It’s one of the oldest crafts going back to the days the early man developed the ability to fashion out tools. At first, they were simple items but as tools, knowledge, and needs increased, man began making complex wood items for practical use as well as aesthetic functions.
Woodworking is the process of fashioning out various objects from different kinds of woods with the help of tools. You do not need to get to Michelangelo levels of mastery carving to define yourself as a woodworker. Everyone with an interest and the patience to hone out his or her craft can join woodworking.
The practical nature of woodworking and the fact that you only get better with plenty of practice means you never need to worry about starting from scratch or never having any experience whatsoever as you start.
The contemporary education has done away with most of the practical subjects taught at school unless you are in a trade school or pursuing a specific course. Thankfully, there are many books on the information and illustrations of different aspects you will need.
Better yet, there is the good, always dependable internet complete with video tutorials learning will be plenty of fun. You need patience sprinkled with enthusiasm.
Why should you pursue this as a hobby?
Unless from the word go you had all the skills and setup needed, before you think of a business you should practice it as a hobby first. Here is why you should take up woodworking.
It is productive
There is a priceless appeal to being able to create something with your own hands from scratch. Sure most of the time you may have to rely on written plans, but you will still be responsible for the execution.
It is more rewarding than what most other hobbies offer. It is also a skill you learn that helps you be able to do the simple furniture repairs at your home and even create new items for yourself and friends.
It is a relaxing exercise
Woodworking has a therapeutic effect that will help you in days you are stressed out, or you need to clear your mind. It gives you a sense of fulfillment and happiness that comes from knowing you are getting better at your skill, are almost completing your project, or you already have finished it.
Every step you make in developing yourself is an obstacle conquered which is a source of joy. Besides this, it is an involving process that takes away your focus from other daily life stressors allowing you to relax.
You do not need to set up a large working space
There is no need to get a standalone workshop for you to pursue woodworking. The fact that you can start small is one of the advantages of pursuing woodworking, and this means you need a little space.
A section in your garage or the basement if you have one is all you need. In case you lack a ready room or pace, a simple shed just like where a car would fit in is all you need to start.
It is a form of exercise
Be warned from the word go that you will be burning some serious calories and be prepared to break your sweat. You should not be scared about this but rather thrilled you have a new way to meet your daily or weekly need of exercising your muscles.
Between doing the drilling, sanding, and lifting of panels, you will have burnt plenty of fat you do not get from engaging in your typical day to day work.
It is not expensive to start off
When you take a look at some blog sites or if you have been in the woodwork tool sections, the sight of some of those gadgets and their prices may easily discourage you.
Your mind may also assume all the fancy and stylish pieces of furniture and decoration must have required the most expensive tools to make. Whenever you think of that, remember, and these should fit your budget without any pinch.
It can save you money and earn you some more
As soon as you can make a couple of items, you will find that you are less inclined to be buying more furniture at home or seeking a carpenter’s help for home repairs and other woodwork home improvement aspects.
You will do this on your own saving your money. On the other hand, you can offer your services and goods for a price-earning an income.
It can help you build family bonds
Woodworking is an exercise that allows for the involvement of others. You can pursue it with your significant other even if it is just having him or her assist you in carrying planks and holding them in place.
If you have kids, it is even better as you will be selecting projects to work on say a family cabinet and you all join in in your little and significant ways to actualize. It helps strengthen family bonds and adds to the family stories.
Having decided to take up woodworking the next step is getting started. You should not ponder so much about this because you may be easily discouraged.
At this point, it is also hard to be sure just what kind of woodworking you want to pursue, especially if you have no skills at all given how wide the field is.
However, you can start by laying the foundations, which is both a crucial and also exciting process. Here are a couple of tips to help you out.
Start by creating your workspace
The first step is setting out your workplace. Inside the house may prove to be challenging because of the noise involved and the lack of ample room unless you have a well-ventilated basement.
The garage is another obvious choice depending on its current use and size. You want a place that has spacious room for movement and allows you to lay your working table and store the tools and other material.
Clear up the clutter and wires and also ensure it is well ventilated given some of the dust you will have as you cut, sand and chip at the wood. It is why most woodworkers resort to creating a small shed purely for their hobby, and there is much fun working outdoors.
Plan the workplace
At this point, you should have envisioned how your work station will look. Consider designating various areas for different purposes or processes.
Splitting the room this way offers you better work management and prevents cluttering. So you should have a designated place for your work table, a place for cutting, sawing as well as storage among other functions. As for storing, consider aspects like humidity and exposure to the sun.
