Woodworking Basics: A Short Introductory Course

Woodworking is a gratifying hobby that is not only profitable but can also help you save money while gaining a sense of accomplishment and receiving a boost of stress relief. It’s deeply satisfying and just as rewarding, even if you never plan on selling your woodworking masterpieces. But not everyone is born with a handful of woodworking skills – or the equipment needed to get started. The good news is that this is a fairly easy hobby to learn and it doesn’t have to come with a hefty price like many other activities and trade skills require. So, whether you slacked off in your high school shop class, didn’t choose it as a class or have never thought about woodworking prior to this moment. It’s never too late to learn woodworking.

woodworking basics introductory course

What is Woodworking?

Perhaps you’ve heard people talk about woodworking and are interested in getting started yourself, but want to make sure it aligns with your idea of what woodworking is. Well, put simply, woodworking is a craft that involves cutting, shaping and joining wood to create or build things. It’s a skill of making items from wood, which can include anything from wood carving to carpentry, cabinet making, joinery, woodturning and everything in between. If it involves making something out of wood, it’s woodworking.

The Essential Tools Needed to Get Started

There’s a common misconception that you have to fork over a ton of money to start woodworking, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. While there’s no denying that you certainly can spend an insane amount of money, it is necessary. The tools you need will also depend on the type of woodworking you want to practice, which I explain in more detail below.

For starters, there are five essential woodworking tools needed to begin crafting items out of wood. These tools are used to cut, finish, assemble, measure and hold the wood pieces in place throughout the building process. There are different options for each category and you typically won’t need all of these to begin. For example, there are numerous types of power saws to choose from, but you won’t need to have all of them to start woodworking, or any of them if you intend on doing hand tool woodworking.

  • Power saw: electrical saws used to cut wood
  • Handsaw: simple and easy tools to use for quick work or where more precision cuts are needed
  • Planes: wood cutting tools use a fixed blade to shave off wood fibers to give them shape and to make them progressively smoother
  • Sander: tools used to smoothen and finish the wood pieces
  • Assembly tools: tools used to assembly the pieces
    • Hammer
    • Mallet
    • Power drill
    • Screw gun
  • Measurement tools: tools used to properly measure wood pieces from all sorts of angles
    • Squares
    • Tape measurer
  • Helpful extras: additional tools you can use to enhance the process
    • Sawhorse
    • Workbench

Types of Woodworking

There are many different types of woodworking that will also determine the tools you need to get started. Understanding the different types will also help you narrow in on a style that really captivates your creative side. Keep in mind, you don’t have to choose a specific type to practice and can incorporate all styles of woodworking into your practice.

  • Hand tool woodworking: using classical tools and methods such as hand saws, chisels, scrapers and planes, to build things instead of electrical tools
  • Power tool woodworking: using power tools such as table saws, miter saves, drills and sanders to build your projects
  • Digital woodworking: using digital programs and devices to design and cut your materials
  • Blended woodworking: using a mixture of hand tools and power tools
  • Specialty woodworking: areas people typically specialize in for an artistic craft

Safety Precautions

Woodworking is one of the safest hobbies you can have, but it still has the potential to be dangerous if proper safety precautions aren’t taken. It’s absolutely imperative to learn how to use all of the tools properly, regardless of whether they’re classic handheld tools or electrical or digital ones. Common sense goes a long way as well.

Wear Proper Safety Equipment and Clothing

First things first, always make sure you wear proper safety equipment and clothing when using any type of woodworking machinery or power tools. This includes proper ear protection, safety glasses and latex gloves when using chemicals to apply the finishes.

You also want to avoid wearing loose or baggy clothing that can snag or get stuck in a machine or power tool. Removing any dangling jewelry is also necessary. Basically, if it dangles or can snag, remove it before getting to your woodworking project.

Keep It Clean (and Sober)

This safety precaution for woodworking definitely falls within the ‘common sense’ category, but it’s so important that it needs to be mentioned. You’ll want to avoid using anything that can impair your judgement or reaction time. This includes alcohol and drugs, as well as prescription medication that can make you feel dizzy or drowsy.

Always Disconnect the Power

It is essential that you get in the habit of always disconnecting the power source of the tools you’re using. You’ll want to become so good at this that you may even slightly annoy yourself by unplugging tools even when you don’t have to. This is an important step, as failing to disconnect the power source before doing certain tasks, such as changing blades or bits, can result in serious injuries.

Keep Power Cords to a Minimum

The fewer extension cords you can use, the better. Having long extension cords running all over the place poses a serious tripping hazard. Plus, you only need one heavy-duty extension cord to use all of your power tools. This will also ensure that the tools get disconnected from the power source regularly (as stated previously).

Keep Your Blades Sharp

There are many downfalls to using blunt blades and bits. Using a dull cutting tool can be extremely dangerous and it also makes whatever task you’re trying to complete more difficult – you have to work harder with a dull tool. This will also help prevent injury, as dull blades can kickback. So, keep everything sharp – from your brain to your blades.

Minimize Distractions

Another safety precaution that falls into the common sense category: minimize your distractions. This one goes without saying.

Never Reach Over a Blade

Again with common sense: never reach over a running blade (or a blade that isn’t being used but that is still connected to the power source (which it should be if you followed proper precautions). These power tools can be extremely dangerous, so it’s best to avoid doing anything near them unless you’re actively using the tool (properly).

Read The Tool Manual

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly how to use the tools provided. Each tool will have a specific set of safety precautions and steps to take to use properly, so it’s important to sharpen up your knowledge of each tool being used. 

Now that you have your basic woodworking knowledge down, it’s time to find some woodworking plans. These can easily be found online or in a book, but it’s crucial to remember that not all woodworking plans are created equal. Some are more difficult than others, some use fancy jargon that may be confusing, and others have all of the plans put into simplified steps so that anyone can use them.

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