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View cgallagher's profile

Ambitious newbie wants to start woodworking

by cgallagher
posted 12-11-2009 06:25 AM

23 replies so far

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 3107 days

#1 posted 12-11-2009 01:02 PM

Hi and welcome!

I’m pretty much a rookie myself (doing stuff less than a year, just learning as I go), first off this site is great (about 3 weeks in and I can’t tell you how much good stuff I’ve picked up from the people here already, they’re awesome)

When I got interested I started picking up woodworking magazines, not just for the articles and tool reviews but to look at the project plans and see how stuff is put together. My personal favorites (not only for cool projects but also because alot of the articles are easy for beginners to digest without being written assuming you’re a moron lol!) are Wood Magazine, ShopNotes, Woodsmith, and Woodcraft. I pick up various others if they have specific articles of interest but I only subscribe to those four currently. I have a small collection of other books I refer to if I need to go in-depth about a particular subject but magazines are great for condensing it all.

I don’t have much experience with alot of brands of tools or a huge variety of stuff, so I won’t presume to lecture on em (i’ll leave that for the veterans, I’d like to see what they use myself), tho I’ve learned not to get ahead of myself and just buy what I need when I need it for the project at hand, when I know I need something I try to look it up online and find one with good reviews (one thing I’ve learned is no matter your budget, always get the best tool you can afford, you buy cheap, you GET cheap – I learned the hard way to avoid most generic “store brand” tools like the plague).

Most of what I do have is Stanley and Craftsman stuff I inhereted from my dad, so when I need new stuff I tend to keep buying those brands and so far I haven’t been dissappointed. When it comes to power tools I have alot of Skil tools (theyre aimed at hobbyists, theyre not powerhouses but you get a decent tool for the price) tho I’ve been upgrading to Delta/Porter-Cable whenever I can find a deal. With clamps (you’ll end up with huge piles of those, trust me hehe) I like to mostly stick to Irwin, Jet, and Bessey. If there’s a Harbor Freight near you Pittsburgh clamps are very good, and extremely budget-friendly.

A couple great sites to buy tools and supplies if you don’t have a local store are and I’d say 90% of the stuff I’ve needed to order I’ve found on one of those two (rocker has a better selection, but I find woodcraft tends to have better prices and more frequent deals like free shipping)

I really can’t think of anything else (might have something to do with the fact its 5am, Jei am need sleep now lol) but stick around this site, you’ll learn a ton!

-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

View PG_Zac's profile


368 posts in 3388 days

#2 posted 12-11-2009 01:45 PM

Welcome Chris.

Don’t worry about being a noob – The LJ community is great, and even the professionals are willing to help without putting you down.

My broad advice is “don’t buy cheap” – it’s seldom worth it. Rather go mid range if you can’t afford the top line stuff. For example, I got an awesome set of Marples chisels from Rockler – mid price but good tools.

Read through the reviews section of this site and you’ll get a ton of good product evaluations (from the users not the sellers) – both the thumbs-up and the thumbs-down types.

Good sawing and have fun while being safe.

-- I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3462 days

#3 posted 12-11-2009 02:04 PM

Hi Chris and welcome to LJ. Yu have found the place to make all your woodworking dreams come true. If you have limited or no experience with wood I would do as the previous 2 have mentioned. Read all you can on the subject, get yourself the best tools you can afford. You say that you have some “Stanley and Craftsman” tools from your father, thats a good start. Do you see yourself making really large pieces in the future? Or, do you only want to make a few pieces and then move on to some other hobby? If you have a Woodcraft in your area contact them and look at their class schedule. they will have a lot of classes, some of them geared to new woodworkers. You might also check some of the local craft shops for local crafts people who may also be able to help you learn some techniques. There is also your local community college, which should have an industrial arts dept, another source. The best way, I think, is to dive in with both hands and make some sawdust. Dont rush it, be patient and have fun. You ARE going to make some mistakes, we all do. Dont get discouraged and then remember when the project is finished you will be able to tell all your friends and family that “I made this for you.” Good luck and remember we are always here to help, ask as many questions as you feel necessary. The only stoopid question is the one that is not asked.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4127 days

#4 posted 12-11-2009 02:25 PM

Acquire skills, not tools.

-- 温故知新

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3143 days

#5 posted 12-11-2009 02:56 PM

Hi Chris, and welcome! My advice is not about tools, but about this site. Learn it, know it, love it! I haven’t gotten to the 2nd step yet, but I’m fully entrenched in the first and third. Not knowing how long you’ve been looking, I may be putting out useless info, but what’s a few electrons, right?

