Woodworking is a rewarding hobby and a career. However, many believe it’s too difficult to become a proficient woodworker, or that you need some special abilities. So is woodworking hard to learn?
When starting a new hobby, remember – you’re a beginner. Focus on learning the craft, not being an expert on your first day.
Woodworking isn’t hard to learn, but it takes hard work to become a master. If you are passionate about constructing projects, you’ll leap over any barrier in your path. For success, remember three things: passion, patience, and perseverance.
How to Learn Woodworking
Woodworkers are made, not born. Remember this as you begin your journey. When most people become discouraged, it’s because they expected too much of themselves.
There is no reason to expect to do something perfectly the first time you try (or even the second, third, fourth, and fifth times). Begin by planning to have some failures. Failure is helpful and natural. Ask any master craftsmen about a time they screwed something up, and they will have plenty of stories to share.
The proper mental framework is essential to your success. Before buying tools and making elaborate plans, your mind needs to be in the right place.
Here are three principles to remember:
Let’s cover these in more detail below:
Do you want to become a woodworker? Why?
Passion is like rocket fuel. With enough of it, you can soar to space.
But, if you aren’t passionate about woodworking or don’t take joy in the process, you will struggle. If your only motivation is to have a finished product for people to admire, you will be frustrated when troubles arise.
However, if you enjoy the process of creating something out of a pile of wood, you’re more likely to get the product you want.
Patience is a super virtue in woodworking. Especially when you’re learning, you must be patient with yourself, with the tools, and with the material.
Being patient kills two flies with one swat. First, it keeps you from making silly mistakes. Second, it allows you to move on even when you do make mistakes.
If your temper is short, and you want everything to work out on the first try, you will quit when the going gets tough.
Before you begin any task, hike, job, or hobby, you must decide whether you’re going to see it through to the end. This is critical. If you believe you will quit when things get hard, then quitting is precisely what you will do.
Decide to persevere before you begin woodworking.
As a bonus, I would also add planning as another essential element of the woodworker’s career. If passion is the rocket fuel, then planning is the wings and the structure to make your spaceship fly.
In the next section, we will discuss several steps in the planning process.
See this article for more information on the three Ps of success.
Five Steps to Learn Woodworking
Now, if you’re feeling passionate about woodworking, and you’re ready to persevere, here are several steps to get you started.
- Read books about woodworking
- Take a few courses (online or in-person)
- Watch videos
- Get tools
- Purchase material
We will go over these steps in more detail below.
Note: The order of these steps is important. You don’t want to purchase tools or materials before you’ve studied and found out what you need. It’s tempting to rush out and buy cool gadgets, but without proper planning, you’ll get easily frustrated.
Read Woodworking Books
Books are a great way to get detailed and, usually, reliable information. You may want to purchase several books to have them as a reference; however, you can always check some out at a library.
Here are a few books with good reviews:
Look through these books and absorb what you can. You might not understand everything right away – that’s okay. If you’re easily discouraged, stay away from books for “dummies” and “Idiots.”
You’re not a dummy, and you’re not an Idiot. You’re a beginner.
Take a Woodworking Course
Even during coronavirus, there are ways to further your learning. Taking an online course will provide you with valuable information.
Below, we provide a link to several courses on Udemy. Many times, Udemy courses will have an instructor who will answer your questions. Take advantage of it.
Here’s the link to the list:
Most courses give you several hours of instruction for only about $14.
You also may be able to find in-person woodworking classes in your area.
Here’s an online list of woodworking schools and classes around the world.
Also, you probably have a friend or family member who knows about woodworking. Even if they aren’t experts, they might be able to show you a few things about how to use tools and make basic cuts.
Soak up information anywhere you can.
Videos can be a great way to see how something works. Videos are especially helpful if you are entirely unfamiliar with a tool or the process.
Start by reading through your woodworking book. When you come to a concept or a technique that you are having trouble grasping, look it up on Youtube.
If you just go scrolling through videos online, it can be challenging to find which ones are relevant.
And it’s easy to become distracted with videos of cats playing the violin.
Tools to Get Started in Woodworking
You don’t need a heap of advanced tools to be a competent woodworker. You can construct much with just a hammer, some nails, and a handsaw.
Some people enjoy learning woodworking techniques with no electric tools; however, most will start with a few simple battery-powered tools.
Remember, don’t buy tools if you don’t know how to use them. Also, the saying, buy nice or buy twice, usually proves true with woodworking tools. While you don’t want to throw endless amounts of cash at your tools, you want to get the most value for your money.
Here’s a list of basic woodworking tools:
- Hand saw
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Electric sander
- Safety gear (glasses, gloves, masks)
- Hand screwdrivers
This is just a short list, and you don’t even need all this. However, be sure to get your safety gear before anything else.
Here is an article from Wood magazine that gives a more comprehensive list of woodworking tools.
Alright, now let’s talk about materials for a moment.
Woodworking requires many elements. Sometimes you’ll need glue or some other special fastener. Also, you want to begin your woodworking career with the right type of wood.
Here are a few principles:
- At first, keep it simple
- Properly calculate your needs
- Know the differences between wood
Let’s break it down.
Keep Wood Buying Simple
At first, get some wood and play around with it. Practice making cuts safely. Before you start building a serious project, you want to understand how the wood will behave.
So, free yourself and buy several different types of wood. Then, practice some of the techniques you’ve learned in your woodworking books and courses.
Calculate Your Lumber Requirements
Always plan to buy a little more lumber than you’ll need. This way, if you make a mistake or the board splits, you still have some extra wood for your project.
However, don’t just run out and buy a truckload of lumber – take your time and sketch out your needs or look at the material list on your building plans. You don’t want a pile of wood just lying around for a while, this can compromise its quality.
Know the Different Wood Types
Some woods are hard, and some are soft. Each type serves a purpose. Hardwoods are typically used for flooring and furniture, while softwoods like pine are used for framing. There is some overlap in the uses.
See this article for more about the different types of wood and their uses.
Before we go, let’s go over several woodworking principles.
Here’s a list of things to remember while in the shop:
- Pay attention to details
- Remember the width of the saw, or kerf
- Dull Tools
Make sure you’re well-rested and of sound mind when entering the workshop. Accidents happen to pros and beginners. Don’t forget your safety glasses, and be very mindful when using power tools.
Pay Attention to Detail
Skill and experience are helpful, but just being careful will take you far as well. In other words, don’t be lazy. Double-check your measurements and don’t rush anything. Being mindful will help you learn quicker with less frustration.
Remember the Kerf or Width of the Saw
When making measurements, especially when you’re doing precise work, even a millimeter off could make the difference in a proper fit. So, when you cut, factor in the width of the saw. This will ensure an exact fit.
Avoid Dull Tools
Dull tools will frustrate and slow you down. Unsharpened saws and blades will also cause chipping and tear out – this gives all your projects an ugly edge. Don’t run out to your garage and begin woodworking with a bunch of rusting tools. Take time to ensure they are in optimum condition.
Here’s an article on common beginner woodworking mistakes.
There’s a lot more we could cover. Woodworking is a very broad field with many specialties and tricks of the trade. Take every chance you can to learn. Before you know it, you will build amazing things.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln