The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Woodworking

Woodworking is a profession as old as time, but it never goes out of fashion.

Wood is a natural material we can all connect to, and what better way to experience that connection than making beautiful, useful, or preferably both, objects for your home?

It takes time to get proficient, but half the fun is learning as you go. Yes, your first attempts will be a disaster, the joints wonky, gaps everywhere, but don’t let that detract from the enjoyment. Each attempt is a learning curve.

If you’re looking to make your first object, I’d recommend you start off with a simple birdhouse or flower tub for the garden. Wildlife and flowers don’t mind if your measuring isn’t straight.

Once you get to grips with your tools and start to understand how wood behaves, you can graduate to pieces for the home like bookshelves, a stool or a chair.
As long as you have heaps of creativity and enthusiasm you can work with wood. The rest you’ll learn along the way. Relax, and let’s have some fun woodworking
Woodworker, Carpenter or Joiner?

Definitions aren’t important unless you’re a professional, but let’s just take a quick look at the types of woodworker out there.

What you can call yourself right now is a ‘woodworker’. That’s someone who makes free-standing objects, whittles, or turns wood on a lathe.

I’m sure you’ve also heard of joiners.

Joiners are trained craftsmen. They make objects in a workshop by ‘joining’ wood. A joiner will usually make fitted furniture, stairs, doors, and window frames in their workshop. This is because they need heavy machinery that’s not portable.

A carpenter will take the object a joiner made and install it on-site. So, a carpenter fits the windows frames or doors made by a joiner. They also construct stud walls and fit roof trusses with smaller, portable tools.

That said, a good joiner and a good carpenter can often carry out each other traditional trades.

OK – What About Wood Carving and Wood Turning?

Good question!

Wood carving is carving stationary wood with a chisel or gouge. Sometimes it’s called whittling and it results in small sculptures. Chess pieces, light pulls, or toys for example.
Woodturning is the same as wood carving BUT the wood is turned by a lathe while the chisel or gouge is held still. Wood turned pieces are generally bigger such as stair rods or chair legs.

What On Earth Is Green Woodworking Then?

Traditional woodworking makes use of hand tools alongside your own blood, sweat, and tears.

Mass produced wooden objects can be beautiful, but there’s something special about doing it the old-fashioned way – the traditional way with your hand tools before the rise of the machines and cheap imports took over.

Green woodworking has made a recent resurgence.

Green wood is unseasoned wood that hasn’t dried out. It’s unprocessed straight from the tree with high moisture content. Using hand tools on green wood is called green woodworking.

Some woodworkers prefer it because the wood is easier to shape and bend – but it will shrink as it dries out.

A Very Brief History of Woodworking

Few hobbies have the weight of history that woodworking can boast about.

Wood is one of the primitive materials we used to build shelters as stone age man and its been in constant use since then. In fact, Jesus was said to be a carpenter and you don’t get a better endorsement than that!

Complex woodworking joints such as the dovetail are found in Indian and Egyptian furniture dating over 5000 years old. These types of joints don’t use nails or glue but rely on pure craftsmanship to keep the furniture not only strong but beautiful.

In the pre-industrial world, woodworkers were essential members of society because they had the skills necessary to create and mend important things like carts, barrels, and furniture.

Up to 50 years ago woodworking was taught in schools, but practical classes have been dropped in favour of preparing academics – which in my opinion is a crying shame.
Generations of children have learned the basics of woodworking, cooking, and home maintenance at school, but recent generations struggle to put up a shelf, wire a plug, or feed themselves healthy food. Excuse my soapbox! I made it myself from cherrywood.
So, the demise of practical skills in education means many of you don’t know how to use mind and manual skills together – but don’t let that put you off.

There is nothing mysterious about woodworking, it’s one of (wo)man’s basic skills. This guide will help you get started, and from here the sky’s the limit.

Let’s Talk Tools
You’re going to need tools, but what you buy depends on your interests. I’ve listed what I see as the essentials below.

Hand tools:

A Marking Gauge
A marking gauge draws an accurate, straight line parallel to an edge. It looks like a judge’s gavel but has a pin attached. You pull this pin across the wood and bingo, a perfectly parallel line to follow with your saw.

Saws
You’ll need at least two saws. A crosscut or rip saw for rough work, and a hack saw or tenon for delicate work.

