Where do I start?

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Forum topic by aatwatch posted 03-19-2013 10:32 AM 1626 views 0 times favorited 37 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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40 posts in 2099 days

03-19-2013 10:32 AM

Topic tags/keywords: beginner learn starting

Hello folks!

I got excited about woodworking 6 months ago and have since been aggressively building a shop. Now that I have a great foundation of tools I realized I have nothing to make! I feel as dumb as this sounds by the way..

If it was up to me I would be starting my heirloom quality cabinetry today but reality says I have a lot to learn first. Where do I start?


37 replies so far

View kdc68's profile


2691 posts in 2481 days

#1 posted 03-19-2013 11:12 AM

I’ll tell you what my high school shop teacher (25 plus years ago) had us do. Pick a project that incorporates types of joinery (ie – mortise and tenon, dovetail, dado & rabbet, ), build it what ever it may be. When done, pick other project that incorporates a certain finishing technique (ie – shellac, lacquer, poly,)...Nothing has to to be big and elaborate…start simple and learn as you go. Increase the level of difficulty in your projects as you get some practice with joinery and finishing….Read books, subscribe to magazines, watch videos, practice, practice, practice…..good luck

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2279 days

#2 posted 03-19-2013 11:31 AM

The first thing I built was an Adirondack chair. It taught me a lot. In particular, it taught me how much I needed to learn.

I agree with kd. Pick a project that’s challenging but not waaaay over your head. Read, read and read some more, and then go make sawdust safely!

All the best

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View svenman's profile


7 posts in 2505 days

#3 posted 03-19-2013 11:34 AM

I’ll suggest an outfeed table for the tablesaw. Include some drawers for storage, and you have the opportunity to practice your dovetail technique. Include shelves, and you gain experience with cutting dadoes. Start simple, and complete the task. You want to see progress, or the project might become overwhelming and seem like a chore instead of enjoyment. Post pictures!


View GusG's profile


15 posts in 2099 days

#4 posted 03-19-2013 01:17 PM

Good choice on the Rigid table saw. I would have first started with a table saw and then add tools as your experience builds. You can always get some to dress the lumber for you in the beginning. Build the tools with each new project.
Find something that you like to build and start there. Be patient, plan everything and do lots of reading.Popular woodworking has some projects titled “I can build that” to get you going. Research a project first to make sure you will enjoy building it and be patient.

You will also figure out later on how to blend using hand tools with power tools.

View aatwatch's profile


40 posts in 2099 days

#5 posted 03-19-2013 01:28 PM

Thank you very much for the responses! The tool collection became addicting and before I knew it I was dragging six foot tall bandsaws into my garage (the wife has tried to be supportive-ha). My father is a few states away and is big into woodworking and has been egging me on so ill just blame it on him.

I love the ideas so far and am really interested in the hand tool side of things. I am thirty and find this craft to be very therapeutic and I love how it forces me to slow down in general while I am working.

I guess it is easy to get so involved with acquiring tools that you forget to learn how to woodwork.

View GT350's profile


370 posts in 2185 days

#6 posted 03-19-2013 01:39 PM

I would suggest going to the library and if they have back issues of Woodsmith take a look at them. Woodsmith has good plans and if there is some difficult joint or technique they are also good at showing you exactly how to do that. I started by building a magazine rack and didn’t like that so I found a dining room table and 6 chairs from their plans. I didn’t like the table so I designed my own but the chairs were from the magazine.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3118 days

#7 posted 03-19-2013 01:41 PM

I agree with @kdc68 to build something with as many types of joinery, required new skills, etc. as you can find. Three years ago, when I was getting into WW-ing I started with building a new workbench for the new woodshop. It taught me a lot, and I have enjoyed it ever since. It took me a full year to complete, but worth every minute.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3362 days

#8 posted 03-19-2013 01:46 PM

I second the notion to build something from the Woodsmith plans. Good stuff there. Also, build some shop furniture, fixtures, and jigs…but do so by designing your own. It can be a difficult transition between following a plan and forming your own plan, but when that happens, you’ll find it liberating. Specifically, you want to learn why certain joints are used in certain situations and the offsets required in your dimensions on individual cuts to make such joints possible.

Building stuff for the shop gives you a safe way to screw up.

-- jay,

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2894 days

#9 posted 03-20-2013 02:48 AM

I learned most of my joinery and finishing skills building “furniture” for the shop (jigs,cabinets,drawers,finishing table,etc). I usually “practice on pine”.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30068 posts in 2542 days

#10 posted 03-20-2013 02:56 AM

Look around your house. If you need anything, figure out how to build it. If you got something that you don’t like, make one you do like. Think of presents. Start Christmas early. Take your time and do it right.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View ShaneA's profile


7053 posts in 2802 days

#11 posted 03-20-2013 03:01 AM

Small boxes are good. Lots of joinery possibilities, lots of fundamentals. They don’t require a lot of wood. Making them square, proportional, and a pleasing design presents lots of challenges.

View jumbojack's profile


1685 posts in 2828 days

#12 posted 03-20-2013 03:30 AM

Echo….boxes. butt joints, miitered corners, rabbeted. learn about dados for the bottom and tops. Just about every project you build is centered around the box or a series of boxes.
Oh,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,square is good

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


5720 posts in 2613 days

#13 posted 03-20-2013 04:14 AM

Monte Pittman +1 If you take this wonderful new hobby and make things for the house I assure you the wife will be much more supportive. Simple picture frames for those pictures she wants hung up in the livingroom build skills and give her something to brag about. My two cents anyway.. Now get to work and build something. (laughing)

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3489 days

#14 posted 03-20-2013 12:33 PM

I agree with the boxes. There is no limit to the skills you can hone while building boxes.

Search boxes on this site alone and you will see that it would take you a life time to learn and master all the different skills utilized in designing and building all the different style boxes.

From designing, to joinery, to fit and finish, you get to see your accomplishments and mistakes up close and personal.

.................and if you don’t think that is rewarding enough, all you have to do is design and build a special box for your wife or mother and give it to her for Mother’s day and see her reaction.

They also make great gifts, so you can pratice and experiment all you want. At any given time, I have probably 20 – 25 boxes on display around the house.

They give me the chance to pratice different skills, play with different designs, try different finishes and work with a wide variety of woods, with a very small investment in materials.

-- John @

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3071 days

#15 posted 03-20-2013 01:07 PM

I would build something that you or a family member really needs. It will help pay for your new found hobby and will teach you as well.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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