Some tools may also need to be readily accessible while others are only used periodically. As you set up the workplace remember to leave room for movement from one station to another. There are several workplace plans and ideas online to help you get started if you are stuck.
It may seem obvious, and the most logical thing to do but that is not always the case. It is easy to get excited about the projects you see online say on Pinterest or blogs, and you feel they challenge you enough only to get stuck in the middle. Some projects may also require special tools that at that point you may not readily have.
What you should be looking for at this point are projects that allow you to sharpen your basic woodworking skills. So start with outdoor items around your home since these do not demand much precision and you are less likely to give up on them. A bird or dog house is an excellent place to start your journey.
Start with readily drawn plans
At a time when DIY is all the rage, inspiration is all over on how to fix and create things on your own especially for home improvement. Such DIY projects are a great way to build your craft because they come with easy to follow, step by step guides from the tools you will need to the right measurements. Browse for these plans especially when you are stuck on what to create or are looking for a guide on a specific item you need to make.
Learn how to get the right tools and materials
Of course, you are going to need tools for your woodworking. Even the smallest or simplest kind of task will require you to invest in a couple of tools. In woodwork, there are two kinds of devices; hand tools and power tools. The difference, as their names suggest, is their primary source of power. Hand tools require much of your energy. They have been used long before power tools and will do much of the woodwork projects you will undertake.
Hand tools will, however, need much of your physical effort to do their function. Power tools, on the other hand, are modern and powerful devices relying on an electrical power source which make the work easier and faster.
For starters, you can get all the essential hand tools and compliment them with a few power tools that you will often be using. Doing this allows you to stay within your budget and leaves you room to scale up buying on the most necessary power tools as your practice grows. You also need to research the various models and read the professional reviews to know which one will best serve your function. Investing in quality tools is always better in the long run.
As for materials, the main one will be wood. You cannot trust a salesperson’s word unless you have dealt with them severally with no complaints. You need to know how to identify faults in woods and also differentiate different woods. An online guide on different wood stock or talking to an experienced woodworker should help you understand how to look for moisture indicators, curves on the stock, fungi presence and other defects, getting the right wood affects the quality of your furniture and also ease of use.
In woodworking, practice does make perfect. Consider it as the flight hours a pilot needs to be able to advance to the next level. The more time you spend in your workshop learning from your mistake and learning how to use the different tools, the better you will become. It will also help you to develop mastery of the various processes, techniques, and tools faster. In turn, you get ready to work on complex projects and also be in a position to start creating your custom designs.
It is also essential to learn how to plan your work before you start tackling any project. This means identifying all the tools you will need, the amount of material and time required. You get to know your budget beforehand and also plan contingency plans having known all the potential pitfalls.
You will also have done the necessary research of the project increasing your confidence and allowing you to complete the project smoothly. Mastering the basics and diligently improving your craft as you increase the complexity of the projects you do and improving on your mistakes is the way to become a master at your work.
Be ready to read and learn widely
Woodworking is an extensive field with plenty to learn even a school curriculum can hardly cover it all. Given that you are starting from zero, there is a lot you have to learn besides studying the project designs and plans. Find time to watch different tutorials, read a variety of resources on the subject to give you an all-round understanding of woodworking. Some of it is general knowledge, some are guides, and others deal with the business aspect. All are useful and will make you better.
Free your imagination and have fun
The best part of any craft is being in control of what you are creating. As soon as you master the basics feel free to experiment with the different plans you get and try various shapes. Ultimately it is a quest to see what you can create so let your personality and creativity flow in every design leaving something of your on in them. Play with the shapes, measurements, and finishing and also embrace improvisation. Even as you make mistakes or lack certain materials, find ingenious ways around them. Whatever the complexity of the project and your level of skill or purpose of the item, remember to have fun.
Tools and accessories you need to start
Once you have a place to work in, you will need to begin furnishing it with the various tools and accessories to help you with your work. It is good to start with the basics which means getting all the essential hand tools. These include
A claw hammer
A hammer is a standard tool, and in the course of your work, you will have lots of needs for hammering things together or prying them apart. While there are different times of hammers, the claw hammer is the most versatile of all. Weight and the size and quality of the handle is an important consideration when buying one so be sure it fits right in your hand and get one weighing about half a kilogram.
Retractable tape measure
You will be doing plenty of measuring in the course of your work. As such, a standard tape measure comes in handy. Get a 25-foot retractable tape measure preferably one with both standard and metric measurements. Such a tape measure offers convenience and a long reach as well as does away with the need for a separate metric ruler.