A Square
A square isn’t square, it’s an ‘L’ shaped tool that marks square to an edge. Use it to check your work is square and find out if your plank of wood is straight.
These are indispensable little tools. I have my great grandfather’s square and it’s still going strong.

A Plane
A plane smoothes wood, flattens it, and reduces the thickness. Planes are overlooked hand tools, but they provide a professional finish that’s splinter free. Get one.

Chisels
A set of chisels will help you out no end. They have rounded handles and a sharp metal point. The beginner might think chisels look like screwdrivers – but you’ll find the tip is flat or beveled. They’re used to make notches and cut or carve out small areas of wood.

Plumb Line
A plumb line, also called a plumb bob, is a weight dangling from a line.
Gravity will always find the exact vertical point. You can make your own plumb line with string and a screwdriver, but precise plumb lines are extremely satisfying.
‘Plumb’ means vertical in case you were wondering about the name.

Steel Rule
A retractable tape measure made from steel that doesn’t bend or flop.

Power Tools:

Rev it up – it’s time for some noise. Here are the power tools I use frequently and think a beginner will benefit from.

Circular Saw
This is a saw without the accompanying back and arm ache.
A circular saw sits on a table so you can move wood into the spinning blade. There are many different blades available from rough cuts through to finely milled ones.
If you’re planning to make large objects or lots of them, a circular saw will save heaps of effort.

Battery powered drills
You’ll need a drill even if you plan to learn every freeholding joint.
Want to put up a bookshelf? Drill required. Chairs, tables, birdboxes – they’re all made with screws, so grab a good drill unless you’re happy to turn every single screw into tough wood by hand.
Get a cordless drill to start with as they cost less, and grab a decent set of drill bits so you can drill a variety of sizes and shapes.

Electric sander
Sanders ensure a perfectly smooth finish. They’re available as orbitals, random and belt sanders.

Belts are the strongest, whilst orbitals and randoms are better for more a delicate finish.
All quality finished projects are smooth, but only because they’re sanded. Wood doesn’t come smooth – you have to do that bit!

A Jigsaw
A jigsaw is used to cut curved patterns through wood.
They’re easier to maneuver than a table saw as they have a thin vertical blade which you move around to create curved, wavy, square or intricate design – like a jigsaw in fact!

A Router
A router uses a spindle to gouge, or rout out, holes and shapes in wood.
That sounds a bit rough because you can make some beautiful designs shaping, trimming and cutting wood with a router. I use one to make a wavy indent on the top of flower boxes.
It’s probably the power tool I use the most often.

A Vacuum
If you’re making a lot of mess, it best to buy a vacuum that can handle sawdust, because the filter in a standard vacuum gets easily blocked with it.

Tools For Wood Carving

Beginners should start out with a good quality set of basic carving tools. You can buy a beginner’s set cheaply enough and it’ll provide you with the basics.

When you’ve caught the bug, move onto more advanced carving tools. Here are some of the top tools for wood carving.

Carving knife – all different sizes to cut, pare and whittle wood pieces.

Bench knife – used to trace around a wood pattern, scoring and getting those tiny details.

A chisel – there are so many different types and you’ll benefit from a variety, but my favorite is a beveled chisel.

A gouge – you need a gouge. It’s a curved cutting edge to create hollows and dips. They’re indispensable.

V-tool – for curved lines and undercutting in relief.

A carver’s mallet – To bump your chisel or gouge into wood you need a mallet. Yes, any type of mallet will do, but a carver’s mallet is padded to save your hands.

A coping saw – a small saw to cut wood to size and take out the larger waste pieces.

Tools For Wood Turning
In wood turning, wood is spun on a lathe and your tool is held still.

Most objects tuned on a lathe are large. Choose one that can rotate wood in both directions and spin at various speeds.

You’ll also need chisels. Beginners should purchase a starter set and, depending on what you’d like to make, buy in specialist tools.

Make sure you have:

Spindle roughing gouge – the biggest gouge that removes the bulk of the wood. It’ll make a square blank round which is the starting point for most projects.

Spindle gouge — a ‘U’ shaped gouge used for details like beads and coves. A no fuss spindle shaper everyone needs.

Skew chisel — use this to plane and sand wood as it spins. They take some getting used to, but there is no finer tool for woodturning in my opinion. Creating fine detail is a joy and this tool helps you get there.

Sharpening Your Tools

Sharp tools make a big difference to the amount of effort you put in, your safety, and the finished quality of your project.

