Beginner, But where to begin?

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Forum topic by Mark828 posted 02-14-2013 08:45 AM 1561 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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95 posts in 1892 days

02-14-2013 08:45 AM

Howdy all, I would just like to start off by saying that I’ve been snooping around this site for some time now and most to all of the projects Ive seen on here amaze me… well basically I envy anyone who can throw a simple box together. Anyway, I started getting interested in woodworking after detailing boats over the summer. Once in a while I got a chance to glance in a wooden boat makers shop near our site. The craftsmanship of this older gentleman was a pleasure to observe. This got me to researching online about strip canoe building and small boat building. That lead me to this site were my mind basically melted.

I think I’m getting ahead of myself and not accepting that I need to start with the basics first. I planned on making some end-grain cutting boards for my parents for the holidays but that ended as soon as i found I could not get a solid straight cut to save my life. My first successful project was a pair of corn hole boards for fun. Tools Ive acquired over timer are a circular saw, small skilsaw table saw (useless), power drill, jigsaw, pocket hole jig, measuring tools, RO sander, simple chisels, and I recently obtained an older craftsman 12’ band saw from a family friend.

So now I come to you all for advice as to where to begin, what basic skills should I practice, what simple projects can I take on to hone those skills, and what tools (hand or power) do you recommend me to get a hold of to start off. I am 20 years old and am working on a part-time work, college tuition budget, although that wont stop me to much. Ive already fallen in love with the smell of sawdust.

I look forward to hearing back from you all, I’d love to see what you all have to say. Thanks a ton.


22 replies so far

View Woodknack's profile


11479 posts in 2344 days

#1 posted 02-14-2013 08:52 AM

Recycle urban lumber… look around for hardwood pallets, people throwing away head/foot boards from beds, etc. Some simpler projects include benches, stools, tables, bird houses, shelves,

-- Rick M,

View CplSteel's profile


142 posts in 2128 days

#2 posted 02-14-2013 09:36 AM

+1 on the recycled lumber. The big cost of woodworking is always the lumber. Then I recommend trying to build something you will actually use. I would start with shop tools and storage. You need it, and it is ok if they are not 100% perfect- or even 50% perfect – you can make winding sticks and screw up the finish, you can make a toolbox and not have perfect joints… build shelves and clamp racks, it does’t matter if they are square. Get better and learn from the mistakes. Don’t worry about the tools yet. Some basic tools can do everything, everything else just makes it easier. You will find what you really want vs. what works well for everyone else. You may get into bending or small boxes, or boats, or turning, or something else and the tools that can help the most will be different. (And chances are you will eventually start looking for and acquiring a full shop if you stick with it long enough).

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2925 days

#3 posted 02-14-2013 11:15 AM

Recycled lumber is a great idea.
Band saw, good table saw, drill are a good start in addition to what you have. I would go to Lowe’s or a similar store and get a straight edge for guiding the circular saw on paneling or plywood. Best investment I made. I got tired of the saw drifting off the line. Oh yes, some clamps are good to have. Good luck and my best on your college endeavor. BTW, what is your major? Just curious.

View GrandpaLen's profile


1650 posts in 2236 days

#4 posted 02-14-2013 11:25 AM


Welcome to LumberJocks , a world of advise, opinions, and experiences, all shared without judgement.

Your membership to the LumberJocks site may well be the best choice of tools you’ve made to date.

Work Safely and have Fun. – Grandpa Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1821 posts in 1933 days

#5 posted 02-14-2013 12:05 PM

Hey Mark, welcome. I’m fairly new here also. I have the skilsaw table saw. If you want to upgrade it some and have the room, buy the skilsaw folding table saw stand 80092. I bought mine on amazon for 40 bucks. It increases the rip capacity to 30 inches and gives you a t-square fence. The fence alone is worth that price. The fence that comes with the saw is useless. Then I would borrow a grinder from someone and (carefully) grind off the t slot tabs on the miter slots. You then can build a good table saw sled that will give you very nice cuts. Buy a Bora clamp for ripping big panels with your circular saw, or just find a good straight edge. Remember you are smarter than the tools, not the other way around. Practice, practice, practice. I find that pallets are a great thing to work on. In most cases you can get them for free, and many have some great wood in them. Just use your imagination. Please be safe and take no chances. Use a push stick on your table saw. Use hearing protection, and vision protection. Later on in life, i’ll order a boat from you.

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2451 days

#6 posted 02-14-2013 12:15 PM

For years and years and years I have been in pursuit of the truly square box.

I’m beginning to think there ain’t no such animal.

It’s a great first project and will give you hours of practice with different joints, square cuts, sanding, finishing, just about everything you do in wood working.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View coachmancuso's profile


259 posts in 1895 days

#7 posted 02-14-2013 12:39 PM

I am new to wood working too . I started with Christmas ornaments made out of plywood , then Christmas name sleighs , made iof plywood and pine stock. Know on to band saw boxes, they are pretty basic and easy to do I have done 7 so far and the more you do the better you get. You can make these ones with your own patterns so you cant screw up. Just started on the scroll saw made my wife a valentines box out of red oak with a cherry wood heart on the top. Start at it and do a little each day and before you know it you will be off and running. Good luck and welcome to lj

-- Coach Mancuso

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2740 days

#8 posted 02-14-2013 01:09 PM

Welcome to LJ’s. You gotta be careful asking an open ended question like where do I start – it could take days to sort through the posts.

