Woodworking Basics for Beginners: How to Get Started Building With Wood

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If you are new to woodworking, there are some very important things to know as a beginner. Many people who start woodworking often struggle so hopefully this guide of the woodworking basics for beginners will help you avoid all the possible pitfalls new woodworking beginners can face.

This guide to woodworking for beginners will hopefully help you get on the fast track to building your own furniture and making home repairs in no time!

Don’t Worry: Everybody Starts as a Woodworking Beginner

The first thing you should remember as a new woodworker is that everybody had to start somewhere. Most people don’t become master carpenters the first time they pick up a hammer. It can be easy to feel discouraged at first, but with some practice you will soon be building things you never thought would be possible. 

Many beginners who are new to woodworking struggle because they never took the time to learn the basics of what you need to know when you are building something with wood. They also tend to compare themselves to someone who is very experienced and wonder why they are so far behind. What we need to remember however is in most of these cases you are often seeing someone with over 30 years of experience and daily practice!

Like most hobbies or even professions, the more time you put into learning the basics and practicing the skills, the better results you will see. If you have patience and dedication, all of the other skills can be easily developed.

If you make it a point and effort to practice your woodworking skills you WILL see results! Learning these simple basics now will help you learn good habits early to complete projects successfully and without frustration.

10 WoodWorking Basics Beginner Woodworkers Should Know When Getting Started

woodworking tips for beginners

These 10 basics will walk you through everything you need from start to finish in successfully completing your first woodworking project – plus lots of helpful tips to help you stay organized, safe and save time along the way.

1. Know Your Wood: Understanding Lumber and Types of Wood for Building

For some reason, people often dive into a new woodworking project as a beginner without even really understanding the different types of wood that exist and whether wood is even the best material to use for the project.

The first thing to know when you start woodworking is naturally to understand the different types of wood and the properties of wood.

Knowing how to choose the right lumber for your project can make a BIG difference!

It’s also very helpful to know why wood will do the things it does. If you’re wondering why your boards are warping or are why the wood splits every time you try to drill into it, chances are you haven’t taken enough time to fully understand the way wood behaves!

Learning about the different types of wood and how wood behaves is going to give you a BIG advantage and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Certain types of lumber are going to better suited for certain projects than others. Some types of lumber can be lightweight and easy to work with, but not always strong. Hard woods like oak can have their own special set of challenges to consider.

One thing to remember is that wood comes from nature, and there are many different types of trees! Pine, maple, oak, cherry, poplar, and birch are jut a few of the many types of wood that exist. Some of these woods are better suited for different projects than others.

For example, if you know that wood expands and shrinks depending on climate temperature and moisture, this can help you prepare by making sure your wood acclimates to being indoors before you start cutting and building with it.

If you understand a little bit about wood grain, this can also help you know a bit more on how to cut wood to avoid splitting and cracking.

Knowing that wood is absorbent can also help you when you explore the different adhesives and wood glues to join wood together. This quality is also helpful to know about when you decide to paint or stain wood.

Beyond just types of wood and the properties of wood, it is helpful to understand important things about buying wood and manufactured wood products at a lumber store.

There’s everything from your standard dimensional lumber to manufactured wood products. There are so many different things to consider, such as pressure treated lumber, plywood, oriented strand board (OSB) and medium density fiberboard (MDF).

It might seem overwhelming at first, but knowing all of your options for types of wood can be very helpful! Spend some time at a local lumber store and explore the different types of wood available. Take the time to understand how wood behaves when you are working with it.

2. Set up a Dedicated Work Space

woodworking tools organized
Many people find it is easiest if tools are on display for storage and organizing.

Another thing that is very important to consider when you are doing building projects as a beginner is how you plan to organize and setup your workspace.

You don’t need to dedicate an entire garage or shed to woodworking and building projects – but you DO want to have a way to neatly store and organize your tools and building materials. Many woodworking projects also require some space – especially if you plan on building large bulky things like furniture.

Getting organized and setting up a space now is going to save you a LOT of frustration and time later down the road.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who are wonderfully skilled carpenters that struggle for no good reason with projects simply because they are disorganized! Maybe you know someone like this – they can’t remember where they put the tool they need or they have to clean up a huge pile of stuff from a completely unrelated project just to be able to get to their work bench.

You can avoid this problem now and start with good organization habits early. Don’t wait until you have a “real shop space”. Organize now and you likely will be able to easily build anything anywhere. You don’t need a lot of space – but you do need a dedicated place where you can organize everything neatly so you can find it and use it safely.

See: 12 Tips for How to Organize Your Tools
Essentials Every Wood Shop Should Have
Dust Collection Solutions for Wood Shops

3. Respect the Tools and Practice Woodworking Safety

woodworking safety goggles

The next big thing of course to know, before we get into anything else – you need to learn to respect the tools and ALWAYS practice woodworking safety.

Safety might sound boring or even redundant, but there are plenty of people who “know better” that still end up in the emergency room every year for not using tools properly and neglecting simple safety basics.

Most injuries can be prevented and practicing safety does not take any extra effort or time – it’s just a matter of establishing good habits and practices NOW when you are a beginner.

Essential Safety Equipment for Woodworking
Woodworking Safety Tips

4. Learn the Different Types of Tools and Their Uses

There are thousands of tools out there to choose from for your projects, and naturally some tools are better for certain projects than others. While you may be familiar with basics such as “screwdriver” or “saw” – even these things can vary widely because there are different types!