Whether it’s a power tool or a hand tool, dull blades chew and split wood, so make sure tools are kept sharp.

Bench stones, whetstones, oilstones, handled sharpeners, chisels, and diamond cut stones are great sharpeners. I tend to use an oilstone, but that’s because my grandfather did.
You can buy automatic sharpeners that take out the hard work too. These come with a variety of jigs to shape chisels and planes. It’s a bigger cost, but if you’re serious about wood and hate sharpening – why not?

Make sure you read all the manufacturer’s instructions because they don’t write them for fun!

My basic tip is to always slowly move a blade away from your body. The rest will be in the instructions.

Using Tools Safety
It would be remiss not to mention safety when using woodwork tools, so please don’t gloss over this bit.

Tools are dangerous in the wrong hands. Anyone can use tools if they respect their power and don’t rush. The wrong hands are careless ones.

Don’t use them if you’re under the influence. You may have a creative brain wave after three beers, but a workshop is no place for someone who’s not functioning 100%.
Using tools properly will keep you safe. Don’t force a tool if it doesn’t want to go, and never use the wrong tool for the job, such as a chisel as a hammer.

Using a vice to clamp wood is just common sense, and don’t put pointed tools in your pocket. Falling onto these can cause serious injury.

Here are a few other bits to remember:

Power tools are loud, so get some ear defenders and use them. Table saws, routers, jigsaws, and repetitive hammer strikes can damage hearing.

Safety glasses are essential when bits of wood are flying around. Chisels, routers, and hammers all create high velocity flying splinters of wood.

Tie back long hair, and don’t dangle sleeves anywhere near a power tool. Getting a sleeve or neckchain caught in a table saw is extremely dangerous.

Ensure all pets and children are safely locked away – well not locked but you know what I mean.

Tape down any permanent wires, never leave your tea nearby, and if you have wet, oily, greasy or sweaty hands dry them before picking up any tool.

Never lean over a blade even if you need to remove a cutoff.

Buy a heavy-duty extension cord and use one power tool at a time. This way you’re less likely to try and change blades or drill bits without unplugging them first. You won’t overload and blow the electrics either.

What Wood Should I Use?

You’ve purchased basic tools and now you’re standing at the DIY centre in front of a timber pile.

What now?

Well, different species of wood have differing strengths and price tags. Softwood like pine is cheap because it grows quickly whereas hardwoods like cherry are expensive and not environmentally sound.

Beginners should start out with softwood and hone their skills before using hardwoods.

Here are some softwoods you can play around with as you practice.

Pine
Pine is probably the easiest wood to work with. It comes in different varieties like white, yellow, sugar and ponderosa. Pine stains well and can be used indoors and outside. It’s the cheapest too.

Redwood
Highly moisture resistant so great for outdoor projects, redwood has straight grain and it’s easy to work with. It has an attractive red tinge that makes it look more expensive than it is.

Cedar
Also has a reddish colour and straight grain. Most of the cedar you’ll find for sale is western red. Great for outdoor projects because it’s moisture resistant.

Fir
Best used for outdoor projects or indoor ones that you intend to paint because the grain isn’t that attractive.

It’s hard for a softwood but still easy to work with. Carpenters use it for internal house builds like staircases.

Woodworkers love hardwood. The grain and patina of a slowly grown tree is a work of art, so when you use hardwoods be sure to let its natural pattern shine through.
The problems are that hardwood costs a lot, and in some countries hardwood trees are running the risk of extinction.

Here are my favorites:

Ash
A straight grained pale hardwood that takes stain well, it’s getting rare now.

Birch
Comes in yellow and white. It’s the least expensive of the hardwoods because it doesn’t much like a stain.

Cherry
Everyone loves cherrywood. It’s easy to work with and looks smart with the grain and patina stained up. It has a reddish-brown hue that works well with furniture.

Mahogany
The old great. Mahogany has a deep red tint and makes spectacular furniture, but it’s hard to get, isn’t sustainably grown, and costs a fortune.

Oak
Red oak is great for outdoor pieces as its resistant to moisture, and white oak makes pretty furniture. It’s fairly easy to work with and very popular for its beautiful grain.

Poplar
Another inexpensive hardwood because the grain isn’t as attractive as others. It’s often used in hidden places such as drawers. I like it though, it’s unusual with green and brown streaks. Great for toy making!

Teak
Rare, moisture resistant and pretty good to look at. Teak is expensive, but its rich oily brown colour is worth it. Good for fine outdoor furniture.

