6 Vital Woodworking Tips for Beginners

June 26, 2020

This post may include affiliate links, which means that if you end up buying something, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

This list of 6 Vital Woodworking Tips for Beginners is a guest post from Damon at Tools Plus, and has been edited by Kaylee, yours truly.

Starting off with woodworking can be a challenge. It’s not a skill that comes instantly–you have to learn how to do it through trial and error. However, if you want to improve quickly, make sure you use these six woodworking tips for beginners.

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How to Choose Woodworking Projects As A Beginner

Start projects that have a reasonable chance of success. Finishing easy, modest pieces is much better than getting overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged because you bit off more than you could chew with an ambitious project. Challenges only help educate if they establish confidence, so keep the early projects practical.

Note from Kaylee: Keep in mind that your first few projects will have AT LEAST one mistake, and it might be a ginormous one. In fact, the whole project could be complete garbage after you work on it for hours. (Not that I know…) You’ll minimize your frustrations levels if you don’t drop huge amounts of cash on wood in the beginning. Again… not that I know….

1. Make a Simple Woodworking Setup

Organize your woodworking workspace in a simple setup. To start woodworking, you don’t need a fancy, expensive workshop or garage. You can set up a temporary workshop table in your backyard or basement with a pair of sawhorses (This is similar to what Kaylee has) and a plywood board purchased from a home improvement store.

Quick Tips

  • Buy inexpensive saws for your initial setup (For starting out, Kaylee has this circular saw for straight lines and jigsaws for curved lines)
  • If you have a garage, basement, or shed space, set up the table there so you don’t have to take it down after every session.
  • Only keep out the tools that you use daily.
  • Store away everything else, like batteries for power tools, in designated areas to be retrieved later.

2. Invest in the Right Tools

Woodworking requires many different kinds of tools. Start by deciding what you want to design, plan out the steps, and make sure you have the right tools.

You can opt for cordless tools, such as high-power drills, electric saws, or palm sanders, that require a decent amount of practice in order to develop the skills to use them effectively in your projects.

Choosing a top-quality, versatile tool is better than choosing a highly specialized device. You can do hundreds of projects with just a circular saw, measuring tape, and a level.

3. Read the Tape Measure Correctly

You will need to make very precise measurements and cuts in woodworking. They’re never even numbers like 15 inches or 15 1/2 inches; you’ll see more measurements like 15 5/8 inches or 15 9/16 inches. So it’s really important to know how to read a tape measure properly.

Types of Tape Measures

The best woodworking tips for beginners
Quickdraw Pro Tape Measure on Amazon

You can get an easy read tape measure that shows you what each line means. This makes it easier to mark measurements. If you find it difficult to read tape measures, first understand what the 16 markings of an inch stand for.

If you don’t have this kind of measuring tape, you can create a printable guide for reading your tape measure to hang in your workspace.

4. Understand the Moisture Content of Your Wood

One of the most important woodworking tips you’ll need is to understand the moisture content of each piece of wood. If you’ve painted dry wood before, you know that it can soak up moisture.

If it’s too dry, you’ll get a swollen or cracked finished product. Too moist, and the finished piece can be compressed or warped. Experts conclude that incorrect moisture content causes 80% of all woodworking difficulties.

If you’re making a simple shelf like this, the moisture content of your wood is not all that important. However, if you’re installing something like wood flooring, it’s absolutely vital that you have this information.

The best way to find out the moisture content of your wood is to use a moisture meter.

5. Sanding Is Essential

It’s extremely important to prepare your wood surface properly. There are many tips for wood surface preparation, but one of the most important steps is to sand the wood. When it comes time to stain, paint, or otherwise finish off your wood, sanding will make a huge difference. 

Sanding woodwork by hand can seem difficult, but you can get outstanding results with special tools and high-quality sandpaper. A sanding block disburses the sanding pressure and produces a flatter surface than simply folding a piece of sandpaper.

Whether you’re using a sanding block or an orbital sander, make sure you change the sandpaper often.

6. Use Safety Equipment

As a beginner, it’s important to remember that safety starts with you.

Woodworking equipment can be dangerous, and it only takes a second for an accident to happen. You can reduce your risk by using proper protective equipment, and correct operating procedures.

Wear Protective Equipment

Wearing ear protection is beneficial while using loud power tools, such as saws, routers, and surface planers. To protect your skin, wear latex gloves when adding finishes (Note: NEVER WEAR PLASTIC GLOVES WHEN OPERATING A SAW). Never be without your safety glasses when you’re using power tools.

Disconnect the Power Source

When changing blades or parts on your power tools, always disconnect the power source. Even if you’ve made sure that the switch is off and electricity is not running to the device, the switch may fail and/or be switched on accidentally.

Work Against the Cutter

Most power tools are built in a way that requires the piece of wood to move through the tool in the opposite direction of the movement of the cutting head. You will also need to make sure that the blade or router bit cuts against the wood’s motion, instead of with it.

Never Reach Over a Running Blade

Always wait until a spinning blade stops moving before reaching across the table to remove waste or cutoffs. You can also remove waste using a push stick or piece of scrap to ensure that an inadvertent power tool switch failure won’t turn deadly.

More Woodworking Tips for Beginners

As you do more woodworking projects, you’ll find more useful tips. Your projects will get easier and faster.

What woodworking tips do you suggest?

The best woodworking tips for beginners
Top 6 woodworking tips you need to know

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Hi! I’m Kaylee–a mom of 2, business owner, DIY addict, and so much more. You’ll find some fun DIY tutorials, totally honest reviews, and lots of tips for making your home fit YOU. Welcome to Mama and More!


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