New Hobbyist where to start

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New member
5 Jan 2015
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East Midlands
Hi, I've been interested in woodworking as a hobby for a while now. It started when I purchased my house and started experimenting with walnut planks to make shelves in a bathroom. It was a simple project but I enjoyed it a lot. I would like to try my hand at some other things but I want to build up slowly eventually having enough know how to build a piece of furniture for the house. I have a few books which help detail many of the common joins and I have some basic tools. I'm lucky enough to have a double garage with a large worksurface at one end. What I'm looking for is some advice on starting out, Essential tools, and some interesting projects to work on.
My woodworking tools are very basic at the moment consisting of the "essentials" from screwfix or the like. Whilst I have a good selection of mechincs tools and appreciate that good kit pays for itself I'm not sure where to start on woodworking tools.
This is a lot down to personal choice; I started off buying nice new shiny tools but found a lot of them to be rubbish. Bit by bit they have either broken or been replaced with old tools that were built to last. Also when I am too old to use these old tools I will be able to sell them at a profit.
Hi Rutts, welcome to the forum. I normally hang out in the Hand Tools ward , so my first suggestion would be some good chisels and a bench to use them on. For more info on chisels just pop into Hand Tools and look for threads on sharpening and types to buy. That should get you through the remainder of the winter just reading up. This will lead you to other tools of the muscle powered variety as well as being vastly entertained by the antics of our more committed traditionalists , endless fun.
For hobby/ relaxation it is hard to beat the Scrolling and Turning sections (recently got a scroll saw myself and it's a hoot) where you will find no lack of expert guidance in both of these fascinating disciplines.
This is the place to be to ask questions and learn all manner of things as the merry band on UKW are in my opinion the nicest and most patient forumites to be had anywhere and the archived pages contain a staggering amount of information. So dive on in amigo , the lunacy is fine.
I think you need to think through what you want to do for the first year or two, they drive the tools in very different directions:
- DIY type stuff - like shelves, or beds, cabients
- Crafts: like making pens, dolls houses (got kids anywhere), model boats
- Sellable stuff - which needs to be all about time efficiency
- Computer, radio and beer fridge (hum, not really woodwork, but essential equipment in the garage

What ever you choose, its not a lifetime decision, just a year or two, if you have the money.
Oh, and you can spend many an hour fitting out the walls of a large garage, to hold up anything you buy - an easy trap to fall into, but a fun one - Storage!
Welcome to the forum, Rutts!

Maybe rather than start by buying tools, it might be a good idea to spend a bit of time on background research. There are several different approaches to 'woodwork', and working out which of them appeals most may well save a good deal of money on tools you find you very rarely use.

An approach that's becoming more popular of late is the 'handtools only' way, which has the advantage of being fairly quiet and generates little dust, but does need a bit more patience (not necessarily much more!). People who follow this route tend to work in 'proper' hardwoods or softwoods, and not sheet materials like MDF. They tend to use 'traditional' methods of cabinet construction, often on pieces with a very traditional feel, though sometimes on pieces with a modern design.

Another approach is to use machines, routers, jigs, hand-held power tools and the like. All sorts of work can be done this way, though the kit can cost quite a lot, take up a lot of space, and generate a lot of noise and dust. It's faster, and all types of wood can be dealt with - hardwoods, softwoods, sheet goods. Some handwork is needed for final assembly and trimming, but the skill is in setting up the machines to minimise this. Think fitted kitchens and the like.

Most people combine the two approaches, using a few carefully-chosen machines to do the repetitive 'grunt' work, and handtools to do the finer, more intricate stuff.

Sources of information? Books first - a copy of Robert Wearing's 'The Essential Woodworker' would be an excellent first purchase. Classic Hand Tools can supply - you'll find it under the 'Lost Art Press' section in the 'books' bit of their website. It's about the best book I know on leading an outright beginner through the basics of using a hand-plane, building simple furniture, and all the odd things like how to fit hinges. Also by Lost Art Press, a copy of 'The Anachists Toolchest' might appeal to you if you like the anti-consumerist approach of building 'proper' furniture using a carefully chosen kit of hand tools (that need not cost a fortune), and you're willing to spend a bit of time building your skills.