Walnut
Popular expensive hardwood that’s spot on for indoor projects like furniture. It’s getting hard to find and many woodworkers end up using it as inlay due to its cost.

Top Tip
Here’s a quick tip on getting hold of hardwood. Charity shops often get in old furniture that isn’t trendy anymore such as heavy dark wood display cabinets.

Taking these apart and stripping them down not only hones your woodworking skills, it can save a packet on purchasing hardwoods.

How To Prepare Wood

To check for straightness before you buy, hold the wood to your eye with the end touching the floor. Always compare more than one piece. It’s difficult to flatten wood once it’s bent, and bent wood will throw off your measurements.

There are four types of wood carving and you’ll probably want to give them all a go.
Whittling – go old school and whittle away your time. A sharp whittling knife is used to make angular cuts.

Relief – cutting raised patterns onto a flat surface whilst the back remains untouched.
In the round – creating a 3D object.

Chip carving – taking small chips from a flat piece of wood whilst the back remains untouched.

Think in advance what you want to create, there are plenty of patterns online.
Pencil on your pattern and start to remove the waste wood. Always go with the grain and use good quality carving wood.

Beveled chisels, knives, and gouging chisels are the main tools in all types of wood carving.
Gouging chisels scoop out wood, use these to carve, shape and smooth. Practice a running cut – that’s one long channel across the wood with a V or U-shaped gouge.

Then try a sweep cut – that a running cut but turning the wood so it makes a spiral.

Stabbing motions make sharp indentations and shadows

A great project to start with is a light switch handle for the bathroom. Drill through the center of a square piece of wood, and carve a 3D fish. These are simple and always popular.

How To Start Wood Turning

Woodturning is achieved on a lathe. A lathe turns wood as you hold a chisel or knife against it. You’re able to make larger objects like stair rods this way.

First off, make sure your wood will fit the machine, then sketch out a shape and find the centre point, match up lines on square pieces so you don’t run off course.

Mount the wood on the headstock of the lathe spur

Set it spinning

Position your gouge tip up in the tool rest and brace the handle on your hip

Lower the tip and wait for a connection

Push and remove the gouge until the chattering stops if you want an indent

To round off a square piece of wood run the gouge along its length.
Speed up the lathe when you confident, and always use the tool rest or the tool may fly across the room at speed.

How To Make A Simple Woodworking Jig

A jig is a device that guides a tool.

It can be as simple as a bit of wood clamped to guide a handsaw, or a waved pattern for a router to follow.

Jigs ensure a consistent finish every time, and if you’re making more than one piece, jigs are a time-saving device.

Here’s an ultra-simple jig you can make with barely any experience. It’s a jig that accurately drills holes at a 90-degree angle.

Take two pieces of plywood or whatever wood you have spare.

Join them at a 90-degree angle – a glued butt joint is just fine.

This is your jig!

Or you can take two pieces of ply an inch thick and glue them side by side with one piece pulled down to a shorter length. See that right angle? That’s a jig.

Next time you have to drill freehand hold the drill in the corner area to keep it perfectly straight.

Workshop Considerations

Everyone would love a massive workshop filled with power points, noise protection, and a kettle, but that’s rarely possible.

If you have a garage or shed to kit out, great, but it’s possible to use a spare room too. You just have to identify a space that’s free from animals and children, somewhere you can close the door and make noise.

With a bit of thought you can make it work in a flat – perhaps begin wood carving as that takes up little space.

Why You Should Start Woodworking

There so much to woodworking I can’t fit it all in this guide, but I hope it’s at least given you a taste and encouraged you to try your hand at woodworking.

You won’t be a genius first time, woodworking is a skill that requires practice, patience and good humour.

The upside is that you make some pretty decent furniture, toys and good-looking objects that can be handed down through generations.

I’ve spent many happy hours working with wood and hope you’ll enjoy doing the same. Don’t worry about mistakes, no-one one gets it right every time. Just get your hands dirty and experiment.

Welcome to the woodworking club!

When you get your wood home it’s time to prepare it for use. This isn’t a hard task, and it’s certainly one I enjoy.

Take note of the grain. The grain is the way the tree has grown. You’ll see line and circle patinas depending on whether it’s been sawn into planks or slices.

To prepare wood, set your plane’s cutting tool to the highest point, and gently shave off any roughness. Make sure you move the plane in the direction of the grain, not against it, as that will create more splinters.

