Begin Woodworking the Right Way

Garage Workshop

Photo Courtesy of robglinka

“How to I Begin Woodworking” is a popular question that comes to the BLOG.  Frequently readers ask about tools that are required, how much space is needed and what to do first. The good news is those are the exact questions that this site is designed to cover.

Woodworking can be extremely rewarding. Needing a piece of furniture, or something to organize your home, then designing it to your exact specifications, then building it is tons of fun and usually makes family members happy as well. In my house, my wife actually encourages me to begin woodworking project because she knows that the outcome will benefit her as well.

Combine the gratification of a job well done with the chance to use loud and dangerous machinery and woodworking suddenly becomes the perfect hobby!

How to Begin Woodworking

When you first begin woodworking, it’s not a great idea to go out and spend tons of money on tools and equipment until you are sure that you’ll enjoy the hobby. Start with just a few basic tools and tackle a couple of projects to see if you really enjoy woodworking.  If so, then you can start to invest in more tools.

When getting started, you really just need:

  • A place to work – a garage, basement or back patio works well.  You just need enough space to move long boards around and something that is easy to clean as sawdust gets everywhere.  A table or workbench of some sort puts the workpiece at a more comfortable working level, plus provides a surface to clamp to.
  • Some basic tools – See next section for details on what tools you’ll need
  • Safety gear – Safety glasses and hearing protection are a must.  A dust mask is also a good idea to protect your lungs.

Tools Needed

While you don’t need a huge number of tools to get started, there are some key ones that you’ll need to get started.

At a minimum, start with:

Speed Square


Circular Saw

Woodworking Clamps





Space Needed

Really any space can work, just keep in mind the following:

  • Wood typically comes in 8 foot lengths.  Your work area should be large enough to accommodate 4-5 feet of lumber on each side of your work surface.

  • Lighting is important.  In order to see marks on wood and to line up saw blades correctly, your area should be well-lit.
  • Cutting wood causes LOTS of sawdust.  Cleaning the sawdust should be a priority and the easier it is to clean, the more likely you are to do it.  Saw dust can be very harmful to the lungs, so it should be vacuumed regularly.  If you are working outside, this is pretty easy.  Garages can often be blown out with a leaf blower.  Basements and indoor spaces require more thought.  You probably don’t want to create sawdust in your finished basement.

A garage, basement, shed or driveway work well.  If you are planning on sharing your garage / driveway with tools and your cars, it helps to put your tools and work surfaces on wheels so you can move them around as needed.

If working inside, make sure the area is well lit.  Florescent lights work well in workshops.

What Next?

You’ll be amazed at how many projects can be built from these basic tools.  Honestly, there isn’t much you can’t build using these tools, but most of us are pressed for time, so larger woodworking machines can help make the task faster and more accurate.

We’ll cover the power tools you’ll want to consider in another post, but, for now, practice your skills:

  • Measuring – As simple as it sounds, missing measurements is a sure way to keep your project from turning out properly.  Practice measuring, transferring the measurement to your workpiece, then cutting along the lines exactly.  Seems dumb, but the more precise your projects become, the more measuring becomes important.
  • Marking top, bottom, sides – Use a pencil to write on your workpiece (or use painter’s tape if you don’t want to write on your material) to mark the top, bottom, front, back and sides of your workpiece.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a cut only to realize that the workpiece was turned backwards… rendering the piece unusable.  Develop good habits now!
  • Templates – If you need to make more than 1 identical cut, use a stop block or template to ensure that your cuts are exact.  For example, when cutting table legs, if one leg is even 1/8″ off, the finished piece will wobble and rock.  Don’t trust yourself to measure exactly the same every time… use a template that ensures identical cuts.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice – With practice comes skill.  It’s as true to woodworking as it is for anything else.  The more  you repeat a task, the better you become at it.  Plus, understanding your tools will keep you safe.

Begin Woodworking

  1. Find Something to Build – Check out our Project Plans page for a list of great project ideas. Start off building a workbench or a simple bookcase.
  2. Pick up Some Tools – We have links to the latest prices on tools on our Shopping Page. Figure out what tools you want to start with and then find a good price on them. NOTE: We also have links to Coupons and Discounts for major woodworking retailers.
  3. Start Building – Check out our How To posts for help with building. YouTube is a great source for woodworking videos and information as well.

Get Started and have fun!