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  • Getting Started in Woodworking: A Guide to Woodworking Basics for Beginners

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    Episode One: Basic Woodworking for Beginners

    Beginner WoodworkingWelcome to the online series "Getting Started in Woodworking," a multi-step program designed to guide you through the basics of woodworking and furniture making.

    No matter what drew you to the idea of building projects with wood, whether you're taking on a do-it-yourself project around the house or shopping for a hobby, we've assembled our best collection of articles and videos to show you how to do it smartly and safely.

    Beginning with this first episode, our video tutorials, related articles, and projects cover all the basics from choosing your first hand and power tools to setting up a workspace. We'll even get you started building your first projects. You can download free woodworking project plans for a handsome cutting board, a plywood workbench that you can build with just a few tools, and an elegant small box.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Related links
    Important safety information

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video and Editing by: Gary Junken

    Episode Two: Setting up Your First Woodworking Shop and Choosing Tools

    Typically a woodworking shop starts in a corner of the garage or basement with a few tools. Over time you develop new skills, add tools to take on new projects, and expand the shop as you acquire a greater interest (or obsession) with woodworking.

    Tool Storage Ideas
    For many beginners just getting interested woodworking as a hobby, the hardest part of the process is determining what tools and equipment you need and what you can live without. In this episode, we share our recommendations for the best tools and equipment to acquire when setting up your first woodworking shop, from a sturdy workbench to the right mix of hand and power tools.

    The complete tool kit for beginners
    Our recommended tool kit includes: a sturdy workbench with a woodworking vise to hold workpieces steady when cutting or shaping parts. Marking and measuring tools for laying out and cutting parts. A circular saw or tablesaw for making rip cuts (straight cuts with the grain) and cross cuts (straight cuts against the grain). A router for shaping edges and profiles and cutting joinery. A block plane to shape parts by hand or smooth rough surfaces. A jig saw or bandsaw for making curved or irregular cuts. A palm sander to smooth surfaces for finishing. And a collection of clamps to assemble your projects or hold pieces on your workbench

    More resources for setting up shop
    We also point you to a number of articles and videos on StartWoodworking.com and our sister site FineWoodworking.com that provide more ideas and inspiration for setting up your first workshop, including an article detailing a smart shop in a one-car garage and an article about garage shop where all the tools roll away to make room for parked cars.

    You'll also find a free article download to help you design and layout a shop space and a free project plan detailing how to build a simple plywood workbench, probably the most essential pieces of equipment you'll add to your workshop.

    Related links
    Smart Shop in a One-Car Garage
    Roll-Away Workshop
    Set Up Shop on a Budget
    Free Plans: Build a Workbench
    Free Plans: Rock Solid Plywood Workbench
    A Layout Kit for Small Shops
    Lumber Storage Ideas
    Tool Storage Ideas

    Episode Three: Make a Cutting Board

    Cutting boards are a great first project for the novice woodworker because the process will introduce you to a number of basic woodworking tools and techniques and you end up with a project that is practical and attractive.

    The cutting board project detailed in this video is also nice because it can be customized to your tastes by choosing different woods, shapes, and sizes. Once you get your material, either by purchasing rough lumber from a lumberyard and milling it to size or by purchasing pre-surfaced lumber at your local home center, you're ready to begin.

    Our video walks you through the process of laying out the pattern of the cutting board, cutting it to rough size with a jig saw or on the bandsaw, smoothing the edges by sanding, rounding over the edges with a router, and drilling a hole in the handle so it can hang in your kitchen.

    Finally, we'll show you how to properly sand the surface of the cutting board to be smooth and blemish-free, and we walk through the process of applying a food-safe finish that will keep your cutting board in good shape for years to come.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Links:
    Smart Stylish Cutting Boards
    Routing Safe and Sound
    Best Practices for Drilling
    A Tablesaw Primer: Ripping and Crosscutting
    Sanding Basics
    Food-Safe Finishes

    Episode Four: Basic Joinery for Woodworking and Furniture Making

    Joinery is one of the most essential elements of woodworking and furniture making. Almost everything you build from wood will require parts to be joined and in this episode of our series Getting Started in Woodworking we demonstrate the variety of techniques available to beginner woodworkers from screws to specialized woodworking joints.

    One of the simplest joinery techniques is the butt joint, in which the end of one board is glued to the face or edge of another board. This isn't a very strong joint so we'll show you several ways to reinforce an edge joint with screws or another kind of mechanical fastener known as a biscuit.

    One step up from edge joints are the variety of joinery techniques where sections of wood are cut away in one board to accept the end of a joining board. They include the rabbet joint, the dado joint, and the groove.

    We'll also introduce you to some specialized router bits that can cut joinery, such as the cope-and-stick router bits used for building frame and panel doors. Finally, we review some of the more traditional woodworking joints including the dovetail and mortise and tenon, and walk through the many variations of these classic joinery techniques.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Video Length: 4:12
    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana; Video and Editing by: Gary Junken

    Related links:
    Dovetail Joinery
    Mortise and Tenon Joinery
    The Miter Joint
    Dadoes and Rabbets
    Biscuit Joints and Dowels
    Edge Joints
    Box Joints

    Episode Five: Make a Box, Part One

    Elegant boxLearn the basics of hand-tool woodworking in this two-part project video where we guide you through building a small elegant box.