I always leave my wood for a few days to ensure it’s completely dry. Damp wood expands and then contracts as it dries.

How to Measure and Mark Accurately

You should purchase a steel rule, a square, and a plumb line because there’s more to measuring up for wood than drawing a quick line across it.

First off, are you using a carpenter’s pencil? If so, the lead line will measure 1/16 of an inch. Factor this into your calculation before you cut. Note what side of the pencil line you need to cut.

Use your square and plumb line to measure out corners without rushing the job. Don’t cut until you’ve measured everything at least twice.

How to Cut Accurately

If you’re cutting parallel to the grain pick up your ripsaw. Against the grain? That’s the crosscut saw’s job.

The crosscut saw requires you to start cutting with teeth nearest to the handle, make a few small strokes to dig into the wood. A ripsaw works the opposite way, so start your cut at the blade’s tip.

It’s all about positioning once you’ve started sawing. A crosscut saw needs a 45-degree angle, whereas a ripsaw benefits from a 60-degree angle. Keep elbows tucked in. You’re not trying to fly!

Don’t cut directly on the line, instead cut on the waste wood side. This ensures you don’t cut the wood too small. It’s easier to plane or sand down a few mm extra than glue it back on!

Actually, sawing with a handsaw is hard, and following a pencil line is tricky work.
I find it better to clamp another piece of wood onto my board and use that as the cut line. This keeps the saw upright and stops it straying.

If you do stray, don’t twist the blade and try to force it back on track. Take the saw out, reposition it where you started to wander, and begin again.

You need to plane down any extra you left on.

How To Plane Accurately

Whether you’re preparing your wood or shaving off a mis-saw, use a sharp plane because a blunt one is literally pointless.

A deep angled blade means you’ll remove more wood. It’s best to take off several small layers rather than one thick layer, not least because the plane will jam in the wood and cause violent cursing. Use the depth adjustment wheel to get the right depth.

Clamp wood before you begin and always start at the edge of your board. Hold the plane level and press forward on the back handle.

You should move in the direction of the grain to prevent splintering.
How To Chisel Accurately

I’d always recommend practicing chiseling skills on old pieces of spare wood because one mis-strike and your expensive wood is destroyed. Learning how to handle a chisel and mallet properly will save money.

Start with a sharp chisel and hold the bevel upwards. If you need more depth you can turn it over, but its best to start bevel up to make sure you don’t take a huge lump out.
Use one hand to guide the chisel and the other to push or wield a mallet. Chiseling is a two-handed operation. When it comes to precise work, brace your hand against the wood.
You must work with the grain or risk cracking and splitting. That tree took years to grow in a certain direction and it requires respect!

How to chisel out a groove:

Cut a notch
Place the bevel side in the waste area to make vertical cuts

Keep the bevel facing inwards to make slanted cuts

These are your walls

Holding the bevel up, lie the chisel flat and trim off all the wood inside your shape until it reaches the depth you require.

Practice makes perfect! What better way to spend an afternoon than chiseling shapes from scrap pieces of wood? My grandfather started me off chiseling a bar of soap – it’s always an option if there’s no wood lying around.

How to Use a Battery Powered Drill

A cordless drill will always get plenty of use, and when you have interchangeable drill bits, it’ll always be in your hand. Anything that requires a hole or screw needs a drill.

First up – never change the drill bit while the torque is moving unless you want to chew a hole in your finger or worse, break the drill.

You’ll want to keep a battery powered drill fully charged as they can wear down fast. If you’ll be using it a lot, think about a replacement battery so you can work and charge at the same time.

How to change the drill bit isn’t apparent when you’re a beginner. You’ll need two hands, one holds the chuck (that’s the section the drill bit goes inside), the other holds the drill body. Just twist it – lefty loosey, righty tighty.

It won’t come all the way off but will open up so the drill bits can be swapped over.

To close, twist the chuck in the opposite direction.

Give it few revs – this part is irresistible and in fact, mandatory.

I bet you’re wondering about drill bits now? Great minds…

Buy yourself a starter set of good quality lifetime guaranteed drill bits.

They’re sold as packs that may contain some of the following. If not, buy them singular because you’ll need as many as possible. Drill bits are an addictive business.

Twist drill – The most common drill bit. The bit is pointed on top with twists on the shaft. The spirals remove the waste as it drills into the wood.

Brad point – A precision bit for dowel work and furniture making. They have a small centre point to gain traction and make a precise neat hole in your wood.

