Ambitious newbie wants to start woodworking

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Forum topic by cgallagher posted 12-11-2009 06:25 AM 1705 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 3261 days

12-11-2009 06:25 AM

Hi to everyone on the forum! I’m not sure if I should even be posting this here, as the level of experience on this forum seems to be through the roof but… if I can get away with it, I’ll try and ask you – the pros.

Before I say anything else, let me say this: I have -NO- woodworking experience. I’m a computer technician by trade and I tinker with most anything I want to learn (I don’t claim to have mastered any of said “tinkerings.”) and over the past several years I’ve really yearned to learn something about woodworking. I especially take a liking to A&C and Mission style things. I would really like to learn some basics and was hoping you all could point me in the right direction.

My goal is to make a quartersawn oak frame using mortis and tenon joinery. Something like this: LINK I’m hoping this isn’t too lofty of a goal for someone who’s handled a handsaw maybe 5 times in his life. I’m by no means wealthy and I’d like to accomplish this using some old school handtools if possible. I do have a few tools: a cordless and corded circular saw, a jigsaw, dremel tool, cordless 18v drill, electric sander and of course some other basic things, hammers, measuring tape, etc…

So my question is where should I start? I can probably find QSRO locally, not so sure about QSWO. What kind of hammers, chisels? How do I cut dowels?

Thanks in advance,


23 replies so far

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 3280 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 3560 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 3634 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 4299 days

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

Acquire skills, not tools.

-- 温故知新

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3315 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 3474 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 3262 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


117270 posts in 3749 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 3560 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 4111 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 3457 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 3363 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 3372 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 3442 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 3346 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

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