A utility knife
There will be many for a knife at your workspace from cutting open packages, and cutting straps to clearing off splinters as well as making marking for measurements or places to be cut or joined. There are many other uses for a knife so you need a durable one which gives you plenty of options. Find a heavy-duty utility knife preferably with metal casing.
It is not just those engaged in curving that will need chisels. These tools are some of the most precise ones you will use especially when cleaning joints or when you need clean cuts. There is a wide range of them in the market in varying sizes. For starters, you can purchase a set of four chisels measuring a ¼ inch, inch, inch, and 1 inch.
A speed square
It is also known as a layout square or a rafter square. It is a handy tool for its precision and light nature. It is especially useful when you need to draw a perpendicular line on the lumber. It can also measure angles up to 45 degrees and length and width up to 6 inches.
While a power drill looks like the solution to most drilling needs, there are other situations where all that force will be harmful, or the dexterity of a manual screwdriver is needed. At other times you cannot afford it for the moment. In all these cases you should get a set of screwdrivers in different sizes and tip shapes. You will need flat heads, square heads and star drivers for most of the time.
Woodworking is about precision, and therefore you will need a level to tell if the piece of lumber is perfectly horizontal or vertical. Get along level measuring between 24 – 36 inches and a torpedo level measuring 6-12 inches to take care of all project and space sizes.
A sliding bevel
You can get this tool to complement your speed square since it serves an almost similar function with the advantage of being able to be adjusted to fit any angle and you can also lock it into place through the accompanying mechanism.
A block plane
Here is a tool that has stood the test of time thanks to its usefulness. You will need it for cleaning up edges of your items as you assemble them or shaving off thin slices from the wood to fit the desired purpose.
Sets of nails
You will need nails for the different fastening and joining work you will have to do especially where glue or screws are not needed. To avoid having to go for various small amounts of nail sets each time you are working and to also cater for spoilt ones, get a considerable bunch of the nails across all sizes and store them in airtight containers separating the various sizes.
It is possible to work without using clamps but it is very stressful, and your accuracy is also affected. You can never really get all the clamps you need, but you can start with at least a set of four. They hold down the wood in place exactly where they should be as you work on it. You can purchase different types later on as the need arises and budget allows.
If your budget allows it or you feel you will need to work with some power tools then you should consider starting with the following;
A power drill
Sometimes the screws could be stubborn driving in or the work is just too much. At such a time you will appreciate the convenience offered by a power drill. There are two types of power drills; the corded drill and the cordless one. The cordless one provides the convenience of portability. Unfortunately, that is the only advantage it has. The cordless one is much cheaper and has more power than the corded option making it the one to buy as you start.
You will need a jigsaw when you are looking to cut circular patterns in the stock you are working on. For better results and ease of use, buy a corded one with orbital action and which allows the easy swapping of blades,
Most experts recommend that this be the first power tool you purchase if you are working on a budget. It is the one that you will use a lot, and it is also very versatile performing even most of the functions of a table saw. You will need to use it with two clamps and a long straight edge to be accurate when cutting straight.
Random orbital sander
As you start, the random orbital sander is the one you should get compared to other types of sanders because of its versatility. You can use it for most sanding jobs as it does not sand in patterns leaving sanding marks, and it is also has a wide range of speeds so you can lower it as the situation demands. You will need to have several grits, but you can start with 80, 150 and 220 grits and adjust as you get familiar with your work.
A table saw
From this point onwards, the tools are handy but not a necessity to start your woodworking. They do however offer more options of what you can create and also make work more manageable as well as increase the accuracy of your work. A table saw, for example, is a circular saw that is fastened upside down a table. It offers more efficiency and safety and should be the centerpiece of your workshop. Ideally, it should be the first costly item you get. Do not go for the more expensive cabinet saws type but instead, find a reliable contractor table saw, and it will meet all your needs.
Compound Miter Saw
It is not as expensive as a table saw, but it is the best tool to use when you want to cut complex angles on your stock. It will take some time to develop mastery but once you do you will be able to increase the range of projects you can handle and depend on the circular saw less.
There are also several accessories which are essential to your woodworking that you should get as you start. These include:
• A bench with a vise
• A portable table
• A hardy shop vacuum
• A bench grinder
•A feather board
Essential skills you need to learn to start woodworking
There are basic skills that you should understand and master quickly as you begin to make progress in woodworking. You do not need any expensive stud, and this is where your practice should start. These skills are;
1. Understand wood and its characteristics
Wood is what you are going to be working with so it is good to spend quality time familiarizing yourself with the different wood types, the orientation of wood and which direction to plane it. How various wood types behave in different humidity conditions, and how moisture content affects other processes like gluing, staining and painting.