Forstner – This bit creates a hole with a flat bottom. It’s tricky to use as there’s no point to get the drill digging in, so practice on spare wood.

Hinge – The name says it all. A hinge drill bit is ideal for drilling exact pilot holes for a hinge. It’s shaped like a figure eight with a flat piece across the centre.

How To Sand and Finish

Finishing your project is one of the most satisfying parts of woodworking. This is where you remove splinters, stain or paint it.

Sanding is essential because splinters are not nice. It’s best to sand wood before beginning the project when it’s a flat plank.

Don’t be tempted to paint or stain without sanding as the wood won’t take the application evenly and it’ll go blotchy.

Sandpaper comes as coarse graded, medium, fine, very fine, extra fine and super fine. I don’t know what genius came up with those names. I always thought numbering would have worked better.

Start out with course sandpaper and progressively work your way up to a fine one. Each sandpaper prepares the wood for the next grade. Don’t skip the grit.
I’ve already mentioned going with the grain and when sanding it’s still important. If you push sandpaper across the grain it’ll leave scratches worse than a chunky lion climbing a tree.

Try to do your sanding under a bright light and remove the sawdust before moving to the next grit of paper.

I recommend using a mask so you don’t breathe in the dust. It doesn’t do your lungs any good.

Once you’ve sanded, it’s time to apply the stain or paint.

Ensure even coverage and always go for a few thin coats rather than one thick coat. Thick varnish or stain will run down the vertical sides of your project and make a helluva mess.
Then you’ll have to wait till its dry and sand it all off.

What Are Woodworking Joints?

At the start of this guide, I mentioned dovetails. So, here’s more detail about different kinds of woodworking joints.

Mortice and tenon

Used to connect a horizontal to a vertical, this is fitting wood inside the wood so it interlocks at 90 degrees.

You can achieve this with a chisel. The tenon, which is the end of the rail piece, fits inside a square or rectangular hole on the corresponding piece.

Once you mastered this joint the world of woodworking is opened up. You can fit horizontal wood to vertical wood without glue or nail. It’s a fundamental joint so get practicing.

Dovetail
The joint consists of interlocking fingers which are used to fix four pieces of wood into a box shape. If you can make a decent dovetail joint, you’re a top woodworker.

Butt joint

Basic, quick, rough and ready the butt joint fastens two pieces of wood at a right-angle using screws, nails or glue.

Bridle
Much like a mortice and tenon but a flat cut that slips inside a flat slice to create a right angle or ‘T junction.

Lap joint

Take two boards and overlap them at one end. Now take half off each at a diagonal so they lie flat and flush. A simple and not very strong joint, but it’s one upon the butt joint.

Mitre joint

Used to make the pointed edges of frames a mitre joint is a butt joint at a 45-degree angle. It’s pretty but not strong.

Rebate joint
Much like the butt joint except a piece of wood is removed so the end piece can slot inside at a 90-degree right angle.

Ploughed groove
The joint that fits two pieces of wood smoothly side by side.

If you’ve ever worked with wooden floors this is how the boards sit together. A slice is taken from inside one piece and two sides are shaved flat on the other piece. The first slice slips inside and interlocks.

Scarf joint
Is your wood not long enough? That’s usually the case! Join shorter pieces together with a scarf joint. Cut the meeting ends at a 45-degree slope and glue.

Laminated
A mixture of the scarf joint and the dovetail, the laminated joint allows you to create longer pieces of wood. Instead of square fingers, these are pointed like shark’s teeth coming together. You can make lots of small laminated joints to create a curve.

Dado

Another way of connecting a vertical to a horizontal.
It’s a square grooved slot that another board will fit inside. Its often used for cabinetwork and is often called a housing joint.

Box joint
A dovetail joint but on the corner. A strong way to make a box as the interlocking fingers receive pressure from two directions.

Woodworking is an ancient craft and before glue was available all furniture was made with joints. You’ll need to master some of them.

Making Your First Build

Itchy fingers?

Let’s start with an example that’s practical and if it isn’t beautiful no-one will care. Step forward the birdhouse.

You’ll need wood – softwood is good.

