Yesterday a buddy of mine mentioned that he was looking to give woodworking a try. About an hour and many questions later, he was (hopefully) set on the correct path towards being a beginner woodworker. This all got me thinking about how I got started in woodworking and other hobbies.
Following are 5 resources that can help turn a complete newcomer into a beginner woodworker.
1. Buy a Woodworking Magazine
This is usually a quick way to expose yourself to a new hobby or activity. There are plenty of woodworking magazines, with each focusing a variety of topics. Reading through new tool and product previews, woodworking plans and projects, tips and even the advertisements can help bring you up to speed.
There are also many numerous books available, but they usually have a very narrow focus. Which can be a good thing, but pre-beginners need wider exposure before they’re ready to tackle texts on say, dovetail joinery and hand plane techniques.
2. Join an Online Woodworking Forum
Like magazines, forums can help you develop a broader view of woodworking. Forums are great places to ask questions and contribute, but there’s also benefit to just lurking around at first. New and popular archived threads offer insight and experienced perspectives that are more varied than in single-author articles. Plus there are usually oodles of projects just waiting to inspire.
3. Sign Up for Free Catalogs
When first getting started, you’re going to be thinking about what types of tools to buy. Catalogs can help you develop a better sense of what tools and supplies are available, and what you can expect to pay.
Catalogs can also help you visually distinguish between different products you may be hearing about, such as bar clamps and parallel clamps. Certain other tools and supplies are also best learned about through visualization, such as cross-dowels.
The next step is to visit a woodworking store, or even a regular home improvement center, and look around. Make a note (or take a photo) of interesting or unfamiliar products for later Googling.
4. Jump Right in With a Starter Project
Plan out a small project, or follow one that you found in print or online, and get to it. There are tons of simple projects that you can make with few tools. You can get boards and sheet goods cut down to rough size at a lumber yard or home improvement center for minor working at home. Nothing is more encouraging than experience and a sense of accomplishment.
There’s a lot one can do with just a saw, drill/driver and $40 pocket hole jig.
5. Join a Club or Partner With a Friend
This can be an effective way to correct misconceptions and rapidly gain understanding and knowledge. These days there’s no reason to make common and perhaps even costly mistakes if you can help it.
Clubs and friends can also offer access to tools you cannot afford, don’t want to invest in or don’t know about as a beginner. Early on, about 8 years ago, I used a Dremel with a sanding drum accessory to round the edge of a project – a DVD player stand and TV riser. If I had joined a club or consulted with a woodworking friend, I would have learned about routers much sooner. That project also taught me about saw kerf thickness and how tight-clearance dimensions should account for it.
The web can be an excellent resource for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced woodworkers, but such sources are most effective if you know what you’re looking for.
If there’s a Woodworking Show in your area, consider going. Admission is usually $10 or so, with many vendors and expert exhibitors willing and ready to share their knowledge and experience with you. There are some opportunities for hands-on training, and usually reasonable discounts as well.