Beginning Woodworking: A Primer

You’ve made the decision to begin the hobby of woodworking, or at least you have given the topic some thought.  Hopefully this article will give you some guidance and provide some thoughtful insight into your new hobby.

This article should be viewed as a primer, to help steer you in the right direction and help you apply some critical thought to the subject.  You can choose to follow or not follow what I’ve written in this article.  Either way, I won’t assume any liability for any action or inaction.

First Questions to Ask

You need to ask your self what do you want to do and you should ask yourself some questions.

  • What kinds of projects do I want to build?
  • Where will I set up a shop?
  • What time commitment will I make to the hobby?
  • How much money will I be able to earmark for equipment, supplies, etc.?
  • What are my personal abilities?

Types of projects

Woodworking covers a broad range of possibilities, limited only by your imagination (and your wallet). Give this question some serious thought, delving into something half-heartedly will only lead to disappointment. You will quickly lose interest and end up with a lot of costly equipment gathering dust.

Setting up shop

My belief has always been that if someone really wants to do something, they will find a way. Woodworking is no exception. If you have a basement, spare room, garage, or shed, you can easily set up shop. However, there are limitations to consider and you need to be realistic. Obviously, it wouldn’t be practical to build large cabinets in the spare room down the hall. On the other hand, living in an apartment, condominium or small house should not prevent you from crafting small woodworking projects.

Making the most of your free time

Your projects, whether simple or complex, can be worked on a little at a time. If it takes you a whole year to complete that end table, so what? The idea is that you enjoy your available time spent working with wood. Of course, there are a myriad shop jigs and aids that will help you become more efficient in your work as you build up your skills.

Financial considerations

Online auctions and buy-sell sites, such as ebay and Craig’s List are good places to look for your tools, but be careful buying goods sight-unseen from a distant seller. Scams abound on these sites, and sending money to an anonymous person, only to never hear back, will provide a stinging lesson in trusting strangers. It is better to deal with sellers who live in your area, so that you can visit in person and look over the goods before buying. Don’t be afraid to haggle, and walk away if the deal doesn’t sound right.

Your abilities

As with any hobby, one cannot expect to gain immediate proficiency; there is a certain learning curve involved. Such is the case with woodworking. All that is needed to get started is a basic level of mechanical aptitude and good hand/eye coordination.

Unless you are a total klutz and fall over your own untied shoelaces, you should do just fine.

If you are a bit afraid of tools and other sharp objects, don’t worry. A healthy bit of fear, developed into a healthy dose of respect for the hazards involved, will help ensure a safe woodworking experience.


Woodworking is dynamic, and it carries inherent risks. Power tools can cause serious injury if misused or if operated without giving them your undivided attention. Hand tools, such as chisels, hand saws, and planes, can inflict serious cuts.

Many operations in woodworking, including sanding, routing, cutting, and applying finishes, can create breathing hazards from dust and fumes. The dust of some species of woods can cause severe allergic reactions in some people.

Many finishing products contain toxic solvents and other chemicals. Dust and solvent fumes, and oily rags can also present a fire hazard.

The sound generated by many power tools can damage your hearing over time.  Electric-powered tools can deliver a serious, possibly fatal, shock if the user comes in contact with an energized conductor.  Flying dust or chips of wood can injure your eyes.  Spinning tool bits and blades can sometimes disintegrate, sending fragments in many directions.

Your Turn

Are you considering woodworking?  What are your questions?  What are your concerns?  Ask them in the comments below and we’ll try to answer them here or in additional articles.