What are some small woodworking/carpentry projects that help increase your skill level.
June 20, 2011 9:24 AM   Subscribe

What are some small woodworking/carpentry projects that help increase your skill level.

I've been learning to build over the last few weeks and have run in to a slight problem. My house is tiny, and I can't keep building tables and benches. I've run out of room. What are some small items I can build that are useful to have around the home/garden/garage. I'm open to experimenting with more then just wood, but wood should form the backbone of the project. Ideally looking for how to guides that guide me through the process, as I am still at a stage where I need to be able to follow a guide, as opposed to just working it by sight alone.

I have mostly hand tools to work with, but do have a few power devices such as circular saw, jig saw, power sander and power drill.

I'm open to anything from a simple afternoon job to a multi week problem.
posted by ShootTheMoon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Bird houses maybe?
posted by Gilbert at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: Utility around the house is debatable, but cigar box guitars are pretty fun, and can be as simple or elaborate as you want.
posted by usonian at 9:38 AM on June 20, 2011

It would help if you told us more about your current skill level.
posted by jon1270 at 9:40 AM on June 20, 2011

not necessarily useful, but small and skill-building (I would think) - Wood Padlocks
posted by Lucinda at 9:41 AM on June 20, 2011

Response by poster: > It would help if you told us more about your current skill level.

I am only just starting. I have a few pieces of furniture under my belt.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 9:44 AM on June 20, 2011

'A few pieces of furniture' doesn't mean much. It could be really nice furniture, or it could be unfinished pine shelves supported on cinder blocks. What sort of work do you aspire to do? What skills would you like to build?
posted by jon1270 at 10:05 AM on June 20, 2011

I'm about to try making some pieces from this site. She includes step-by-step plans and diagrams for a huge range of furniture and other projects, and has a bunch of tutorials on furniture-making, tools, and carpentry.
posted by anderjen at 10:09 AM on June 20, 2011

You can make a nice butcher block for kitchen usage with a power sander, glue, and some inexpensive bar clamps. I would start with an edge block made up of nice strips of hard maple.
posted by true at 10:12 AM on June 20, 2011

Warning: Annoying self-links follow: I've started just taking a couple of scraps and trying a little bit of carving from cheap-ass scraps or a complex joint. Something where I can just go out into the shop and explore techniques and start to think about other possibilities. I also found that getting involved in a boat building competition sharpened a bunch of skills and gave me some contact with other woodworkers; I learned a lot (and you can try it yourself for about $20).
posted by straw at 10:15 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you aren't already on there, take a look at Lumberjocks. Lots of ideas and inspiration there, a range of skill levels.
posted by illenion at 10:15 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

What's your time-availability and tool availability ?

Building things with plywood (or pine) is a great, easy way to build stuff.

You miss a great deal of tasks using plywood/pine (planing wood, jointing, glue-ups, certain types of joinery, and using anything-but-basic finishes), BUT you get a great jump-start of making things. (Hey, if you're painting it, plywood is great to knock out a stool in 2-3 hours).

For me, home/garden/garage projects have been bath/potty/sink stools for kids. Benches or carts for the garage/garden are common projects (depends if you want to make a cart that you leave outside, or not .. )
posted by k5.user at 10:25 AM on June 20, 2011

I would make tool boxes for my tools if I didn't have any room for home storage prijects. Box joint circular saw box, pegboard cabinet for chisels and screwdrivers and other small hand tools. Plus don't forget to give the things you make as gifts if you haven't the room yourself
posted by Redhush at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2011

Consider learning how to make hand-cut through dovetails.

If you do this, get yourself a decent saw. Some people favor a gents saw or a similar western saw. I found I could get better results with a dozuki saw. FWIW, western saws cut on the push and Japanese saws cut on the pull.
posted by plinth at 11:09 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in garden stuff, you can build anything from windowboxes to mid-sized tub planters to raised beds with an add-on coldframe. You can make arched trellises, a gazebo, a bench, decorative fences. You can make a compost bin or a vermicomposting tower. You can make simple storage boxes for outdoor things (hoses, chair cushions, garden tools). This book has some ideas and instructions.
posted by aimedwander at 11:29 AM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: Boxes are always good. You can practice all sorts of joinery, get to know your tools, hand and power, and work on your precision. They're small and they make great gifts, so you'll have plenty of room to make more. And now you have a reason to buy a table saw.

What's your current shop setup look like? What would your dream shop look like? Making that happen will require lots of stuff, big and small, made out of wood. The downside here is you can probably get by without a table saw.
posted by notyou at 12:49 PM on June 20, 2011

Don't believe you can ever have too much shelving / storage space. Especially contending with a smaller house.

Do you have kids, or are close with anyone who does. Wooden toys such as a train with detachable cars and tracks it rolls on can be complex and interesting to make. Toy boats and custom chess sets are fun as well. Some of these require more tools than you listed, do you have a router?

You mention wanting guides, maybe a good excessive is to work on getting away from that requirement. Toys are nice here because they are a) small and b) can't really be wrong (even if quite ugly, it just designates a specific age group :P )
posted by oblio_one at 1:03 PM on June 20, 2011

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