Learning woodworking on a small to medium scale
September 15, 2015 6:56 PM   Subscribe

I've always wanted to learn about woodworking, but I know very little about it. I have a workshop in my garage that I primarily use for electronics. I have some room for wood tools, but not a ton. What are some resources to learn how to do woodworking without needing large amounts of space and equipment?

I'd love to make furniture, but I don't think I really have room for that. I basically have one bay of a three car garage, but it's shared with my electronics workbench as well as some storage bins and such. I could probably make room for a few things like maybe a miter saw, drill press, etc. But when it gets into things like requiring an additional workbench, large planers, etc. it's just not going to fit. So I'd love to find projects that can be done in my existing space without a lot of new machines (I'm not too worried about budget, just the space they require).

Are there books, websites, or projects you recommed? I'd really like to find a resource that will help me progress from very simple beginner projects to more complex things.
posted by primethyme to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
You might be able to find a class about that kind of thing in the "adult education" program of your nearest community college.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:20 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Re the power tools, consider that they produce prodigious quantities of sawdust.. which gets pretty much everywhere. Dust control would be critical.
You might look up Japanese joinery, mostly done with hand tools, makes amazing furniture with little outlay for power tools.
posted by rudd135 at 7:34 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'd suggest you specialize in a particular area of woodworking that doesn't require many pieces of machinery . Turning is one possibility. Watch some of this guy's videos and see if that sort of thing tickles your fancy. You could get a nice lathe, a bench or pedestal grinder for sharpening tools, and maybe a bandsaw, and do a lot of interesting work.
posted by jon1270 at 7:35 PM on September 15, 2015

rudd135 has excellent advice. I've got a Japanese saw and it's lovely to use. Turning on electric tools feels very un-workmanlike after using it. There's a lot of pleasure in handling wood manually, with respect.
posted by anadem at 8:45 PM on September 15, 2015

I don't know where you live, but in some places in the USA there are shops that specialize in woodworking, and these shops will often hold or sponsor classes on various topics and at various levels. For instance, here in Austin there is a place called Woodcraft - the usual disclaimers, I'm just tossing it out as a possible place to start.

(your local Lowe's or Home Depot may have such classes, as well, although I suspect they tend to be more oriented towards home-repair topics. But it might be worth a couple of minutes to check them out).
posted by doctor tough love at 8:51 PM on September 15, 2015

Best answer: my friend says:

i like this guy's philosophy
how to make a spoon, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krAIHRCx9R0
posted by aniola at 11:13 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

One thing I'd suggest is to use salvaged materials. That way, you don't have to worry too much about tools, since they're already planed, routed, etc., but you still get to learn about joinery, etc. For example, I'm making a table out of a cabinet door and some spindles from a staircase railing. You should be able to find an architectural salvage yard nearby if you live in a biggish city, and you can sometimes find some good stuff on Craigslist. The other, major advantage is that salvage is a LOT cheaper than buying new.

In terms of learning technique, I just checked out some books from the public library. I don't remember the names, but woodworking is a common enough hobby and established enough that your library should have plenty of good options. Instructables is a site that has a lot of good tutorials, and honestly, just searching YouTube is probably going to get a bunch of good resources as well.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:21 AM on September 16, 2015

Best answer: Hi, amateur/hobbyist woodworker here. :)

To some extent, the resources that will be the most helpful to you depend on what your goals are, but at the same time, learning some basic/general "wood lore" is going to enhance your experience no matter what. Wood, being a natural material is not always going to behave the same way from piece to piece, even if you're sticking to similar types of wood, so even if (for instance) you plan on working mainly with power tools, you can't go wrong by learning to use simple hand tools. Getting a sense of things like grain direction/behavior is super important as a foundation for making furniture or other items that need to be sturdy and possibly weight-bearing.

Oh and you don't actually need a ton of "dedicated" space or much in the way of fancy or expensive tools, even if your goal is to make furniture. I built this window seat/storage bench for my living room about five years ago, long before I had much of a setup in the garage. The only tools I used were a couple hand saws, a power drill, and a screwdriver. Most of the assembly was done at "point of use" right in the living room.

Finally, as far as resources go, I've learned a heck of a lot from all these folks:

- The Woodwright's Shop (Roy Underhill is essentially the love-child of Yoda and Bob Ross where woodworking is concerned. Even if you don't plan on chopping down your own trees and splitting them to make boards from scratch, I can guarantee you will learn important stuff from watching basically any episode.)

- Woodworking for Mere Mortals (Steve Ramsey's site; he's super down to earth and does weekly videos featuring a wide variety of projects most people living in the suburbs should be able to make in their garages.)

- Paul Sellers (Blog and youtube channel are both excellent. Knowledgeable guy with a very pleasant British accent will show you how to choose and use a variety of tools, arrange a shop, etc.)

There are others, but I highly recommend the above three as a starting point -- good luck and happy woodworking!
posted by aecorwin at 12:00 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

There are also some good books out there with projects for parents to do with kids. This would allow you to start and finish something tangible in a reasonable period of time, which is a big aid when teaching yourself something.

Here is one example, though it looks super dated: http://www.amazon.com/Build-With-Plywood-Eighty-Eight-Furniture/dp/0830603301

And here is a huge list of titles: http://www.b4ubuild.com/books/kidsbooks.shtml

But I would agree that once you have done some basic things to build the skills of sawing, drilling, clamping, etc., picking a topic and spending some time on it would be useful. Build five different birdhouses, for example, or carve enough spoons to give as Christmas gifts, or commit to making three different step stools. having a goal is a gret way to focus your learning!
posted by wenestvedt at 1:22 PM on September 16, 2015

Buy this book (How to Build Almost Anything(Starting With Practically Nothing)) and get a hand drill, a circular saw and speed square.
posted by drezdn at 1:27 PM on September 16, 2015

Go to Lost Art Press and order the downloadable versions of The Essential Woodworker and The Anarchist's Toolchest. The first book is full of excellent "how" and the second also goes into the "why".

A brilliant guy who focuses on important basic skills, using a minimal set of tools, is The English Woodworker. Currently, he's building an English style workbench with home center tools. He explains stuff wonderfully and has lots of smart, dead simple tricks to share.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:52 PM on December 29, 2015

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