A box of galvanized screws
Drill
Wood glue
A saw
Clamps
A tape measure

Let’s do it!
Cut wood into these dimensions:
Side walls – two pieces measuring 4×3.5 inches
Floor – one measuring 5×3.25 inches
Ceiling – one measuring 5×3.25 inches
Roof – one measuring 4.75 x 7 inches and one piece at 5.5×7 inches
Front wall one measuring 5×8 inches
Back wall one measuring 5×8

You should have eight separate pieces. It would help to mark in pencil which is which.
Take the front wall and make a hole 1-3 inches large in the top third. You can use a drill press, jigsaw or chisel. Sand down the edges of the hole so there are no jagged pieces.
Stain or paint the pieces of wood.

Apply wood glue to the four side pieces (side walls, a front wall, back wall) to make a square.

Clamps the walls and leave them to dry.

Screw the floor piece into the wall construction. It needs screws so you can clean out the birdhouse each winter.

Glue the ceiling onto the wall construction, clamp and leave to dry. You now have a box with a hole in it.

Glue the roof pieces together at an angle so they create a sloping roof.

Clamp the roof pieces and allow the glue to dry.

Screw the roof onto the wall construction. Screw through the rooftop down into the walls.

Step back and admire

How To Start Wood Carving

There are four types of wood carving and you’ll probably want to give them all a go.
Whittling – go old school and whittle away your time. A sharp whittling knife is used to make angular cuts.

Relief – cutting raised patterns onto a flat surface whilst the back remains untouched.
In the round – creating a 3D object.

Chip carving – taking small chips from a flat piece of wood whilst the back remains untouched.

Think in advance what you want to create, there are plenty of patterns online.
Pencil on your pattern and start to remove the waste wood. Always go with the grain and use good quality carving wood.

Beveled chisels, knives, and gouging chisels are the main tools in all types of wood carving.
Gouging chisels scoop out wood, use these to carve, shape and smooth. Practice a running cut – that’s one long channel across the wood with a V or U-shaped gouge.

Then try a sweep cut – that a running cut but turning the wood so it makes a spiral.

Stabbing motions make sharp indentations and shadows

A great project to start with is a light switch handle for the bathroom. Drill through the centre of a square piece of wood, and carve a 3D fish. These are simple and always popular.

How To Start Wood Turning

Woodturning is achieved on a lathe. A lathe turns wood as you hold a chisel or knife against it. You’re able to make larger objects like stair rods this way.

First off, make sure your wood will fit the machine, then sketch out a shape and find the centre point, match up lines on square pieces so you don’t run off course.

Mount the wood on the headstock of the lathe spur

Set it spinning

Position your gouge tip up in the tool rest and brace the handle on your hip
Lower the tip and wait for a connection

Push and remove the gouge until the chattering stops if you want an indent
To round off a square piece of wood run the gouge along its length.

Speed up the lathe when you confident, and always use the tool rest or the tool may fly across the room at speed.

How To Make A Simple Woodworking Jig

A jig is a device that guides a tool.

It can be as simple as a bit of wood clamped to guide a handsaw, or a waved pattern for a router to follow.

Jigs ensure a consistent finish every time, and if you’re making more than one piece, jigs are a time-saving device.

Here’s an ultra-simple jig you can make with barely any experience. It’s a jig that accurately drills holes at a 90-degree angle.

Take two pieces of plywood or whatever wood you have spare.

Join them at a 90-degree angle – a glued butt joint is just fine.

This is your jig!

Or you can take two pieces of ply an inch thick and glue them side by side with one piece pulled down to a shorter length. See that right angle? That’s a jig.

Next time you have to drill freehand hold the drill in the corner area to keep it perfectly straight.

Workshop Considerations
Everyone would love a massive workshop filled with power points, noise protection, and a kettle, but that’s rarely possible.

If you have a garage or shed to kit out, great, but it’s possible to use a spare room too. You just have to identify a space that’s free from animals and children, somewhere you can close the door and make noise.

With a bit of thought you can make it work in a flat – perhaps begin wood carving as that takes up little space.

Why You Should Start Woodworking

There so much to woodworking I can’t fit it all in this guide, but I hope it’s at least given you a taste and encouraged you to try your hand at woodworking.

You won’t be a genius first time, woodworking is a skill that requires practice, patience and good humor.

The upside is that you make some pretty decent furniture, toys and good-looking objects that can be handed down through generations.

I’ve spent many happy hours working with wood and hope you’ll enjoy doing the same.

Don’t worry about mistakes, no-one one gets it right every time. Just get your hands dirty and experiment.

Welcome to the woodworking club! More info at diygarden.co.uk.

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