starting overwoodworking, neeed some great advice.. help.

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Blog entry by wireless28806 posted 03-04-2009 04:28 PM 1073 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hello to all the great woodworkers. I just wanted to say that I am getting back into woodworking, and i am a little fearful. Fearful of what? I have always known that great woodworking has to be, or atleast looks perfect. I look at a lot of work on this site, and it looks perfect. How did you all start? Do you all draw the esign before you start, or just start making? You must have great tools… I dont want to keep messing up, but I get so tired of things not comming out perfect, no miters, nothing square..

How did you all start? where did you start? Whtat keeps you all inspired? Did you make more mistakes than projects? I dont want to be a perfectionist, just want perfect work…

David M. S.

12 comments so far

View HeirloomWoodworking's profile


238 posts in 3768 days

#1 posted 03-04-2009 04:50 PM


Like any journey, sometimes the hardest step is the first.

You do not need thousands of dollars of high-tech equipment to be successful in this art. My own shop is very small, humble and meagerly equiped. I add tools to my arsenal occassionally, but it is the SKILLS that I have learned that have made the biggest impact on the quality of my projects.

I have found that this site is one of my most important sources of ideas, knowledge, encouragement and inspiration.

Everyone has their own style (just like any art form). You can choose to copy an existing long held style, copy another jocks ideas or meld several styles together to create you own. It is a very individual/persoan taste driven art form. My tastes may not be yours, and yours may not be mine, but in the end I wnat to learn from everyones efforts and marvel at your accomplishments.

Do I make mistakes? You bet. My buddies with fireplaces are well stocked with my expensive firewood from my learning/mistakes. One of my favorite lumberjocks has a tag line in his posts:
Woodworking – Patience = Firewood
I have that written in big letters on the wall of my shop to remind me everyday.

Some guys need to work off of detailed plans, some create their own, my own style is design on fly and create it as I go from a thought drifting around under my bald skull. Thre is no laws governing woodworking, no right no wrong way to do things. Just be safe and diligent in your work.

So I encourage you to take that first step, choose a project that will teach you a new skill. Let me and all of us other jock know what we can do to help you.

Good Luck

-- Trevor Premer Head Termite and Servant to the Queen - Heirloom Woodworking

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3789 days

#2 posted 03-04-2009 05:05 PM


Some of the projects pictured here can be intimidating. But keep in mind that the main thing is to get started, and to be satisfied with your own rate of progress. We have everyone here from third rate beginners to first rate master craftsmen, yet, everyone is helpful and friendly. We all, regardless of skill level, rejoice in our love of working with Nature’s magnificent product.

In the beginning, don’t get all hung up on brand “A” saw vs brand “B”, or whether you need a bandsaw or jointer next. The first task is to identify your place to work, be it garage, spare bedroom, atic, or out building. Make sure that it has at least two 15 amp circuits, with potential to add more, paint the walls and ceiling a light color to reflect light, and add more lighting fixtures. If you don’t do this at the beginning, chances are it won’t get done at all.

You will need a good workbench with a shoulder vice. Bench dogs and a tail vice will also be extremely helpful on virtually every project. Beginning your woodworking education with hand tools is a great idea. Get started with a woodworking library. I have received tremendous benefit from Nick Engler’s “Workshop Companion Series”, especially his book “Woodworking Wisdom” ( ) .

It’s great to have you aboard. Come back often.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4342 days

#3 posted 03-04-2009 05:27 PM

Why perfectionist are attracted to woodworking beats the heck out of me. The nature of the material is imperfect. You can cut it out all nice and square. Come back the next morning and have a bow in it. Perfectly a line all your blades to 90 then cut a pile of very expensive boards at a 89 deg. angle. (Dull blade, hard wood) Drives me insane. Every type of wood has a different nature. (hard, soft, long grain, short, knotty…) Then each board has a different nature depending on the grain, moisture, defects, etc. Then each tool has it’s own school of knowledge. Just getting to know a belt sander has humbled many an over confident beginner. If you really want to master this you will need to do this for a living. A skill that takes as much knowledge and training any professional is very low paying. If you ask me you must be just “plane” crazy! Welcome to LumberJocks…you are in the right place.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3756 days

#4 posted 03-04-2009 06:05 PM

while i know a lot of people here are truly great at what they do, others might just be good at hiding thier flaws through photography. Even teh flaws that can be seen on my projects are far fewer than what actually exist.

View Mike Morris's profile

Mike Morris

27 posts in 3420 days

#5 posted 03-04-2009 06:24 PM

I have to echo what 8iowa stated. I am in no way an expert and put myself in the third rate beginners category.

Each persons journey is their own, and we’re all here to learn from others journeys as well as help others on theirs.

My journey started with a purchase of a Ryobi BTS20 portable table saw setup in my basement after being inspired by a neighbor who built some nice shot glass shelves for my wife. He moved away and I figured I should take the torch.

I don’t have any fancy high-end tools, mostly Ryobi brand tools. Granted this is just a hobby for me.

My first projects were strictly from plans I found on the Internet. My son needed a bed, so that was the first project I worked on. It offered the excuse to purchase more tools. I could have bought a bed cheaper at Ikea, but that’s not what I wanted to do.

Mistakes…made tons and still make them. Each project/blog post I try to put my lessons learned.

My inspiration comes from wanting to make unique hand-made items for my loved ones.

I have recently been trying to get up to speed with SketchUp. A very cool drafting tool. I think this will help in the creative process as I venture into more custom made designs.

I’m a firm believer in becoming a master at tuning/sharpening your tools. While a properly tuned tool can’t necessarily guarantee a square clean cut as Dennis mentioned, it sure does go along way of putting the odds in your favor, no matter how expensive or inexpensive the tool is.