At the top of the page there are tabs: home, projects, blogs…. explore them, especially the blogs as these are short classes of particular skills by some of the most talented people on the planet. When you find one you are really interested in, click on “add to favorites”. Don’t forget to hit the add button under the comments section. Another great feature is the search window. Put “mission style” or whatever in there and go exploring.

Above all else, Have Fun and BE SAFE!

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View FatScratch's profile


189 posts in 3302 days

#6 posted 12-11-2009 03:37 PM

Chris, I am still new to woodworking and learning more and more each day. Like you, I had no experience in woodworking, but watched New Yankee Workshop and Woodworks with David Marks, and thought, “I can do that!” I got my self a cheap table saw (not the best place to start) and built an end table with few more tools than you currently have. I think the best advise was already stated, watch some wood working shows (the internet is great for this, like The Wood Whisperer) read some material, but most of all just get to the wood and try. Try making some joints with smaller pieces, glue some boards together to see how strong a glue joint is, try making some different cuts with a handsaw, etc. Best advice – don’t be afraid to make some mistakes! Get any wood you can to practice with and go to town!

View NoSlivers's profile


210 posts in 3090 days

#7 posted 12-12-2009 08:03 AM

Chris, Randy (drgoodwood) is dead on, acquire skills not tools. If you’re on a really tight budget (who isn’t these days) then just pick up the necessary hand tools. Power tools are great to have and make much of the work go faster, but many of the basics of woodworking don’t truly get learned. Not to sound like I have alot of experience (and I don’t) it really comes down to your budget and how quickly you feel the need to finish your projects. With a router and a decent jig, a dovetailed drawer can be produced in a hours (or less). By hand using a marker, dovetail saw, chisel and mallet one joint of that drawer could take an hour! The difference in price of equipment (with router bits and all) in those two methods could easily be $200, and could be much, much more depending on the router and jig. Well, $200 can buy a fair bit of wood to practice hand tool techniques on. Buy inexpensive wood to practice on, then spend a little on some quality wood for your projects. If you get as much satisfaction from producing a quality product as the rest of us (sawdust addicts) do, then you have ample opportunity to decide what power tools you’ll need to make your projects. Welcome to a wonderful (habit) hobby.

-- If you don't have time to do it right, do you have time to do it twice?

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3577 days

#8 posted 12-12-2009 08:24 AM

Hey Chris
I agree with medic Kens suggestions and in addition I would suggest looking at woodworking blogs here and on you tube with people like Charles Neil. and Magazines like Finewoodworking ,wood Magazine and there web sites. If you want to try making your wood frame I was suggest practicing on some inexpensive wood first like poplar or pine . If you have more specific questions feel free to send me a PM.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View PG_Zac's profile


368 posts in 3388 days

#9 posted 12-12-2009 12:47 PM

Another suggestion Chris-

The Wood Whisperer (Marc Spagnuolo) is a fellow LJ, and is a professional woodworker. He has a couple of sites, one of which is specifically geared towards the new woodworker. Go to and spend some time there as well.

Marc is extremely knowledgeable and generous with his information, and he is a young(ish) guy making it in a world that many of us would love to.

-- I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3939 days

#10 posted 12-12-2009 02:17 PM

Hey Chris, welcome to LumberJocks where the sun never sets. I will echo what has been said about this site. Spend time wandering about and you’ll see skill levels from beginner to master and everyone is willing to share. You’ll learn plenty here. Have at it and you’ll quickly find what you need and be building in no time.

-- Working at Woodworking

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3285 days

#11 posted 12-12-2009 03:54 PM

Chris, Welcome to Lj’s. Everyone has already given you some great advice…...all I would add is patience. Take your time and enjoy. It doesn’t matter how much…...or how little experience you have, there is always something new to learn, new tools to work with, new projects to build and new ways to do things. That’s why I enjoy this site so much. Everyone is willing to share and I learn something everytime I’m on here.
Good luck and keep us posted.

