Newbie-Projects to avoid frustration

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by OIF2Vet posted 05-26-2011 03:37 PM 1548 views 1 time favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View OIF2Vet's profile


12 posts in 2552 days

05-26-2011 03:37 PM

Hello, I’m obviously new to this website although I have been reading many posts over the past several months. Like many others here, I had always dreamed of woodworking but didnt have the financial ability to dive right in and had little access to machinery. That has changed over the last year or so and 4 months ago I dove into the lifestyle.

I currently have a pretty nice shop set-up for being brand new. The first few months I have spent setting things up, purchasing equipment, bulding work benches, jigs, etc. Now I am starting to work on projects that will end up outside of my shop area.

Really, up until now, the only type of ultra-accurate cutting I have had to do was while making some jigs. And actually, I’m not sure if that is even considered “ultra-accurate.” Now that I am paying even more attention to detail, I am finding myself frustrated as I realize exactly how greeen I am to the skills required to do this. I realize that it will take me years to master this art, if I ever do. But I do not want to get frustrated right out of the gate as I have read that this can cause people to walk away from the lifestyle all together.

I’ve Googled beginner woodworking projects and I seem to get directed to the same sites everytime. My question is: Where can I find project plans that produce a functional piece, yet teach me additional skills along the way.

thanks much! I look forward to contributing what I can as well as gaining additional knowledge.


-- Rick P, Grafton, WV

25 replies so far

View lew's profile


12055 posts in 3750 days

#1 posted 05-26-2011 04:46 PM

Here is a link to something I think would probably fit into what you are looking for-

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3069 days

#2 posted 05-26-2011 05:25 PM

I have often advised beginners like yourself to build an adirondack chair. Plans are readily available. In my opinion, it is a good beginners project. You can keep your cost down by using pine. You will also have the advantage of working with a softer wood. Cedar will cost a little more and be more durable in weather. Redwood is another option.

One of my first projects was a set of adirondack chairs I made with pine and painted. A few years later I built another set with ipé. Ipé is a very hard and very durable wood. Those chairs will last me for the rest of my life.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Gary's profile


9331 posts in 3428 days

#3 posted 05-26-2011 05:35 PM

Hey Rick..welcome to the site. I’m sure you’ll find lots of info you need/want here. You may even find someone who is willing to share a plan with you. Don’t give up if you have a few mishaps. All of us face that stuff, we just dont often post it

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View skippyland's profile


158 posts in 2686 days

#4 posted 05-26-2011 05:39 PM

Welcome to LJ’s Rick. What kind of wooden objects catch your eye?...Those are the ones to pursue. Keep checking in on this website, and whatever gets your you thinking about the shop…those are the ones to follow up on…if that makes any sense. Of course, Rockler and Woodcraft have lots of plans as does Wood Magazine. As I found out a few years ago, buying the tools was the easy part. Best of luck.

-- Skip from Batavia, purveyor of fine and exotic sawdust & chips.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3153 days

#5 posted 05-26-2011 05:47 PM

Build boxes. They make great gifts. Too simple for you? Think again…probably the best way to test your woodworking skills and more challenging than you probably realize.

I recommend Doug Stowe’s books on the subject.

-- jay,

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2978 days

#6 posted 05-26-2011 05:50 PM

Welcome Rick, First let me just say that learning is the fun part. One of the things I might suggest would be to practice on your joinery skills on some scrap, this is where you find the majority of your accuracy cuts. Chose projects that don’t require a lot of joinery, but allow you to make the kind of joints you want to learn. Say you want to learn dovetails and have refined your skills to the point you want to build a project. A simple step stool would be a good beginning project for dovetails. Here’s a site that I think you can find some beginners type projects and give you an idea of the joints you might want to use.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View OIF2Vet's profile


12 posts in 2552 days

#7 posted 05-26-2011 06:42 PM

Wow, thanks for the quick responses!

Lew- Actually my first “real” project will be a butcher block cutting board which is nearly complete. I was in Woodcraft a couple weekends ago and bought a butcher block kit on sale for $20. It was my first glue up and it went fairly smooth.

Richgreer- I’ve been eyeing some plans for an adirondack chair recently. In general, I’ve been thinking about starting off with some outdoor projects. Like the butcher block I am currently working on, I feel I can put as much or as little detail work into it that I want. In other words, if I don’t feel quite comfortable do some additional detail work, I can pass on that and still have a functional piece in the end. (dodging frustration!) :-)

We are expecting our first child this coming October. I’ve been looking for something that I can have ready for her nursery. Changing tables look awesome, but I’m a little nervous to “experiment” with something my newborn will use. I’ve looked at differnet toys but most of them seem to be best suited for a boy and we are having a girl.

Again, thanks to all for the responses. I can tell that I am going to love this place.

PS- I should have my new Ridgid R4512 put together and tuned tonight. The thought of that is making my day at work DRAG along pretty slowly! !

