5 Proven Tips for Woodworking Like a Pro
Whether you are an avid DIYer or have always wanted to get into woodworking, learning how to work with wood is not as challenging as you would think. With these five proven tips, shared by Paul from Woodwork Boss, you can start learning how to woodwork like as a professional, even as a beginner. You don’t need all the fancy tools, just a willingness to learn. And, these tried and true tricks will definitely put you on the fast track to some awesome wood creations.
Woodworking is a wonderful skill to acquire. Even an amateur woodworker can accomplish many practical things, such as making a bench for the garden, framing an odd-sized painting, or fixing a broken drawer.
For centuries, wooden items were created with only hand tools. Nowadays, power tools make the work go quicker with less elbow grease. A lot of projects these days are accomplished with a combination of hand tools and power tools.
Choosing the right project is very important to achieving early success. As with any learning experience, simple skills should be mastered before moving on to more complicated ones. Otherwise, both the final product and your satisfaction in the work will be less than what it could be.
Let’s look at five proven woodworking tips that will help you become an accomplished woodworker in the best possible way.
First, you only have so many eyes, ears and fingers. Taking good care of them should take priority over any woodworking endeavor.
Even if you’re only using hand tools, wood shavings and splinters can fly around and end up in an eye. Without your sight, it would be difficult to become a talented woodworker so the first thing to focus on is eye protection.
Regular eyeglasses are not good eye protection. Wood dust can easily fly inside the frames and lenses.
Instead, get eye protection goggles from a hardware store. The goggles should fit snuggly to the sides of your face. The elastic band that keeps them on your head should be adjustable.
As you work on your projects, keep the goggles free of scratches, smudges, sap, dust, and any other obstruction that will prevent you from seeing clearly.
Every power tool makes noise. There are several types of ear protection you can get. Some people prefer the earmuff style while others like earplugs. Either one will do – as long as you use them.
Loud noises, such as the ones produced by power tools, have been proven to cause hearing loss. Hearing aids are expensive so protect your hearing now while you still have it.
Also, bystanders need eye and ear protection, too. If someone is looking on while you work, have an extra pair of safety glasses and earplugs. And, insist that they wear them.
Nearly every woodworking tool has the potential of damaging or cutting fingers. You only have 10 and they don’t grow back. So, protect your fingers with a good well-fitting pair of leather gloves.
If you have a helper that is handling the wood, he or she needs good gloves, too. Remember safety comes first, above all other woodworking tips.
Start with Simple Joints
Choosing the correct first project can make or break you as a woodworker. If you take on a project that is too ambitious, you can become bogged down in the details and the end result may not look as good as you hoped it would.
Being proud of the finished project is very important if you plan to be a good woodworker. Like any skill worth learning, it is best to start with basics and get proficient in them. Then, gradually add skills that are more difficult.
The basic butt joint is the simplest method of joinery. You can build a bench, shelf or box with just this joint.
Also, the mitered butt joint requires getting the perfect angle on the cut. When you’re ready to try it, a picture frame or shallow box are good projects.
Nobody gets these joints perfect the first time (or the first five times) so plan to practice this joint many times before you feel proficient at it.
When purchasing the wood for your project, buy a few extra boards for practicing. You can also use your practice pieces to test stains and paints before applying them to the real thing.
Next, learn the half lap joint. This joint is useful for box dividers. For example, create a shallow 4-inch deep box using the basic butt joint or the mitered butt joint in the corners.
Then, divide the box into four sections by adding two slats, using the half-lap joint where they cross in the center.
With these three joints, you can create a lot of different woodworking projects!
Use a Few Basic Hand Tools
Old-timers did all their woodworking with hand tools. They built entire houses and barns with them. They filled them with furniture and cabinets. Mentioning this is not recommending you plan to build a house with hand tools. However, it is good to know it can be done.
If you are not already proficient with power tools, you might want to make a project or two with hand tools. Take your time to get a feel for the wood and how it responds to saws, nails, screws, sanding, painting, and staining.
Most beginner projects can be done with just these hand tools:
- hand saw
- simple miter box
- miter square
Take a look at the cross-cut hand saw. It is designed to cut wood across that grain and leave a smooth finish. You can purchase a cross-cut hand saw at any large hardware store and it will work well for these projects.
The screwdriver should match the screws you will use. If you are not sure which screws will work best, ask the hardware store clerk to help you choose the right ones.
Since most screws need Phillips-head screwdrivers, get a screwdriver that fits well into the heads of the screws you will be using. Phillips-head screwdrivers have the cross pattern, not the straight-line pattern.