Then there's magazines. Pop into W H Smiths next time you're passing, and pick up a couple of the woodworking mags. The interwebs can be a real help, too - try searching Youtube for clips about 'using handplanes' and the like. There are some good blogs about too - google 'Norse Woodsmith' for a sort of blog accumulator of what's been posted in the last day or so; you'll soon work out which blogs are worth following.

Then get some wood from somewhere. Any old wood will do, whatever is fairly readily available. use this up making simple things - planed-up lengths of wood, little boxes, spoons, practice joints - whatever takes your fancy.

Something else that might help is a short introductory course with an established woodworker. Some direct tuition can really speed things up with establishing the basic skills.

Finally - don't forget that there are some very knowledgeable people round here, most of whom are willing to help in all sorts of ways. There's no such thing as a question that's too basic!
I would decide what you want to make and then buy tools to suit, the reason I say this is you can get so absorbed in tool buying/fettling that you don't get time to make things, I seem to have fallen for this to a certain extent (moulding planes at the moment). So here is how I would do it:

1) Decide on a project.
2) Find out what tools you will need to make said project*.
3) Buy wood
4) Sharpen tools (this is a hobby in its own right to some people)
5) Make project.

Something I think to consider is journaling, by that I mean draw what you plan to make and make notes as you go along. This I think makes something repeatable and you take more time to absorb how you have done something, you can also refer back to it at a later date. I had a nasty habit of drawing/planning on random bits of paper and then loosing said bits of paper so I now put it all in one place. Much easier and neater.

Last of all if you have any questions (however daft they may sound) just ask! The guys n gals on this forum are a fountain of knowledge and the best bit is its free.

Hope that helps.


*Seriously I would only buy the tools you need for one project at a time, its too easy to spend hours and loads of cash on ebay or online tools stores and then the tools sit idle until you need them or learn how to use them correctly.
Welcome aboard, you will find that many people start the same way as you (I did). I started with power tools and DIY and have moved towards hand tools and furniture making. I have a real mixture of tools, some expensive some not, I have regretted some that I bought in both categories.

I suggest that you choose a project and buy the minimum tools that you need for that project.

Try not to get fooled into thinking that you need lots of tools, you can get a lot done with one plane, one saw and a couple of chisels. Old tools are better quality than new ones for the same price; but, may take time and skill to refurbish (which could be spent woodworking).

Have a look at Paul Sellers (English) website/blog/you tube who gives some very practical, down to earth advice.
There are some American podcasts (video and audio) which are good if you do any commuting by public transport. Some talk about 'Hybrid woodworking' which is basically just a mix of hand tools and power tools.
Also have a look at Tom Fidgen (Canadian) who is hand tools only, and talks about woodworking as a lifestyle.


The way I did it was to get my hands on a large quantity of free second hand timber ( a builders skip over two years) and then had to decide what to use the timber for, it started with garden furniture and when the free timber supply dried up I started buying good quality hardwood boards and did the same.

Decide on things to make with that timber.

Boxes, and clocks and small pieces of furniture is where I am at at the moment.
Hi Rutts,

Regarding a basic tool kit, there was a thread on here two or three months ago listing the tools needed to make a start in woodworking. I can't find it but maybe one of the contributing members to the thread can locate it.

Thanks for the advice everyone. Would have replied sooner but the first week back at work is always chaotic. The type of woodwork I plan to be doing is going to be DIY type and hopefully furniture but I intend to start out small and build up my knowledge and skills.

I'll have a good read through of the threads and all the information above over the next few days and I'll look at all the hand tools sections. I'll be around asking noddy questions.

Cheers :mrgreen:
I started by doing DIY around the house with some tools donated by my Dad. Chisels, saws, brace & bits, a plane. Some quite old, some newer, none of particularly high quality, none very expensive (but not made of cheese), none knackered, all servicable. I made myself a bed without any power tools. Then I got a router and made more furniture. I am mostly interested in using a router and don't have a lot of other machines even now, 20 years on.