Advise for beginners

Mike Davis

Corporate Member
Build you a work bench even if it’s a cheap rickity one. A sorry bench is better than none at all. You can use it to build a better one when you are ready for it.

Buy a cheap rusty hand plane. Take it apart, clean it, put it back together, sharpen and adjust it, use it at least 15 minutes a day for a couple weeks. It will build character, muscles, knowledge, and the desire for a better plane. By then you will know what to look for and what it is worth to you.

Don’t waste your money on cheap chisels. There is nothing to learn there. Buy the best and enjoy using them. Keep them sharp and don’t abuse them.

There are many kinds of sharpening stones. Diamonds are the best and the cheapest in the long run.

Do you need a table saw? If you are asking that question you have already answered it. Now which one? I prefer the ones over thirty years old.

How do you know when you are ready for a new tool? Are you struggling without it? Same thing with training, if you are struggling then you need help. Get someone experienced to show you the ropes.


Ok, I'll add a couple more...
  • Take time to understand wood, how trees grow, what are the characteristics of particular species, and how to recognize common species. Then move on to understand the different ways to slice a board from a log. Not all boards are equal. There's plain/plank sawn, quarter sawn, rift sawn and live sawn. Learn how each works and looks.

  • Focus on building a skill set rather than tool set. This will lead you to own the right tools for the work you enjoy doing. Satisfaction increases when you bring the tool to the work rather than the other way around. What I mean is that when you use a table saw you are simply feeding the machine. When you use a hand saw you become the machine and the tool is an extension of you. Not saying to avoid power tools, but don't make them a substitute for learning how to use hand tools.

Roy G

Senior User
Look around for classes. The Craft Center at NC State used to have a class for beginners to show how to use the tools. Maybe a community college has something. Read a lot of books to see how things should be built. Haunt Youtube. Don't be afraid of stretching your abilities to try something new. Look in your area for clubs or groups of people with similar interests. If you are on Next-door Neighbor post a message looking for other woodworkers. Don't buy all your wood from the big box stores. They have limited selection and pretty high prices.

Roy G

Charlie Buchanan

Corporate Member
Great advice from Mike. You don’t need a fancy bench to start. Indeed, you won’t know what kind of bench you need until you find your direction in woodwork.


Corporate Member
Willemim, This goes to perspective - When I was young I wanted to be a career musician- I ended up successful, paid well and traveled the world. The passion become a job. At some point, I realized having more than one skill was essential in order to keep balance and perspective in one's life.
For me, the solution was to find other things to rely on for income besides music, then the job becomes a passion and a hobby and still a means of some income. Not easy but focus and persistence is the key. Woodworking is just like music, requires the ability to be creative, discipline, focus and practice. The quest is the endless road to improvement

Don’t do what I did. Once the hobby pays more than for itself, it is no longer a hobby and all the fun is gone.

Matt Furjanic

Senior User
Don’t do what I did. Once the hobby pays more than for itself, it is no longer a hobby and all the fun is gone.
I don’t find that my business Is not fun. On the contrary, I really enjoy it. I guess maybe because it’s not full time. I work about 20 hours per week and it IS FUN!

Martin Roper

My "bench" for 20 years has been three saw horses and a sheet of plywood.

I started on a workbench based on a design I saw in a woodworking magazine, but ended up not liking it and converted it into a cabinet. I didn't like it as a cabinet either, so I dismantled it and used bits of it to make a miter saw stand and drum saw stand which are nearing completion.

After that it's time to build the bench I think I really want.

Brian Patterson

Just one thought - old tools may not be as safe as newer designs - for a beginner, this could backfire badly. My old DeWalt RAS saws are the bomb but took a fair bit of refurb to bring up to safely use - good example to that reality.

All my planes are used but in very good shape - worthwhile blades, no broken parts, etc. I wouldn’t buy a piece of junk for any reason.

And there are gobs of plans for scoping out what you can make or fit in your workspace, which underscores the value of research and planning vs. an uncharted course. This is the advise I’d give a beginner, along with trying to determine what you want to make to make tool choices that will support your interests.
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Jim M.

Corporate Member
Master some basic hand tools first, the cuts bleed less. But seriously start by learning to use some basic hand tools, you'll understand the craft much better and make less mistakes once you transition to power tools.


Senior User
If the neighborhood allows, build a fire pit. You will have scraps and some projects will go completely wrong. Might as well make s'mores out of them rather than have the garbage man haul them away.


Senior User
You may be clever or a genius or even an engineer, but somebody in the past has spent their 6-day, 12-hour workweeks thinking about your exact same woodworking problem that you have as a weekend warrior. So really understand their solution first before you go doing something new.


Board of Directors, Development Director
Staff member
Corporate Member
invest in the best dust collection system you can reasonably afford. Woodworking is fun, but can have lasting health effects if you dont care of the air!


Senior User
invest in the best dust collection system you can reasonably afford. Woodworking is fun, but can have lasting health effects if you dont care of the air!
Yes. As soon as you get that table saw and miter saw then buy the dust collector. Besides the health benefit, it is so much more enjoyable not to have to continually clean up all at the dust and chips.

One other thing I always tell people that want to get into woodworking: Let me or someone show you the cardinal rules when using especially the tablet saw so as not to get injured.


New User
As a newbie I signed up for a course online and it has been great. The Weekend Woodworker from Steve Ramsey of WWMM (Woodworking for Mere Mortals) Youtube fame. He really breaks it down to easy steps and I am truly enjoying it.

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