Another thing to think about is whether you want to use power tools vs. hand tools. Many woodworkers use both, so just being familiar with all of the different options out there can help you determine which ones are going to be most helpful.

There are many different types of woodworking projects, and there are plenty of great tools to build them all. The important thing to ask first before buying any tool: What types of things do you want to build?

Having an idea of what you want to build will help you determine which tools are going to be the right ones for the job. This will help you plan your budget for supplies and materials efficiently.

In addition to basic tools that are a must for any woodworker, there are also many specialized tools that you may require at some point.

Cabinet Making Tools
Furniture Making Tools
Wood Carving Tools

Taking some time to learn about the different types of tools now will save you a lot of time and money later on. You may realize you don’t necessary need 12 different types of saws – a simple table saw or circular saw is all you need for now.

Which leads us to the next thing beginning woodworkers need to know…

5. Start With a Project & Learn to Read Woodworking Plans

When you are just learning, it’s a LOT easier to learn by using a project that has been tested and tried first. Often times these woodworking plans will also include a set list of materials and procedure instructions for how to build the item step by step.

Woodworking plans can sometimes be tough to read and understand, but in many cases they are not that difficult to figure out. Most woodworking plans at the very least will include a list of materials and what size to cut each piece. This alone can save you a LOT of time and frustration!

How to Read Woodworking Plans
How to Make a Cut List From Woodworking Plans

6. Understand the Woodworking Process

You have the space, you have the tools, you know the safety tips, you have a project – now it’s time to really dive in and understand the process in creating something from beginning to end.

For most woodworking projects, you’ll find that all of the steps from start to finish are essentially the same. Often times you will follow the same steps each time you make something new. Learning the process of woodworking will help you save a lot of time and frustration as you try to build your own projects.

While every woodworker has their own workflow and way of doing things, most generally follow these steps when building a project:

  • Choose a Project
  • Gather Supplies & Materials
  • Make a Cut List
  • Review the Build Strategy
  • Measure & Cut the Wood
  • Assemble the Wood
  • Apply a Protective Finish to the Wood

Following the basic steps and routine will give you a good framework for completely projects successfully. If you try to multi-task and do all of these steps at the same time you are going to be more likely to make a mistake or become disorganized.

7. Master the Cut: How to Measure and Cut Wood Accurately

Another important thing that is important when you are new to woodworking is learning how to measure accurately. It can be very frustrating to try to get two different boards all the same size if you don’t know the tricks for how to make even and consistent cuts every time.

Learning how to cut wood accurately as a beginner woodworker will not only save time, but it can also save you a lot of money. Often times you will be able to save a lot if you are able to buy longer boards you cut yourself.

Tips for Measuring it Right The First Time

8. Learn How to Assemble and Join Wood

While the wood and tools are important, it’s also very important to learn the basics of how to join two pieces of wood together properly! Knowing the tips and tricks for assembling all the pieces of wood together will make your life a lot easier.

It all depends on the project you are working on, but there are many different types of fasteners and adhesives to be aware of. There are also many ways to join wood for special finishes.

Wood Joinery: Types of Wood Joints
Wood Glue 101

There are also a lot of different methods of assembling projects together that can make the process much more enjoyable. For example, you will likely want to learn how to master dry-fitting before you attempt to glue something together. And in almost all cases, woodworking clamps are your best friend.

9. Protect Your Creations: Best Practices for Sanding & Finishing Wood

Once your project is successfully assembled, you are ready to move onto the next step, which is to sand the piece and give your project a protective finish.

As beginner woodworker it is very important to learn the basics of how to sand and finish your woodworking projects. This will ensure your projects are built to last and will be enjoyed for many more years to come.

Sanding furniture is going to ensure a nice smooth finish whether you choose to use a clear protectant, stain or paint the piece – it will also ensure no one gets any splinters when they try and use the item you built! There are a number of ways to sand wood, whether you choose to use sandpaper or invest in something such an orbital sander.

Once the piece is sanded, your next step is to give it a protective finish. The type of protective finish you use will often depend on how the item will be used, as well as what type of projects you are making.

Protecting Wood Without Staining or Varnish
How to Stain Wood The Right Way
How to Paint Wood

10. Clean Up the Mess!

Last, but not least, it is very important to clean up the mess when you are finished! There are many things you can do to help reduce the mess you make while you are working, such as keeping sawdust to a minimum indoors.

Make sure you sweep up and put all of your tools away. If you used glue or varnish, you’ll want to make sure these items are properly sealed and stored so they don’t dry out between projects.

If you have any leftover scrap wood from whatever you are making and building, you may also wish to set up some storage and organization to use these materials for a future project.

DIY Lumber Storage Rack Ideas
17 Ways to Keep Your Workspace Clean and Tidy

Now that we’ve covered all of the woodworking basics for beginners you are ready to dive in and start building!

And of course, once you master these 10 woodworking basics, you’ll be ready to explore more advanced woodworking techniques that you can practice to build and develop your carpentry skills.

Need inspiration for what to build? Check out our free woodworking plans and projects, subscribe to our YouTube channel and of course you can always follow us on Pinterest for plenty of inspiration and ideas!

I hope you find this beginner’s guide helpful and of course if you have any questions about getting started with the basics of building things yourself, feel free to ask us anything in the comments section below.

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