    Download our free article for a complete measured drawing with construction details and dimensions, and then follow along with our video tutorial.

    We begin by laying out the joinery with a combination square, pencil, and marking gauge. The process detailed here employs common layout techniques that can be applied to any woodworking project.

    With all of the parts marked, we walk you through cutting the half-lap joinery on the box sides with hand tools. You'll be introduced to two kinds of woodworking handsaws, the western-style backsaw and the Japanese pull saw. We'll also show you how to chop and pare with a standard bench chisel and mallet.

    Sharp tools are the key to success on this project, so check out episode seven of Getting Started in Woodworking for a comprehensive lesson on sharpening chisels and plane irons.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Video Length: 6:27
    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana; Video and Editing by: Gary Junken

    Links
    FREE PLANS: A Small Elegant Box
    10 Questions on Chisels
    All About Sharpening

    Episode Six: Make a Box, Part Two

    Elegant boxIn the second part of this video on making an elegant small box with basic woodworking tools, we jump right in to the task of cutting a rabbet joint with an easy-to-build router table. Click here for free plans and a video detailing how to make a shopmade router table similar to the one featured in this episode.

    The router might just be the most versatile woodworking power tool there is and it's a great first tool for beginner woodworkers. When set up properly and safely handled, a router can do everything from cutting joinery to shaping parts. Just be sure you understand the basic safety procedures and read the tool's manual if you're new to using a router.

    After cutting the rabbet joints, we walk you through the glue-up and assembly of the box. This critical stage in the process involves applying glue to the box parts and using clamps to hold the parts together while the glue dries. The assembly and glue-up tips that we detail in this episode -- and our companion article -- can apply to the assembly of any woodworking project.

    And then there's the fun part. We show you how to use a handplane to shape the curved sides and top of the box. Handplanes come in all shapes and sizes, and we show you how to use the most basic of them all, a block plane, to do the work. Finally, we'll help you choose a finish and apply it with good results.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Video Length: 7:38
    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana; Video and Editing by: Gary Junken

    Related Links:
    Free Plans: A Small Elegant Box
    Free Plans: Stow-and-Go Router Table
    Assembly and Glue Up Basics
    8 Questions on Handplanes
    Choosing a Finish

    Episode Seven: Sharpening Woodworking Tools

    SharpeningWoodworking hand tools, most notably hand planes and chisels, are some of the most useful tools in the woodshop. In the time it takes to set up many power tool operations, you could have finished the job faster by hand. However, your success with hand tools depends on your ability to keep your planes and chisels sharp.

    Sharpening planes and chisels is a gateway skill in woodworking. It takes a lot of patience and practice to master a sharpening method, but once you do your woodworking skills will improve. Plus, using hand tools becomes much more enjoyable when they're sharp.

    In episode seven of our free video series, Getting Started in Woodworking, we walk you through one foolproof sharpening method. We cover flattening and polishing the back, grinding the bevel, and honing the bevel. Once you learn these skills, you can keep your tools sharp with occasional regrinding and regular honing.

    Sharpening Tool Kit:
    Follow the links below for more information about the tools and supplies featured in this episode:

    - Any model bench grinder - slow-speed (approx. 1,725 rpm) recommended
    - 60-Grit Aluminum Oxide Grinding Wheel, White
    - Veritas MK-II Honing Guide
    - Any synthetic water stones
    - Standard household glass (tip: use a piece of scratch-free glass from an old picture frame)
    - Sandpaper (220 and 320 grit wet/dry abrasives available at any hardware store)
    - Spray adhesive

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Video Length: 11:16
    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana; Video and Editing by: Gary Junken

    Links 
    All About Sharpening
    All About Grinders
    Buy The Book: The Complete Guide to Sharpening

    Episode Eight: How To Use Hand Planes

    A block plane is probably the first hand plane you'll use when getting started in woodworking. It's a relatively affordable hand tool and it's versatile. Plus, its diminutive size makes it easy to use with one hand for all types of woodworking tasks, including smoothing edges, breaking corners, trimming one surface flush to another, cleaning up end grain, and fitting joinery.

    In episode eight of our free video series, Getting Started in Woodworking, we demonstrate some of the more common uses for the block plane, identify its parts, and show you how to tune up a block plane.

    For that, we traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to the workshop of Chris Gochnour, for a detailed video tutorial. Gochnour demonstrates the tune-up process using a Stanley No. 60-1/2 low-angle adjustable-mouth block plane, but his tips and techniques can be applied to just about any plane in your tool box.

    Anatomy of a block plane
    The blade on a block plane, (click to enlarge drawing) commonly referred to as a plane iron, is mounted with the bevel side up to produce a cutting angle of about 37 degrees in a standard plane and 25 degrees in a low-angle plane. Some block planes feature an adjustable mouth, which allows the plane to be tuned for different cuts; Close the mouth and lower the blade for finish cuts or open the mouth and extend the blade for thicker rough cuts.