Additionally, the best ruler for a beginner who is making some beginner woodworking projects is a metal 36″ yardstick.
A simple miter box is very handy for making mitered corners of boxes or picture frames. You can purchase an inexpensive plastic miter box wherever the cross-cut saw is sold.
Recognize that Fine Wood Gives a Professional Look
For first projects, you might decide to use inexpensive wood. However, be aware that specialty wood can make the project look really stunning.
Some fancy wood is veneer. That is, there is just a thin layer of specialty wood covering the front surface of the sheet.
Most lumberyards carry 1/8-inch birch panels in their plywood section. This is not expensive and can look beautiful if the correct finish is applied.
Below are two pieces of pine boards – the one on the left is the better quality (compared to the knottier one on the right):
Making a Simple Box – Woodworking Tips
- Start by building the sides of a shallow box. You can use either the basic butt joint or mitered joint for this. The sides can be made out of a 3-1/5-inch or 4-inch wide pine board.
- Cut a piece of birch panel for the bottom of the box. Use tack nails and glue to create the bottom of the box. Make sure the corners are at a perfect 90-degree angle so that the box is perfectly square.
- Create a picture frame that fits on top of this box.
- Cut and insert a piece of birch paneling into the picture frame. Glue it into the picture frame.
- Sand any rough edges down with very fine sandpaper. Wipe every bit of dust and grease off the box and cover.
- Coat every part of the box with sanding sealer. This ensures that the final finish looks even and not blotchy.
- When the sanding sealer is dry, apply a nice light stain or clear polyurethane finish to your box. Test the finish on scraps of the different types of wood you used for the box to see if you like it.
Congratulate yourself on making a very nice, custom project. Use the box to hold your small hand tools, watches or give it as a gift.
Fine-tuning a Few Basic Skills
Once you have made a few projects with hand tools, you should have a good feel for how the wood responds to you and your tools.
Your confidence has improved. You are now ready to learn the skills needed to use some basic power tools for your woodworking projects.
Start with the power drill. First, you will also need a tiny drill bit that you can use to make pilot holes before screwing boards together. Pilot holes help prevent the wood from splitting and allows the screws to go into the wood straighter and with less effort.
Then, you can put the screws into the pilot holes with your handheld screwdriver or you can put a screwdriver bit into your electric drill and zip the screws into the wood in the blink of an eye.
Two power saws that are relatively safe for beginners are handheld jigsaws and scroll saws. These are much safer than circular saws, chop saws or table saws.
Start with a handheld jigsaw. Buy a small variety of blades designed for wood (not metal). Read the instructions that come with the saw and practice putting the different blades into the saw. Get a feel for how tight the set screw should be to hold the blade securely.
Woodworking is a great way to forget the troubled outside world, and enjoy the work of your own hands. Always use your safety equipment – sight protection, hearing protection and gloves. These God-given tools are irreplaceable.
Choose simple projects in the beginning. Feel free to make several of the same item, getting better each time. Practice the basic skills and add new ones when the first ones are mastered.
Woodworking is a time-honored tradition that brings challenges and victories. If you have decided to take up woodworking, you have chosen wisely.
Paul is an avid woodworker and the editor-in-chief of the website Woodworkboss.com. Via his site, he hopes to inspire fellow woodworking enthusiasts while sharing tips and ideas for woodworkers who are starting their crafting journey.
Your article was simple and easy to follow – I can’t wait to get started on a new hobby/challenge!
Thank you, I really appreciate it! Feel free to stop by from Woodworkboss.com when you are starting with woodworking – it can be quite intimidating at first but it sure is thrilling!
These are really great tips! I am excited to apply these to projects when we buy a house. And even on small projects around the apartment. Where is the best place to buy wood and how do you know what type to purchase?
Thanks for your comment Meg! It depends a lot on your location, but regarding type, we have on little guide on our site for that: https://woodworkboss.com/general/how-to-choose-woodworking-woods/, it might help a bit 🙂
Great tips!! 🙂
Thank you Danielle! 🙂
This is a wonderfully written post. There’s nothing like sitting back to admire your first finished build project.
Have a great day.
Agreed 🙂 Have a wonderful day too 🙂
My husband’s soon planning to build a flower box for my grandmother. I may share this post and some of it’s ideas with him, Thanks for posting!
Aww that sounds wonderful, Patty! I bet it turns out beautifully 🙂
Great points! Helpful post. 🙂
Definitely some great tips! 🙂
I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for recipes, crafts, tips, and tricks: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pluckyrecipescraftstips/
Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!
