Hand tool.... Beginner projects.


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Established Member
19 Apr 2015
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I wanted to put this as a new thread as i have a feeling it might get a few suggestions. So apart from my bench and a tool cabinet. Does anyone have any suggestions for mid size projects with hand tools. (i am a beginner) i like intricate work but not complex just for the sake of it.... Only small to medium builds. And i might be using construction timber to practice.
It sounds like you need projects which introduce a technique and give you some practice at it, but don't use lots of expensive wood.

I suggest boxes - which can be good practice on planing and sawing to size. Nailed together at first, then rebated and nailed, then dovetailed. Add a sliding lid to introduce grooves.

Bookcases are useful and again can be plain and simple or as complex as you like, but will introduce housing joints and rebating for a back.

A small side table introduces the mortice and tenon joint and possibly edge jointing narrow boards.
moxxon vice for the bench
sharpening station
bench hooks
mitre box
#1: bench hook.

A year from now you won't believe how often you've used it, and not just as a bench hook. The surface can be used as a small sacrificial area for chopping and paring tasks, saving wear and tear on the benchtop, and they work quite well as a rudimentary shooting board as I mention in the other thread. You can even further increase its usefulness by sawing kerfs into the stop so it also works as a mitre fence.

After that:
  • winding sticks (these can be a modest length initially as you won't be working with wide stock, make longer ones later);
    straightedge (see my post about halfway down this page);
    a mitre shooting board;
    cutting gauge and pencil gauge with a dowel lock (easiest design to make, only needs two drilled holes in the stock).

Early woodworking books tend to give good guidance on this as their entire focus is on hand tools and a progression from early skill-building projects through to larger and more involved things that build on what you've been taught up to that point. There are numerous American ones, a good British one is Charles Hayward's classic "Carpentry for Beginners", you might find an early edition in your local library system.

If you would prefer something more up to date, and want to sort of bootstrap yourself and go through a process more like formal training, then I highly recommend a book that never gets a mention here, "Hand Tool Basics" by Steve Branam. It is possibly the best ground-up guide I've ever read.
In my opinion a large factor in this is how much space you have got?
Forget about making things at this stage that's not related to your workshop regardless if its a teeny tiny shed or a aircraft hanger.
I think everyone will agree that a workbench is the most important thing in the whole workshop.

Since you mentioned you were considering cheap timber for projects, it seems unlikely that you have big planks at hand.
I suggest if you have nothing and have the space, consider making some sawhorses,
and stick a heavy solid core door on top to make an instant bench you can plane on, all you need
is to clamp a batten onto the bench to make a planing stop.
Notice its butted up against the wall

It would make a good bench for assembly later on down the road, and can be stored away easily, while the sawhorses will always be handy to have around.
I am also a beginner and I have been working my way through various projects that will allow me to learn something new each time.
I did a 5 day course to begin with and made a small side table with wedged M&Ts from Walnut and Ash. The baptism of fire!
I made a shooting board and some coasters to practice the butt joint.
I made some decorative frames for my balcony rail using half lap and third lap (?) joints.
I'm currently recycling some kitchen units (a corner and sink double) for my workshop which required a large dowelled glue up for the worktop (milled from construction pine), some half lap joints for the new internal supports for the new drawers, dovetails for the new drawer boxes and turned knobs.
Every day is a school day.
My next project is going to be a coffee table using actual hardwood!
I would suggest practise joints, do a mortise and tenon, dovetail and dado joint, then probably a tray, then a box and build it up from there, making a jigs as well like a dovetail template, a shooting board and bench hook will really help you out, and learn to use the knifewall for high accuracy, a really good book would be the essential woodworker by wearing, it's got to be my favourite if not one of them.

Also using construction lumber isn't advisable, the quality of wood you use really matters, try and get some PAR redwood pine if it's softwood.
A bench hook is almost a must have and easy to make.

I use 18 mm mdf for the base.
You can often get an offcut at b n q for quid that would make half a dozen.

Mine slowly get so tatty that a second is made and the first becomes a drilling board, glue mixing board, etc etc.

As others have said a box is a decent project, I suggest the first one you make is smallish for maybe a tool tote or something, don’t try to get it too smart, just knock it together for a quick gain. You will learn a lot without too much hassle.
Steve Maskery":1bwpz35i said:
If you want to make a pair of winding sticks, there is an excellent write up (EEIDSSM) here.


Yes, it's a nice write-up and a nice pair of sticks, but it does all go a bit off-piste in the middle when a bloomin' great electric t_b_e-s_w makes its appearance!

I don't think the OP needs one in his starter kit. :lol:
Wooden toys, step stools, benches...
Making scaled down projects is also a good way to practice joinery and various techniques and not need much space or material.
Yes, it's a nice write-up and a nice pair of sticks, but it does all go a bit off-piste in the middle when a bloomin' great electric t_b_e-s_w makes its appearance!

I don't think the OP needs one in his starter kit. :lol:

Andy, that's just nit-picking...
OK, Fair point.
I'll let you off this time, in case you've drawn me in the Secret Santa... :wink:

Alternative ways to make those bevels include sawing as close as you feel confident and then planing back to the line, or just planing. If just planing, it would be efficient to take some thick shavings off first, then set the plane finer for the final few strokes
Sorry for the late reply.... Been double busy. A large shed is my shop which is still in need of a tidy its about 16ft by 8ft Im getting there. Just moved and it's been a nightmare. Any way, thanks for all the replies. The hook is a great one and maybe a shooting board. It's a toss up for a bench or the saw horses. Winding sticks look like a good time investment. And i like the bookcase and box ideas as i can store my books and small to medium boxes are similar as in i need storage. I will stick some picks up of my purchases and first builds as soon as I can. (dont take the mick to much) bought a few planes so far and some saws mostly second hand at the moment. Ty all for great suggestions and links. I will be checking them all out... :D
I've finally found a long reach anglepoise/ articulated lamp for cheap on the bay.
Been looking on and off for a good while.
These are unbeatable, well I hope so or I will have to replace the fitting to take regular incandescent 60 watt bulbs, and possibly cut the shade and make a larger shade if its too small a radius.
And it has an American plug
None the less hopefully worth the hassle if need be, as using a hoard of lamps at the moment to substitute the temporary lamp I was using which took a tumble.
I have one in the house and another at the folks they're brilliant.
If you search on eBay using the description below you can get them for £11:29 freepost.
Super Bright Swing Arm Clamp Desk Lamp LED Light with Metal Clip Office Home

There's also a rechargeable version via usb , but it's a bar style LED which is probably a horrible blinding blue light that casts no shadow.
Have something like that already, no good.

Hoping I can get a yellowish bulb like the old style incandescent bulbs for it.
Definitely miles better than other lamps and I'm getting one soon, as these others have led to mistakes being made.
I also hope they're as long reach as the ones I have already, of not I might have to make my own using those springs and old TV aerials.

Have a look at Charlesworth's hand planing videos, he can demonstrate planing better than being alone in a room with a pro.
Miles and miles better at making one understand how to plane correctly than anyone.
Of all the videos I have seen on the net. (I never stop keeping up on content BTW) never seen any that comes close.
Good to read you got some old planes for yourself.