Getting started in woodworking

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Blog entry by Stevinmarin posted 01-16-2010 04:49 AM 3487 reads 2 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I recently realized that there is not enough info for people who are interested in getting started in woodworking as a hobby. I tend to think that a lot of curious people are overwhelmed by woodworking shows and web sites. Norm Abram is one of my heros, but I can’t help but wonder if new woodworkers get discouraged thinking that woodworking can only take place at such a high end. As woodworkers, I think we should encourage new folks to simply get a few tools and saw some wood! If I could mix my metaphors, it ain’t rocket surgery!

There is a wide contunuum of skills in this craft that can allow people to relax and build wood projects really easily: and most of all, have fun.

This video is for newbies!

-- Entertainment for mere mortal woodworkers.

24 comments so far

View Bovine's profile


114 posts in 3716 days

#1 posted 01-16-2010 05:20 AM

This is the first of you’re videos I’ve seen. Great job! I love your energy and enthusiasm. I think that’s going to be one of the biggest motivators for complete newbies to get into the hobbie. Keep the video’s coming, Steve!!!

-- Kansas City, KS "Nothing is as permanent as a temporary solution"

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18571 posts in 4064 days

#2 posted 01-16-2010 05:28 AM

That about sums it up.. A lot can be done with a few basic tools.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View WoodyWoodWrecker's profile


171 posts in 3640 days

#3 posted 01-16-2010 05:34 AM

I’ve been watching your videos for about 6 months and love them. I must say that I think you need one more item. Clamps, or at least some really heavy bricks.

-- You always have tomorrow to stop procrastinating.

View johnnymo's profile


309 posts in 3594 days

#4 posted 01-16-2010 05:40 AM

Pretty good video. You know, I just watched a video on table saw projects that came with a book i got. I can’t tell you how many times I almost nodded off while watching it. It kind of sucks when your watching a video and you can’t wait for it to end. :-)

-- John in Arizona (but it's a dry heat!)

View Dale_Millere's profile


14 posts in 3466 days

#5 posted 01-16-2010 05:41 AM

Great beginner info!

-- Dale

View DocK16's profile


1186 posts in 4475 days

#6 posted 01-16-2010 05:53 AM

Not enough info for beginners???!!! I have to disagree, there is more info out there for Woodworkers than ever. The internet has infinite sites where you can go for info in the form of forums, streaming videos, blogs, plans etc. LJs is a prime example, this type of exposure and advice was unheard of just a few years ago. There are dozens of ww magazines each with an online site or weekly newsletter along with their monthly printed issues. No internet? How about local WW stores such as Rockler or Woodcraft or numerous WW shows around the country, a veritable plethora of information. How about one of the many WW schools around the country who teach anything from essentials to master skills. Fine WW has thousands of books and CDs for sale and an interesting video on “How to Get Started in WW. You don’t learn much by just buying a few tools , some boards and have at it. In my opinion before you buy any tool or even one piece of wood you should invest in a little knowledge. I consider my library as one of my most important tools.

View toml's profile


1 post in 4037 days

#7 posted 01-16-2010 08:40 AM

Good video Steve, thank you!
tomwan AZ

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3579 days

#8 posted 01-16-2010 09:09 AM

Good video, lots of energy. I often wounder about the people walking by your drive way as you film,
“oh yeah, that’s crazy Steve, he’s always walking around the garage ranting at himself, I think he’s

Every time you mention your saw the word crappy appears before saw. You should consider an upgrade,
hopefully you are not emotionally attached to it.

I think you’ll have energized a bunch of people to maybe try wood working, and I think Norm, would be proud of your effort.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View hunter71's profile


3395 posts in 3575 days

#9 posted 01-16-2010 02:02 PM

Isn’t that the reason we all are a part of LJ’s. I know I have written several emails to folks helping them the best I could. And how about all the offers we get in the mail? Take the first step and ask, the next step is easier. Don’t get me wrong your video is a good starting video and offers many good suggestions. I just feel we have a lot of good places to turn to right now. I do BSA woodworking merit badges. I also allow parents to bring their kids into my shop and make things [parent accompanied]. If there is one thing I find is that exposure to woodworking is not there in many kids lives. Both parents work, TV has them occupied for too many hours every day. Computers, facebook, videos, emails, all have a more exciting appeal than spending time in a wood shop.
The KIDS that come to my shop regularly know that the 5 gal. bucket hear the band saw if filled with pieces I feel will make some great things. They glue them up and next time paint them. Most often I am not sure what they make without asking, but they imagine all of them in their own way. If each of us would take a kid into their shop from time to time , and spend time making silly little things the rewards would be there for both kids, and kids of years past.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3673 days

