Today’s post is a part 2 from my original post about how to start woodworking, so at this point you should already have a good, lighted setup in your garage or workshop to commence your woodworking projects.
The set up should also include a workbench, a power drill, a saw, work gloves, a dust mask, a hand plane, and other worldly woodworking accessories like dowels and wood glue. You should also have some fine grain sand paper at hand.
So it’s time to begin!
Where to Begin?
The first thing to do is decide what you want to build, but since you’re a beginner you shouldn’t rely on your imagination, I’m sorry to disappoint you.
Instead, you should source some good woodworking plans for your first finely carved woodworking piece of furniture. Woodworking plans can make or break a piece, so investing in the best woodworking plans is probably the best advice I will give here (to get my plans, click here).
There are an abundant amount of wood plans for furniture, ornaments and trinkets of all calibers available in books and on web pages. You can find so many free woodworking plans out there too, but my advice, choose wisely, very wisely. Sure enough, for a beginner, you are not going to be able to pick out where important pointers have been omitted.
You may risk your dream piece to turn out completely wrong, only leading to your frustration. Just like you are investing in good wood carving tools, invest in good wood plans also. Find the woodworking plan for what you want to build, and give a quick scan over to make sure it’s not too complex, it’s at a level where you think you can fully complete it.
Your chosen piece should also be able to be built with the wood working tools that you already have. Your tools are not for intricate work, they are for large pieces such as beds and tables, and these are the pieces that you should start with.
The best way I can help you and give my best advice, tips and tricks with any woodworking plan when you first start out is to guide you through making a piece of furniture. Let’s start with a wood table. Read the rest of this before you start, I’m about to answer all the questions you have about DIY projects so read on.
Beginner Project: How to Make a Wood Table
I recommend starting with a table; a table is simple, functional and above all undeniably grand, there’s nothing better than sitting at a large table that you built with your own two hands (well, the family dog, Eddy, might have supervised you along the way too, but forget him, he didn’t physically build it, apart from his moans and groans.)
Well, no. Actually, if you do that at this point you’ll end up in a mess, not least because you’ll miss my lulling words.
Chances are that your first few hundred cuts aren’t going to be clean, or even straight for that matter, but don’t worry; it’s to be expected, you’re no woodworking guru yet.
To straighten out the kinks, you’re going to use your wood plane tool. Take a look at the cut, side on so that you can see its exact incline, and make a point below that, that can be horizontally matched with the rest of the wood. For example if your cut is as high as 2” in some areas and as low as 1.94” in others, you should always aim for the lowest point, so you would want the wood to be 1.94” when straight.
Draw a straight line horizontally across the wood at 1.94” high, or 1.93”, or whatever you want; I’m not your boss, just make sure it’s consistent. Measure the distance between the target height and the middle highest point, in our example this distance is 0.03” (from the lowest point of the cut, to the target height of 1.94”). Adjust your plane to this amount, or as close to this amount as you can. Clamp the wood, with the cut surface facing the heavens and the clouds, plane it, plane it, plane it like a Polaroid picture.
To plane the wood: Hold your planer with its nose facing forwards, and stroke it firmly against the length of the wood; this will shave off the excess. Regularly check your strokes to see how much you’re taking off; don’t drop below the line.
In the end, the cut should be fairly consistent, but don’t be surprised if surface is still a bit wonky, providing it hasn’t gone below your horizontal line, you’re okay. At this point use your sand paper to smooth out the surface of the wood. This may take a long time, and you might be wondering why I didn’t suggest buying a belt sander earlier.
The relentlessness of sanding is to remind you that furniture takes time, skill and heart. In the long run you will appreciate your first piece more; because you put more effort into it. It also reminds you to take care when cutting so that you don’t have to sand for hours later on, and prevents you from underestimating the sander and shaving too much icing off the cake.
When you have all of your wood cut and smooth, just like in the plan, it’s time to put it all together. Grab some dowels and your drill and start to drill joining holes. Your joining holes for your table should be at all four corners of the table leg, in corresponding corners on the underside of the table, and in between each top panel (if you have multiple panels.) Drill the holes so that they are just under half the length of the dowel; they need to be perfectly in line with the corresponding holes in order to fit.
If you have multiple panels then you will need to coat dowels in wood glue and attach them together, creating one big panel. Once the holes are drilled, lightly hammer your dowels into your table legs, coat them with wood glue and lightly tap the top into place. Boom! Table!
All that’s left now is to reinforce it and make it look pristine. Use screws and brackets to reinforce the legs, and varnish your table to get your finished result. When the table dries you can sit on it, touch it, lean on it, look at it, there’s so many great things you can do with a table, my favorite being eating cereal off it, oh man, you have to try that one day!
Once your first wood working project such as a table is complete, you should now feel comfortable to move on to other projects and DIY wood working plans such as a building a work bench or a birdhouse.
If you did complete the table first go, just remember, it probably isn’t one of the easiest wood work pieces to start with so if you finished it in one piece – bravo! Sooner or later you will become a wood working pro.
You can now treat yourself to a cookie… or a cake on your new self made table.