    Choosing and buying a block plane
    Block planes range in quality and price from hardware-store versions that cost around $35 to high-end brass planes that cost as much as $250. While the higher-priced models are likely to perform better out of the box and include higher-quality machining and parts, low-cost block planes can perform well if tuned up properly using the techniques detailed in this episode.

    Additionally, buying an aftermarket plane iron, such as those made by Hock Tools, can improve the quality of a hardware-store plane considerably. A sharp plane iron is also a critical feature, and we detail one foolproof sharpening technique in episode seven of this series.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Video Length: 8:13
    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana; Video and Editing by: Gary Junken

    Related links
    Hand Planing 101
    Block Plane v. Bench Plane
    8 Questions on Hand Planes
    Rate and Review Hand Planes in the FW Tool Guide
    Buy The Two-Book Set: Classic Hand Tools

    Episode Nine: How to Mill Rough Lumber

    In episode nine of our free video series, Getting Started in Woodworking, we demonstrate how to turn a piece of rough-sawn lumber into square and stable stock for your woodworking projects. This process, known as four-squaring a board, is an essential skill in woodworking.

    While you can purchase pre-surfaced lumber at your local home center, there are several benefits to buying rough-sawn lumber from a hardwood dealer and milling it to size in your shop. Rough-sawn lumber is typically less expensive than pre-surfaced lumber. And rough-sawn lumber can be milled to custom thickness giving you more flexibility with your woodworking designs. Check out this video for a detailed explanation on how lumber is cut and sold, including how to speak like a pro at the lumberyard and how to calculate a board foot.

    Most importantly, milling your own lumber allows you to always work with square and stable material. Wood has a tendency to warp and twist while laying around your shop as it acclimates to the temperature and humidity, and you avoid lots of errors by milling it to dimension after its had time to settle in your shop.

    The four-square method of milling lumber
    For this lesson on milling lumber, we headed out to the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, where instructor Bob Van Dyke demonstrated the classic sequence used to prepare rough lumber with power tools. Sometimes referred to by the acronym "FEE" (faces, edges, ends) the sequence involves flattening one face of the board on a jointer and then creating a parallel, flat opposing face with a thickness planer. After the faces are flat and parallel, square one edge with a jointer and then rip the other edge parallel on a tablesaw. Finally, crosscut the board to length with a miter gauge on the tablesaw.

    Five tips for milling lumber:
    - Cut in the direction of the grain to avoid tearout
    - Don't have a jointer? Use a router to trim a straight edge and a planer to surface the face
    - Don't have power tools? Surface a board the old-fashioned way with a handplane
    - Use push sticks and push blocks to stay safe during the milling process
    - Milled lumber should be properly stored to prevent warping or twisting as the wood acclimates to the climate in your shop

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Video Length: 7:33
    Featuring: Bob Van Dyke; Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana; Video and Editing by: Michael Dobsevage and Gary Junken

    Related links
    How to Use a Jointer
    How to Use a Planer
    Flatten Boards Without a Jointer
    VIDEO - Flatten Boards Without a Jointer
    Edge Jointing with a Router
    VIDEO - Smooth wide boards with a handplane
    How Lumber is Cut and Sold

    Episode Ten: Oil-and-Wax Finish

    In episode 10 of our series, Getting Started in Woodworking, we complete our first season with a demonstration on how to apply an oil-and-wax wood finish. This finishing recipe is extremely simple and very effective. It will work for about 95 percent of the projects most woodworkers build; the only exceptions are surfaces that need to take a lot of abuse, such as a dining table tabletop.

    This low-tech finish requires few tools, just some sandpaper, a sanding block, abrasive pads, clean cotton rags, boiled linseed oil, and furniture wax.

    The key to a perfect end-result is to first prepare the surface. After sanding, or surfacing with a handplane or card scraper, the next step is to raise the grain with water and then sand and burnish the surface again.

    Once the preparation is complete, simply flood the wood with several coats of boiled linseed oil, burnish it again with an abrasive pad, and top it off with a coat of wax for a nice shine.

    The techniques described in this video are based on the article "An Oil-and-Wax Finish" by Charles Shackleton, featured in Issue #175 of Fine Woodworking magazine.

    If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video and Editing by: Michael Dobsevage and Gary Junken

    Related links
    All About Waxes
    All About Oils
    VIDEO - Mixing and Applying Wax
    An Oil-and-Wax Finish
    Buy the Book: Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing

    Browse the Glossary

    The Start Woodworking Glossary is a comprehensive list of woodworking terms and definitions maintained by the editors of Fine Woodworking, Start Woodworking, and our reader community. Help us grow the dictionary by submitting your own definition, or help refine an existing definition below. Send us an email with our contact form.

    Produced by: Matt Berger and Asa Christiana
    Video and Editing by: Michael Dobsevage and Gary Junken