are a little more difficult to follow and some are intended for beginners. YouTube is your friend when it comes to woodworking. There are plenty of great channels with amazing content on woodworking. A couple of channels that I like are Crafted Workshop and Steve Ramsey. They have a lot of information on woodworking and how to get started in woodworking as a beginner.
While YouTube is great for finding information on woodworking and how to start your first project—finding simple to follow, step-by-step woodworking plans is something I rarely find in YouTube videos. If you’re looking for dimensional plans that lay out the entire process of a project—piece by piece and step-by-step—I highly recommend Ted’s Woodworking Guide. It’s an excellent guide with thousands of plans that go into detail about how to complete various projects. I believe it costs around $60-70, but the content within is well worth the price. If you want more information on Ted’s Woodworking, be sure to check out our article Teds Woodworking Review. Another great option is the Manual of Purpose-Made Woodworking Joinery. It’s a simple woodworking book that lays out basic projects with step-by-step plans that any beginner in woodworking could understand. In my opinion, if you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on tools, materials, lumber, etc., you might as well buy a decent guide to help you along the process when building your projects.
Tip #4: Build or Buy a Workbench
You can’t really do much in terms of woodworking without a proper workbench. Trust me, trying to work on the crappy 3-foot tall foldable table you bought for beer pong last year will not lead to high quality work. You can buy a workbench on Amazon or build your own—either will do the job. However, you will eventually want to build your own to fit your specific needs and help you accomplish your goals.
People always ask what the perfect height for my workbench is, while others never even think about this question. The truth is, the height of your workbench is extremely important to consider because it will have a significant impact on your woodworking projects. Most importantly, working on a bench that is not the proper height can put a lot of stress on your body. I’m 6’3 and as a beginner, I built a bench that was more suited for someone closer to 5’9. As a result, for over 2 years of woodworking, I was putting stress on my back that I didn’t even realize. The general rule I discovered when building your workbench is to make a bench that aligns with your waistline. However, if you’re going to be doing a lot of sanding and cutting on your projects, I recommend going about 5” below the waistline. This will force you to bend over slightly more, therefore creating more force in your arms and shoulders when doing these types of projects.
If you’re looking to buy a workbench, I highly recommend checking out this one on Amazon: Hopkins 90164 2x4basics Work Bench and Shelving Storage System. It’s simple to assemble, comes with additional shelving, and it’s a great height for someone of average height. If you want to build your own workbench, check out one of the above plans I listed for workbench design plans. Ted’s Woodworking Guide has some excellent design plans for building a workbench.
Tip #5: Save Money when Woodworking
As you learn how to get started in woodworking, you quickly realize how expensive things can get. Between tools, lumber, materials, and plans, the money can add up fast. Trust me, I know. I’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years and many of those dollars I could have saved if I knew some of the tips I’m about to share with you. First, don’t think you need a fancy expensive workshop to learn how to do woodworking. You don’t need to spend $9,000 worth of equipment to make a table. Realistically, you can spend around $700 on tools and wood and make some amazing woodworking projects.
Also, keep in mind how expensive wood can get! I’m going to be honest- you’re going to make some mistakes when starting out woodworking. This is just part of the process. Don’t go buying exotic hardwoods and think you’re going to successfully create a masterpiece. In fact, don’t even put a big budget on your lumber at all. You can find free or very cheap lumber on Craigslist or thrift stores. You can even go to construction sites and find plywood that was going to get burned anyways. There are plenty of ways to get your hands on free lumber. If you want more information on ways to get free lumber, check out my guide on How to get FREE Lumber for Woodworking!