#10 posted 01-16-2010 07:18 PM

Steve, I enjoyed watching your video and I think you hit on a good subject. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of beginner woodworkers lose interest because they feel they don’t have enough tools to get started or don’t know how to mitre a joint, or daddo a side of a bookcase or do some other joint. I remember when I ask my oldest son if he would like to come to work with me in the business and learn woodworking, he didn’t think he could because he couldn’t build like me. That’s the problem, we think we have to know everything before we can start. I like your approach, grab a piece of wood and make something. Hunter71 said it in his last paragraph, The kids take scraps, glue them up, paint them and most often he’s not sure what they make without asking, but that’s what it’s all about. Just do it!.....and have fun! Good video.

-- John @

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3658 days

#11 posted 01-16-2010 07:43 PM

Great job Steve….I enjoyed watching it and will definitely recommend it to folks that have questions on how to get started….I think we all get some of those questions…..and also the “I could never do that” statements….especially when they see all the machinery in our shops…..I tell them the same basics as you do….and that the tools are only to make a task easier and faster – the true art comes from the tool user…..but as you said…it all really boils down to just cutting, assembling and finishing….

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 4280 days

#12 posted 01-16-2010 09:19 PM

I agree with dock16, there is plenty of information available for beginners, including this site. I think it is a cop out to not do woodworking because “I don’t have enough tools” or “I could never do that”. I would say that most all of us who have the skill and the “million dollar shop” started out with a shop that looked like yours. I certainly did.

It has to do with determination and the desire to learn a new skill. Most beginning woodworkers don’t see all the projects that we botched and end up burning in the fireplace while on our journey to master this craft. The ones who succeed are the ones who never give in to a defeatist attitude. Early on, we didn’t have an 8” jointer that was accurate to 1/128”. We had the bench mounted Ryobi and we learned how to edge on it because it was the only thing we had. I can’t remember how many times I tried to balance an 8 foot board on top of one of those to round over the edge. Or how many times I set off the smoke alarms trying to rip wood on a $100 tablesaw.

It’s like learning to play the guitar. Most buy a cheap guitar to get started. After a while some will quit because they either loose interest or decide it’s too hard. The ones who stay with it, get better and start enjoying it. Next thing you know, they go out and replace that $100 guitar with a $3000 Martin or Gibson. They justify it because it touches their soul.

There are thousands of projects displayed on this site that range from simple to highly elaborate. We have weekend warriors, and full time professional sawdust makers. I don’t know of anyone here who is holier-than-thou and doesn’t provide help and share knowledge to anyone who asks. That’s the core belief of this site and what makes it great for both beginners and experts. One thing we all share is the love of all things wood.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3497 days

#13 posted 01-17-2010 02:37 AM

Yes, resources abound. In some cases, almost too much info. When I first got started, there were plenty of individuals ready to give me advice, just not very useful advice at the time. Most of them didn’t think in terms of the audience they were speaking to, someone with no woodworking knowledge whatsoever. After awhile, one would get the feeling that the conversation was more to let you know how much they knew, but not to pass on any useful knowledge. Take a tablesaw for example. When I first got started, I had 200 bucks I could spend. I was married, budgets were not entirely up to me :) So I would ask, “Hey, what would be a good saw for two hundred dollars?” “You need to spend more money than that.” “Uh, yeah, that would be nice, but I have two hundred dollars.” “Save up your money and buy a Powermatic.” “Thank you, but I would like to get started this year, not in a decade…”

What was I looking for? I was looking for someone to say “For two hundred, your options are probably limited. Try to find a saw with a smooth top. Some saws will come with a non-standard miter gauge. This will cause problems for you down the road as you will not be able to use after market tenoning jigs and items of that nature. Check out the throat plate. See if any will allow an aftermarket zero clearance plate. These allow you to make a more chip free cut. If you can’t find these things, try and make a table sled, directions at this site, and that will help you get more from your saw. Don’t use the stock blade, there are 30-40 dollar saw blades that can increase your saws capabilities….” Something along that line. Telling someone over and over again to get the best that they can afford doesn’t help much when that is the most you can afford :)

btw- little rant isn’t directed to any LJ members. Just my own frustrations at the time with the advice I was getting from those I knew who worked with wood.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View blyther's profile


67 posts in 3498 days

#14 posted 01-17-2010 03:23 AM

Great Vid!! I always look forward to your videos. Love the energy you have. I think I’m going to throw my
hand saw away Right Now!

-- Paul, Winterset Iowa,

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4061 days

#15 posted 01-17-2010 03:39 AM

Great Video.

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