18 Things Every Beginning Woodworker Should Know – Woodworking for Mere Mortals

I’ve been woodworking since I was a kid, but there are some things that took me years to figure out on my own. Before the internet, if you wanted advice from other woodworkers you needed to know another woodworker in real life! But those days are over and now we have Twitter and Facebook to tell us what to do and we can spend hours in “discussion” with other woodworkers. If you are new to this hobby and trying to sift through all the noise…maybe you just want to actually build stuff… I thought I’d share some of my 40 years of woodworking experience and give you some realistic advice on what you can expect as a new woodworker.

Keep in mind, this is just one man’s experience and opinion. If you’ve been woodworking for a while, leave a comment with your helpful advice for new woodworkers. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

1. You don’t need nails. It’s funny how many lay people think woodworking involves pounding a lot of nails. Glue is where it’s at. I buy it by the gallon.

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2. Learn how to make a simple box. Once you’d mastered how to build a square box, you will be able to make almost anything.

3. If you don’t have one yet, get a table saw. For most woodworkers, it’s the most used tool and the core of their shop.

4. Learn how to cut rabbets and dados. They are the quickest and easiest ways to join boards together without mechanical fasteners.

5. Understand what you are getting into financially. In addition to recurring expenses such as glue, screws, drill bits, sandpaper, etc., the biggest cost of a project will be the wood. Generally speaking, get into woodworking because you love to build and create your own pieces, not to save money.

6. Use plans. Either download quality plans or design your own.

7. Safety is super important. I have a whole video on safety basics. Watch it.

8. Building a big project isn’t usually any more difficult than building a smaller project.

9. Tools aren’t as important as you think. A lot of people absolutely love tools and collect them. There’s nothing wrong with collecting tools if that’s what you love to do, but if your goal is to build things, don’t spend so much time obsessing over tools. Get my Curated List of The Most Affordable Woodworking Tools.

10. All wood darkens over time. The first time you see purpleheart at a hardwood seller, you will be blown away by its beauty. Remember, in a couple years it will be brown.

11. Ignore anyone who tells you what you’re doing isn’t “real” woodworking. If you’re completing projects made out of wood, you’re a woodworker.

12. Perfection is impossible. Every project I’ve ever made has had problems and challenges.

13. Don’t point out your mistakes. Be proud of what you made. Nobody will notice its flaws.

14. There’s nothing wrong with painting projects. You have my permission.

15. A big shop is unnecessary. Use whatever space you have.

16. Almost every mistake can be salvaged and fixed. Rarely do you need to start all over again. Find creative solutions to problems.

17. Sanding is important: don’t slack off.

18. Experience will improve your woodworking more than anything else. It’s really about getting in the reps.


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