Anything that can help you dial in angles and keeping your work pieces tight with no play as they meet the cutting edge of a tool will greatly help insure clean accurate cuts.

Welcome aboard!

View mnguy's profile


193 posts in 3426 days

#6 posted 03-04-2009 06:52 PM

Excellent advice by all. I would add a couple of things. I think subscribing to a woodworking magazine or two, or regularly picking one up at a store, are great for inspiration, techniques and tips. And, it’s great to pull them out and flip through them once in awhile.

Second, woodworkers work with tools, and the quality of the tool and how well it’s adjusted and set up will make an enormous difference in the quality of your work, and in the enjoyment you get from it. You don’t need to love sharpening, squaring, adjusting, etc., but you should take some time to learn how to do it, whether it’s your tablesaw or a chisel. But you don’t need everything ‘perfect’ before you make shavings and sawdust. My tools are in a range from “nuts on perfect” to some that are in poor adjustment, but I haven’t even realized it yet.

Have fun and practice on inexpensive material and learn about what you like to do and how better to do it.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3902 days

#7 posted 03-04-2009 07:26 PM

Dennis Mitchell: ”Why perfectionist are attracted to woodworking beats the heck out of me…

I think perfectionists are drawn to working with such a imperfect material because it presents such a great challenge. But you don’t have to be a perfectionist to be a great woodworker.

I am completely self-taught. I never even took Woodshop in Jr. High or High school. I just went to the library and borrowed every woodworking book on the shelf until I had read them all. Then I started subscribing to magazines. I was hungry for more. So I started searching the internet. Then I found Lumberjocks!

The fact that you have started your journey hear is great, but I could see how it could be a little overwhelming for a beginner. But don’t worry, just relax and have fun.

Find a project on LumberJocks that looks like it is in your comfort zone, and then try to copy it. Ask whoever posted it for help. I’m sure they would be more than willing to give you pointers. Thats what’s great about this site.

Woodworking is a lot like cooking. Just pick up a cook book, buy the ingredients, and follow the instructions carefully. You can always follow a step-by-step plan. Eventually when you feel more comfortable you can start just throwing ingredients together on your own.

Just don’t start with something too complicated. Even the simplest project (nail together a bird house) can teach you important woodworking skills.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3421 days

#8 posted 03-04-2009 10:52 PM

What a nice topic!!!

David, let me tell you, your idea about what is woodworking needs to be updated.

I was reading a book a few days ago, The Country Woodworker, about some of the furniture produced for the first settlers in this country, and it was very (VERY!) interesting to me that this people was full of skills they brought from Europe but once here they found themselves with two big issues:

1. No tools. That simple. They didn’t bring with them the refined tools they had in Europe, with which they produced his “perfect” furniture there.
2. As a settlers, they had a big urgency to furnish new dwellings and constructions.

So….what other options they had, no other than produce furniture to satisfy their needs with the escarce resources they had at hand (a few tools and tons of wood!)????

To me, that is the most beautiful and remarkable furniture ever produced in this country!

Woodworking is not about fancy tools and flamboyant results

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3677 days

#9 posted 03-04-2009 11:25 PM

The way I started was similar to Doubthead’s story – in time of need. we needed some cabinets to organize clothes, and office supplies, we wanted something custom to the sizes we needed, and to have easy access to it – I ended up saying “I can make that, and it’ll cost less than any store bought cabinet” and thats how it began…

find a project that you think you can make for your own personal use, try to envision it, plan how to do it, post here on LJ and get feedback and ideas, and go about making it. rinse and repeat!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2795 posts in 3466 days

#10 posted 03-04-2009 11:47 PM

Hey, I’ve been gearing up to do a project for about 6 months. I find it satisfying to make things for the shop first. Places to hang tools, table saw sleds, drill press table, Woodworkers bench. A lot of the stuff lets you practice woodworking skills but if something isn’t just right.. well it stays in the shop.

Viewing LJ’s and other sites you gain a lot of ideas and knowledge. Eventually you work up to (gulp) building a cabinet that matches the existing kitchen cabinets for a flat screen kitchen TV for your sister. Just waiting, and building my shop, I learned about tenon joints and made a few to see if i could do it, and raised panel router techniques for the door. I now know how these things are done, it’s just that I have to have the skills to do it. It evolves and hopefully the evolution is successful. The trick is to dive in but take your time and enjoy it.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Pie's profile


187 posts in 3433 days

#11 posted 03-05-2009 12:01 AM

All you need is time, few tools and a desire to do it. As it has been said here, you will make mistakes but that’s a part of life and you will earn and get better. BUUUUTTTTTTTT…....don’t make a mistake when it comes to your safety. Please please please, save your lungs, eyes, appendages etc cuz then you may get totally turned off by this or any hobby. Get a air circ system going (a box fan and a filter will suffice to begin with, wear eye protection etc. If you are gonna cut on a TS , router whatever and your spidey senses start tingling, you may want to listen to it, cuz it may be trying to warn you that what you are about to do is unsafe.

Anyways, enuff lecturing, but please do be safe.

-- Pie

View wireless28806's profile


10 posts in 3417 days

#12 posted 03-05-2009 03:50 PM

Hello everybody…

I just wanted to thank everybody and just let you know that your words and wisdom are worth more to me than money can buy. I went back to the shop after reading all of the posts, and kicked some butt. I took my time, took my time, took my time… worked with my tools to make sure they were more accurate. I didnt worry so much about the perfection, more about learning and having fun, and “walah” made some nice clocks!! Today I will tune the tools up, enjoy the weather, and just enjoy what I have. i will get better, I know. Just takes time.

Thank You everybody… David M. S.

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