-- John @

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3191 days

#12 posted 12-12-2009 06:02 PM

Hi Chris,
To look for tools your interested in Rockler is the most popular site. For wood look up woodfinder on the internet, that site will help you find local suppliers of hard wood. For wood preperation, you might want to consider some power tools, a table saw, jointer, and planer are the three tools I would personaly recommend. on the internet you’ll find tons of material to read. Almost every wood magazine has an online site these days. Arts & Crafts, and mission Style furniture, as mentioned above there are tons of books and video on the subject. Bob

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Chuck 's profile


88 posts in 3200 days

#13 posted 12-12-2009 07:25 PM

Hi Chris,
I’ve only been woodworking for a year or two. Everybody here are right about tools – buying cheap is more expensive in the long run. Also, there is a great series of free videos for beginners on the FWW website. Check it out.

-- Chuck, Washington D.C.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3270 days

#14 posted 12-12-2009 07:39 PM

Chris, everyone starts where you are…..and we all continue to learn as we go…..I would never consider myself a “Pro” as I learn a lot from every post I read and from every project I do….

I think the most valuable tool in woodworking is the willingness to learn…start out with items you feel you can accomplish and work your way up…and after mastering a method, try new things….as for tools and equipment…the reviews here and on other sites (the ones done by woodworkers…not magazine editors – who typically are worried about advertising dollars) are your greatest resources…

Welcome to LJ’s…this is a great resource for learning and improving your skills.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3174 days

#15 posted 12-12-2009 07:47 PM

I’m a n00b, too.

My only advice: practice your skills (over and over) on absolute scrap wood.

The wood won’t care if you butcher a mortise & tenon joint. The project you’re trying to complete … would.

I’m also finding that—like in many things—a couple of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People make sense to me …. like:

Begin with the end in mind: keep an image in your head of what you’re trying to accomplish (ex: a mortise & tenon joint or a frame). Learn what they SHOULD look like, and the pitfalls to be aware of as you’re building them.

Sharpen the saw: skills, skills, skills. And … yeah …. good tools are an investment. I’m not going to regret buying a better tool, but I might regret buying a cheap one. If I have to, I can sell the better tool, later, and just write off the diff between what I paid and what I got for it. It’s NOT a total loss….

Enjoy. Be SAFE. Learn what you can about shop safety, dust collection, air filtration, etc!

-- -- Neil

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3246 days

#16 posted 12-12-2009 09:00 PM

This doesn’t really answer your question directly, but take a class. You don’t say where you’re located, so can’t really give specifics. But try local woodworking stores, community college, adult education, rec centers or fellow LJ in your area. From a class you’ll learn SAFETY for using tools, local sources of wood and general techniques. Might even make a new friend. You get to play with a lot of different tools and find out what you really like- the ultimate try before you buy. Even a basic class gets you going and you’ll get more out of all those dvds and magazines. Good luck, have fun and let us know how it’s going!

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View tnwood's profile


258 posts in 3086 days

#17 posted 12-13-2009 10:53 PM

Do some shopping for used tools. Garage sales, flea markets, on line woodworking sites, Craig’s List, etc. all have some high quality equipment at good prices. A lot of times you will learn from the people selling also. And the comment on acquiring skills and not tools is right on. I’d buy some cheap 2×4’s first and practice on them. You could probably make 4 or 5 practice joints for a few bucks. I do that all the time when I’m doing something for the first time. Just remember that hard woods often behave differently than soft woods so I often make a transition from pine to scrap hard wood to final piece. You will also learn how to fix your mistakes so no one but you can find them.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3174 days

#18 posted 12-13-2009 11:12 PM

To go one step further with what tnwood and I were saying …. my local Home Depot has a cull bin, chock full of scrap wood that they can’t sell as “perfect” for one reason or another.

It’s sometimes amazing what kind of deals they have on wood that’s very usable for shop jigs or other stuff where appearance isn’t critical. Mine sells ANY piece of cull for $0.51/ea.

I make it a habit to go by that bin every time I’m there. Likewise, others tell me about scrap left on construction sites (legality???), recycling yards that specialize in demo of older structures, and re-sale of the construction components, etc., etc.

-- -- Neil

View AzChiefFan's profile


19 posts in 3327 days

#19 posted 12-13-2009 11:48 PM


One thing to consider maybe taking some classes thru a local woodworking location or community college. It would probably give you a wider variety of access to tools to try and work with to see what you feel comfortable with and need for your projects. Also much easier to use their existing collection of tools than try to plunge into woodworking and spend vast amounts of money before knowing what you need for the type of projects you may want to do. It also provides you with not only the tools but usually someone to be there with you to help you learn the safe and proper use of those tools, I find it much easier to learn something from someone showing me in person than trying to figure it out on my own, much easier to see it in action and be able to then decide what best suits your needs. Also this may allow you to purchase some of the smaller necessities while using the school or class for the times you need bigger more expensive equipment.

