The Joy of working with wood
photo credit: BenjamenJohnson
People have always enjoyed working with wood. There is something innately satisfying and grounding about creating beautiful or useful items out of wood. Despite the increasing computerization of our lives, I think this is as true today as it has ever been. Spending time creating with wood is the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life.
If you have already undertaken a few woodwork projects then you will know what I mean. If, on the other hand, you are visiting this site with just a vague notion that you might like to learn the basics of woodworking, then I urge you to at least give it a try. My guess is you will come to love it.
To get the best from your woodworking efforts, you need a bit of preparation. When starting out I suggest you aim to achieve the following four things;
- Some space, away from day to day family life, where you have the room to spread your projects our and make a little bit of mess. A shed, workshop or garage is ideal.
- Some lumbar (timber) of reasonable quality.
- A basic set of good quality tools.
- A plan of what you want to build
Ideally you need to find a place that you can designate as your workshop. That workshop should be large enough to be able to accommodate a firm level ‘work-bench’ that you can
photo credit: John McClumpha
use to clamp and cut wood on. You will be making dust and are liable to cause damage to the work bench you use, so I would not recommend that you can double up on a sturdy dinning room table or similar. If you don’t have a dedicated shed or workshop, then a portable workbench (like a workmate) in the back yard on sunny days (or at least non-rainy ones) is the next best option initially.
Your Tool Kit
There is a bit of a catch 22 situation here. It goes something like this.
- You are going to give woodworking a try to see if you like it.
- As you are just trying it out you don’t want to spend too much money,
- So you get some cheap tools figuring you can trade up to better quality if you like it.
- Because you have cheap tools, you find it hard to work the wood, and your job doesn’t look that great.
- Because the job is not so great you don’t really enjoy woodworking.
Or to put it another way, don’t take the old saying that ‘only a bad workman blames his tools’ too literally.
The fact is woodworking is much harder if you have poor quality tools. For this reason the best advice is to avoid cheaper starter tools kits which contain lots of poor quality tools. You would be much better served by only buying a small number of good quality tools initially, and only tackling projects that can be built with those tools. You can then add to your initial tool kit as your interest and skills grow.
Initially the following tool box would be enough to get you started;
- Measuring tape (retractable)
- Try Square
- Hardpoint Saw
- Tenon Saw
- Sanding paper
Even the most complex and impressive wood furniture is largely made using a small handful of basic woodworking techniques (but done very well). Those basic techniques are as follows;
- Selecting the right wood
- Cutting that wood to size
- Measuring and marking up the wood
- Creating the individual components
- Fixing the components together (by gluing, joints, nails, screws etc)
- Finishing the item by sanding, varnishing , painting or waxing.
A toy box you make for your kids will follow this process, as did the finest furniture made by the master craftsmen of yesteryear. All that you need to do to progress from one to the other is practice…..lots and lots. Easy..yes?
photo credit: agordon1
Get Started with Templates
When you start out it is recommended that you focus on learning how to use your tools and how to master the woodworking techniques listed above. This is made much easier if you have proven easy to follow templates and plans to work from. There are many such plans available on the market and you should be able to find a suitable template for most projects you are likely to be interested in undertaking. On of the best selling is Teds Woodworking which boasts over thousands of plans together with video instruction. Depending on when you buy, it also comes with a range of useful bonuses. Click the video below to find out more about this product and to see the video review.
The key benefits that the best templates will give you is that they will come with a full materials list up front and also set out the tasks you need to undertake in the correct order. This will mean you cut down on waste, and having to back track mid project. Whilst doing things in the right order will eventually become second nature to you, as a novice a little bit of help and advice in that direction doesn’t go amiss.
After a little practice, go ahead and get creative.
Once you have built up your skills a little and are comfortable with the key processes of wood selection, measuring, cutting, joining and finishing, then you might also want to start designing you own projects. You may even what to progress onto making high quality decorative furniture or artistic and creative ornaments. Take your inspiration from some of the classic antique furniture, or create your own modern style.