Thanks Jess 🙂 Would love to!
Great tips, especially about the safety. The circular saw still scares me and I have been using power tools for a while now.
Thanks Debra 🙂 Yes, safety always comes first.
I’ve always loved the idea of woodworking. I had a jigsaw in highschool and loved making little home decor items. Now I make yard art for the holidays. I’ve never tried anything with joints but your article makes it sound easy.
Thanks Kristina 🙂 Your holiday yard art sounds awesome!
Fantastic tips! I’ve been getting more ambitious with my woodworking projects lately, and these tips will definitely be useful. Thanks so much for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!
Thanks Leslie 🙂 It’s time I learned a few woodworking skills too!
Thanks so much for posting this. My dad is great at woodworking, but due to his health, he can’t really do it anymore. I’m starting to learn a little bit and I just got my first set of power tools for Mother’s Day.
Aww I’m sorry to hear that. It’s wonderful that you are starting to learn though 🙂 I bet you’re making him so proud 🙂 Hope you had a nice Mother’s Day 🙂
My dad was good at woodworking. I loved your post. I think if I was young I would take that up as a hobby.
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Aww it’s never too late, Kathleen 🙂 Hope you’re having a nice weekend
Great tips! Woodworking is not my forte. I suck at it,
Thanks Kristin 🙂
I love this post! So many people I’ve talked to seem too intimidated by the idea of building to even try it. The first time I built something I had NO idea what I was doing. It took awhile for me to figure out how to change drill bits and how to use the table saw. It just takes some practice and is such a great skill to have! Thanks for sharing this with us at the Home Matters Link Party, hope to see you again next week:) #HomeMattersParty
That’s awesome that you taught yourself! Woodworking is such a wonderful skill 🙂 Ash loves to disappear to the garage to create new things, and I think it’s time I learned too. All this talk of woodworking is inspiring me 🙂 Hope you are having a wonderful weekend!
Great tips Paul. This has reminded me that I need to practice making half lap joints for my drawer dividers. Thanks for sharing Eileen! xx
Sure thing 🙂 Hope you’re enjoying the weekend, Kate!
I’m still a big chicken when it comes to power tools and these tips are very helpful. Thank you for sharing with us at Celebrate Your Story, and I hope you’re having a great weekend.
That’s great, Sandra! Hopefully you’ll get more comfortable with them 🙂 You can make so much! Hope you are enjoying the weekend
You have made woodworking sound so easy to do! I have thought about doing it in the past but I don’t know about it. After reading this post I must give it a thought again!
I found you on Paula’s Weekend Party Link-up! I’m pretty new to blogging! I’ll be back checking up on this lovely blog!
Hi Tammy, So nice to “meet” you! I think you could definitely learn. Ash has taught himself everything – and it’s on my list to start learning his tricks. I would love to be able to do more myself 🙂
Wonderful article! I know the very basics of woodworking and I feel confident in making those smaller boxes but, I’m always learning and coming up with ideas that are far beyond what I can actually do 😉 I need to start somewhere, right? 😀 Thanks for sharing this info with us at Funtastic Friday! Pinned & sharing
Thanks Angie! I think you’re off to an awesome start 🙂 I have to follow too – I would love to be able to learn more 🙂
I have been such a wimp about power tools, so this is helpful in pushing me beyond that! Thanks for sharing for IDIYedthat!
That’s great, Leigh!! I’m so glad you found it inspiring 🙂
Love these tips. Good to hear what other crafty people do. I’m always learning. 🙂
Thanks for sharing at To Grandmas House We Go. Scheduled to Pinterest too.
Thanks Stephanie! I love learning too 🙂 Hope you’re having a nice weekend
Great tips guys–thanks for sharing them with us at Vintage Charm 🙂
Thanks Diana 🙂
Never tried any woodworking project but your post is so encouraging. This post has got the amazing details of the does and don’ts of a woodworker. Safety always takes a prior part and mentioned it very effectively. Thank you for sharing the post.
Thanks Nihal! Glad you enjoyed it:)
This is a very great suggestion particularly to those new to blogosphere, short and accurate information. Thanks for sharing this one. A must read the article.
I am inspired by your work and got some great ideas. Thanks and keep sharing 🙂
I was looking for information regarding this and finally got one. Thanks for sharing the information with us. The article was a great help to me.
To become an expert you need to destroy a lot of wood panels :). It took me a whole week to complete a simple chair