First off – I would recommend that you get the best tablesaw or hybrid tablesaw that you can afford. I bought mine as a refurbished saw at a show for about 50% off. I wouldn’t recommend buying a used one at this point unless you know what kind of service and how well it was taken care of. Restoring a saw can cost you as much or more than buying a new one. Make sure it has the weight and size that if you choose to rip a piece of plywood, the thing won’t tip over (actually had that happen to me once).

After that, get a good Freud blade for it – 40 or 60 tooth.

Once you get this home – take the time to learn how to adjust the fence and fine tune the saw to make clean and reliable cuts without burning and kickbacks.

You will find the quality of what you do is reflective of how well you maintain and keep your tools.

As your skills grow, what you do and what you want to do will dictate more about what tools you acquire

-- David in Damascus, MD

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2830 days

#9 posted 02-14-2013 01:19 PM

Welcome to Lumberjocks. You don’t have to have stationary power tools to start working. Get the common 5 or 6 basic portable power tools and a small set of the basic hand tools. Get you a good beginner’s book about general woodworking. They will have some basic projects and probably plans for a simple but adequate workbench. That will get you going. See if you can build a relationship with that boatbuilder – at least to the point where you can get advice from him occasionally. And of course there are plenty of people on Lumberjocks that will answer questions and give advice. Best of luck to you.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3249 days

#10 posted 02-14-2013 01:27 PM


I built my first real woodworking project 49 years ago and it’s sitting in my shop now receiving a fresh coat of finish ( A shelf unit I built for my mother in 1965 and took down from her kitchen wall when she passed away this past year).

I remember how awestruck I was on how much there was to learn about woodworking back then and now today, I’m awestruck on how much there is for me to learn yet in woodworking. It’s a continuous learning experience, but the journey is so much fun.

Enjoy your journey and we look forward to seeing some of your projects. Everyone has given you some great advice and ideas to start with so just go have fun…..........and be safe!.

Best of luck

-- John @

View chrisstef's profile


17305 posts in 2970 days

#11 posted 02-14-2013 01:42 PM

An adirondack chair can be a really good start too. It was one of my firts projects and gives you something very tangible at the end. It can be made out of pine for around $50 in lumber and $10 in screws. There’s no fancy joinery but it will get your mind working toward other things. Here’s a link to a set of plans that i had used. Plans are pretty close to perfect, i think i changed he angle on the arm rest though.

Good luck and welcome to the gang.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 2262 days

#12 posted 02-14-2013 02:09 PM

if your gonna buy clamps get the ShopFox clamps from Grizzly they are cheap and well made and heavy duty with almost 5inch throat

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View bondogaposis's profile


4682 posts in 2315 days

#13 posted 02-14-2013 02:25 PM

Look at Popular Woodworking Magazine site. They have free plans for “I Can Do That” projects. They are good fundamental set of skill building plans that can be made w/ a basic set of tools.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View RussellAP's profile


3103 posts in 2250 days

#14 posted 02-14-2013 02:51 PM

Mark, my opinion is that you should add up some cost first. How much money do you have to put into it and how much will you be getting in the future to put into it.

If you have a small area, think about enlarging it. Image if you had all the tools you may need, not all you want, and picture the space you have with those tools in there. Now is the time to make room.

Decide what you would like to build, boxes, boats, cutting boards, Bowls and vases, or you can also divide it into the criterion of will I be making large or small things.

Once you decide to make say….adirondack chairs….you have a better idea of what tools you’ll need.

You saws could profit from new blades, try it before you upgrade.

I’d say some basics are, (I’ll abbreviate) TS, BS, MS. Hand held jig saw. ROS, eventually a joiner and a planer.

These tools will dimensionalize your lumber to be the precise size you need to build.

Buy online… can be had online for less than a store, HF (Harbor Freight) is the exception. Hand tools, abrasives, supplies, you name it they have it. Take a couple hours and go shopping. They also have excellent clamps cheap, the blue F style that is metal is my choice along with a couple 6” bar claps for added strength.
The way to be with clamps is….when you see one, buy one or two, you rarely have enough. I have over 60 and I’m getting to where I do have enough.

Having passion for your work equals much learning and talent. If you love woodworking, you’ll find a way.

Good luck to you.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Mark828's profile


95 posts in 1892 days

#15 posted 02-14-2013 06:18 PM

Wow, I did not expect to get this many replies so quickly. Thank you all so much for your feedback and support. I read through every one and they were very helpful, I can tell this site is filled with some pretty spectacular knowledge and that’s great because I’m sure ill have many questions.

Some points were made about recycled lumber and I agree, that is a great idea. My brother found some pristine bed slats in a dumpster which i used as the frame of the corn hole boards, they were a little concave but that didn’t effect the square-ness too much.

Someone mentioned something about shop space. Unfortunately I share a standard 2 car garage with my brother and his motorcycle that he’s working on, a 16ft aluminum boat were both restoring (have to move it in and out to work) and my mother with all her real-estate stuff. We’ve made it work so far. We have two rolling too chests, 24’ x 74’ work bench we just put together. There’s definitely some organizing that can be done but it’ll have to do for now.

For everyone else who provided plans, suggestions, and advice, I thank you greatly. I really do appreciate it. I would like to get some pics of the boards and a shelf I made for my room up sometime. But as for now, It’s of to the garage to practice! Thanks again.

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