2. Sharpening your tools
As you start, you will largely depend on the hand tools, and even, later on, you will find them offering a different aspect or probably without a power replacement. For efficient and safe use tools for cutting like saws, chisels, and planes have to be regularly sharpened to reduce the effort you use and increase accuracy and productivity.
3. Using saws
There is plenty of cutting involved in woodworking which means you will need to know how to use the different saws. The jigsaw, hand saw, and the circular saw are the ones that get most action so start by mastering this over various wood types.
4. Drilling holes
Drilling another exercise that is a daily part of woodworking. In theory, it should be as simple as it looks, but there are several techniques and tricks used to increase precision, make the work easier and even catch dust from the process. Hand drills and power drills operate differently. You will need to know how each works as well as the right amount of power for varying scenarios.
5. Using a hand pane
Using a hand pane seems like something that should be intuitively simple. You will be surprised by how much maneuvering you have to do and how easy it is to mess up everything. You will need instruction and enough practice to understand who to adjust the cut through different textures. You will also need to know how to tune the pane before use fine.
Sanding is another necessary skill you should master as you start in woodworking. It requires you to be able to know how to sand with the grain to avoid leaving scratches, the different kind of sanders and their expected results as well as the right kind of grit to work with at different times.
7. Creating a mortise and tenon joint
The mortise and tenon joint is the most fundamental of joints in woodwork. It is used to join a horizontal piece to a vertical one by interlocking them at a right angle and ensuring they fit well and tightly.
8. Creating a dovetail joint
If you are making a box or any similar apparatus, the dovetail joint is what is used. It looks complex, but it primarily involves cutting wedge-shaped tails on one side and having corresponding pins on the other side so that the two sides meet flush and then the joint is painted to cover them. From these two joints, you can now proceed to learn all the others including butt joint, lap joint, tongue and groove joint, dowel joint, dado joint and miter joint.
9. Painting and finishing
Properly finishing the furniture, you have created a beautiful and professional aspect. It also provides a protecting cover to the build quality. You can use shellac or paint as the finishing product. With paint, you also have to choose whether it is oil based or water based each having their advantage. If you work with paint you also have to choose between a flat sheen which is better at hiding imperfections or a glossy one which provides more durability.
The kind of work and the tools used in woodworking require you to be careful and observe safety practices to avoid the risk of injury. Herein are the best safety practices to follow while in your woodworking station.
• Always wear safety equipment while working including hearing protection, heavy duty latex gloves, and safety glasses
• Wear appropriate clothes that are comfortable and not loose fitting, as they can to get entangled with equipment and material. It should also offer protection from splinters. Also, avoid any dangling jewelry.
• Avoid getting in the workshop when intoxicated even a little as it will easily impair our judgment and accuracy.
• Remember to disconnect tools from power sources before you change blades or bits. It helps to prevent the risk of losing your fingers.
• When using a table saw, make sure you have a slitter.
• Have adequate lighting and ventilation in the workstation always.
• Make sure your blades and bits are always sharp to avoid binding and kickback which can cause injury.
• Always inspect for nails, screws and other metal in the stock before beginning to cut to avoid the risk of cutting in them which risks damaging the tool, stock and causing injury
• All electrical equipment should have proper grounding
• Never reach to remove waste and cut-off from a blades head when it is running, instead wait till the blade has stopped, and use a stick or brush.
From Hobby to Business
Should you want to make the step up to start a woodworking business, there are several other considerations you will have to make. Some of the main things you have to consider are:
1. What will be the business’ legal entity- sole proprietorship or a limited liability company?
2. Create a realistic business plan identifying your initial costs, target market projected income and when you aim to break even.
3. Create a name for your business and register for taxes
4. Open a bank account for the company and decide on the accounting process whether you will outsource services, do accounting on your own or hire someone permanently.
5. Obtain all the necessary business licenses and permits from all the required levels of government.
6. Get proper business insurance.
7. Define your brand and your unique selling point as well as your niche market or if you will have a general business
8. Create a marketing plan especially taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the World Wide Web.
In the end anyone can get started in woodworking. It has considerable benefits both as a hobby and a business. The one thing you will need to be ready for is the pursuit of knowledge and constant practice. Start small, and you will soon find yourself with another income generating avenue.
At this point, it will be a business like any other requiring due diligence and attention but still giving you all the fun of creating items by your hands. With this guide, getting started should not be challenging anymore.