Thats my reccomendation and as always best of Luck


-- AzChiefFan "Measure Once, Curse Twice"

View SilverS's profile


5 posts in 3085 days

#20 posted 12-14-2009 07:52 PM

The most important thing you can do to help learn faster is to practice! No matter what sort of tools you have or by, they’re not going to be of any use until you learn how to use them.

View TemplateTom's profile


93 posts in 3281 days

#21 posted 12-15-2009 12:20 AM

I have been working with wood for the past 60 years as a carpenter. Teacher. Cabinetmaker but my speciallity at the moment is introducing new techniques with the router. Please post your questions and hopefully I will be able to assist. I have submitted some of the routing techniques on You Tube for all to see. We all have certain skills and I wish I had you computer skills

-- Getting more from my router with the aid of Template Guides Selection of Projects listed on You -Tube "Routing with Tom O'Donnell"

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3190 days

#22 posted 12-15-2009 01:29 AM

Hey Chris, welcome to lumberjocks. What is that frame going to do? For something non-loadbearing like a picture frame that joint could probably be closely duplicated using some ingenuity and a half-lap joint which would be easier to accomplish, especially with modest tools, than a true mortise and tenon. There are lots of folks here with great ideas and, like others who have expressed similar sentiments, I constantly click in awe of some of the projects that these crafty LJers come up with.

In the ‘for what it’s worth’ category here are a few pointers I’ll toss out (some of which I learned the hard way):

1. Get “how to” books on how to use the tools you already have; that will tell you something about what you’ve got and where their limitations lay.

2. Read several different woodworking magazines. They all seem to have a rotation of sorts and it seems that between them they all seem to cover the same topics about every year or two. Read the articles, re-read the articles and if you have questions, search the internet or ask here in the forum. I’ve yet to see someone here get talked down to for asking questions.

3. Resist the urge to buy ‘okay’ tools as you’ll wind up replacing them for extra cost if this becomes your hobby/ calling. Good tools just work better and it seems to not matter what they are, tablesaws to hand planes, the old maxim is true “you get what you pay for”. That said you don’t have to go out and spend (no joke) thousands of bucks to get good stuff. I built many projects using a collapsable Ryobi table saw and my successes were mainly due to learning how to work around the limitations of the saw; when I bought my cabinet saw the lights came on and I could now rely on my saw to make the cuts I set up rather than having to apply my own ‘english’ to make the cut I needed.

4. Craigslist has been a great friend of mine when purchasing tools. I’ve found many tools for half price on CL and was able to outfit my shop far easier financially than I might have buying all new. The key is know what you want, know what it should look like and know what you should pay for it.

5. Get some simple wood project books. Usually any bookstore will have some, browse them and buy the one that shows you how to do something in the manner that is clear to you. Some plans and directions are better than others. Building a simple pine napkin holder and learning the techniques involved there is quicker, cheaper and easier than ruining an expensive piece of hardwood. Techniques carry over from project to project but like any other learning you have to understand the basics before you move on to advanced stuff.

6. Practice. Unless you’re a woodworking savant it’s that simple. I’ve gotten better at using handplanes just because I finally got some planes worth a hoot (at a tool swap meet for cheap) after only minor tuning and I have dedicated some time and scraps to just making shavings. The shavings go in the trash and the wood dwindles down from boards to strips but when it comes time to take a handplane to some expensive cherry I know I can do it.

7. Get or build a decent workbench or work surface. It will go nicely with #1 above. Workbenches don’t have to have complicated joinery or super advanced techniques in order to be effective. They simply have to be well designed (and there have to be somewhere around a million different plans available), well built and heavy/sturdy. All tasks you perform will go better with the right support surface.

8. Realize that building a project is fun but then the hard part starts: Finishing. Books and practice will be your friend there too.

Okay..enough, there are too many things to list and probably it’s all been said or will be. Woodworking is fun, rewarding and challenging. You have come to one of the best spots I’ve found to build a good foundation for your new hobby. I don’t know lots but I, like many, will respond if you ask questions.

Good luck, welcome to LJ and remember this saying “He who dies with the most clamps wins!” You’ll me.


-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 3489 days

#23 posted 12-15-2009 02:07 AM

Welcome to one newbie from another! :) Keep on reading here, you will find there’s a wealth of information. And everyone is friendly and open to helping you out. I’ve learned that part a thousand times! :)

Ask questions, read.

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

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