-- Rick P, Grafton, WV

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4000 days

#8 posted 05-26-2011 06:46 PM

You only get half the joy of woodworking by making something someone else designed. Create something yourself. The geometry of something like a never before created paper towel holder can be extremely simple to design and much more fun and satisfying.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View Bertha's profile


13525 posts in 2688 days

#9 posted 05-26-2011 06:47 PM

I think my first project was a birdhouse. Can’t go wrong there!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View KnickKnack's profile


1088 posts in 3561 days

#10 posted 05-26-2011 06:51 PM

Trays can be as easy or as difficult as you want them to be. They’re also pretty useful things to have around, and make cool presents.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View darinS's profile


709 posts in 2862 days

#11 posted 05-26-2011 06:55 PM

My first project was a night stand. Pretty simple joinery (rabbits if I remember correctly….it was awhile ago after all) and still in use somewhat. At least with something like that you wouldn’t need to worry about your newborn being placed on it, and if it falls apart, the only thing injured will be the alarm clock!! (Not necessarily a bad thing either)

-- They say many people die because of alcohol. They never realized how many of them are born because of it.

View Bertha's profile


13525 posts in 2688 days

#12 posted 05-26-2011 07:01 PM

^you know what, I lied. My first project also was a small nightstand. I glued up the top and legs, routed an ugly line in the aprons, and assembled it with dowels. It cupped and exploded one day. It was fun, though.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2649 days

#13 posted 05-26-2011 07:12 PM

Rick, another very enjoyable part of woodworking is learning how to design simple projects yourself. Study other peoples plans on how and why they do certain things and why different joinery is used in different situations. Start simple like a table with 4 legs and an apron. The term apron might be foreign to you now but that is a big part of the learning process – learning the jargon. With something simple like this, you will learn why mortise and tenon is used to join the aprons to the legs. With a solid top, you will learn why you have to take in to account wood movement so the top won’t split – and a long the way you will learn how techniques (store bought and hand made) to attach large solid wood planks. You can learn about different ways to profile an edge with hand tools or a router and bits. You will learn how to cut things square and accurate or the joints won’t fit right and the table won’t be square. Learning how to adjust the lengths of legs on a table is a good thing to know so the table doesn’t rock. These are some of the simple basics about learning about woodworking. Don’t start with complicated joinery or designs until you get these simple basics really mastered and under you belt as they are used on just about any project you undertake in your career. Don’t let poor fitting joinery or none square cuts get you ticked off – it is what everyone here has gone through to learn the basics and get really good at this art.

When I started woodworking many moons ago, I found the process of woodworking just as enjoyable as the finished project. Learn to love to work with wood; the satisfaction of a perfectly fitting joint; the feel of a sharp plane taking off a paper thin ribbon of wood, the feel of an exquisitely scraped and sanding piece of wood and how it feels so silky; the smell of different woods (hickory smells like a wet dog when you cut it – oak has a sweat smell to it – zebrawood really stinks when you cut it, etc.) This is all part of learning the art of woodworking.

If you have a computer try learning Sketchup to work through your designs. There are some OUTSTANDING Sketchup tutorials that focus totally on woodworking. There are tons of Sketchup wood project designs available on the web for you to check out. If no computer learn how to draw designs on paper. There are several good books on the market that picture designs of simple pieces of furniture that you can use to learn how it all fits together. You will start to learn what different joints are, why you would use them in a project and how to use different types of woods in the project. This is the engineering aspect of woodworking and if you want to move on a path to mastering woodworking, this is something you will have to learn along the road.

Above all, check here and ask questions when you hit a road block and aren’t sure where to go. Try figuring it out on your own first (great learning experience – woodworking is a LOT about problem solving). Research the web – LOT’S of really good information on the web.

Don’t get frustrated and give up. Making mistakes and turning perfectly good wood in to firewood is a natural process of learning the art of woodworking. It happens all the time to even seasoned woodworkers. Above all follow all safety precautions so you can make it a long and rewarding endeavor.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View OIF2Vet's profile


12 posts in 2552 days

#14 posted 05-26-2011 07:34 PM

What are your thoughts on using pine for my beginners projects since it is easy to purchase, cheap, etc? I do have access to a local lumber supplier and have a jointer and planner to mill stock. I hesitate buying anything other than pine right now as I am sure to make many mistakes with just starting out, and it makes me cringe to think about wasting good stock while I am learning.

-- Rick P, Grafton, WV

View nate22's profile


475 posts in 2870 days

#15 posted 05-26-2011 08:18 PM

If I was you OIF@Vet I would use pine for my first projects. I did that at first. And believe me I messed up a few times. Until you get good at making this I would use pine. I’m sure some of the others would do different but thats what I would do. And there is a lot of things you could make to start out like small shelves, napkin holders, bird houses, and a lot of other things. Good luck

-- Gracie's wooden signs. Middlebury, In.

showing 1 through 15 of 25 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics