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Many people think woodworking is hard, some think that woodworking can only be done properly if you have a big shop with a lot of expensive tools, and many people think that the barrier to starting woodworking is just too large and overwhelming.
In this article, I want to show you why none of the statements above is true, exactly what woodworking is and get you a step closer to starting your first woodworking project.
Woodworking is the process of creating an object out of wood with the help of hand tools or power tools. Woodworking is done by shaping, cutting, carving, and joining wood to create an end product.
Woodworking is amazingly diverse and has an unlimited amount of different practices and different types of woodworking. So to not make this article into a book, I will stay at the surface level of woodworking and talk about it as I would to someone completely new to woodworking. So let’s dive in and learn a thing or two.
What Is Woodworking?
Woodworking is the process of making and crafting an object or item out of wood. Simple as that. How you make it is irrelevant, you can carve, use a CNC machine or cut it with a saw, and so on. If you made it from wood, you have practiced woodworking.
Quick Woodwork History
Woodworking has been around for at least thousands of years and has probably been around as long as civilization itself, and was one of the first materials ever being worked by humans. Throughout ancient history, woodworking has been an essential craft for the development of civilization.
Ancient Egyptians used wood to create furniture like tables, chairs, beds, and chests ( found in tombs ). In Ancient Rome, the craft of woodworking provided transportation, tools, furniture, buildings, and much more. Every country in the world has some kind of history with woodworking and you find different techniques everywhere you go.
If we look at the progression of woodworking in the last hundred years, it has gone from being an essential skill and craft, so that they could create furniture and useful objects for households and industrial purposes to being a niche hobby for people with a special interest in the craft.
In the 19th and most of the 20th century, society needed woodworkers to function properly. In modern times, woodworking is still useful as a skill and art. But it is now done more for the joy of the process, as a hobby and is not needed by society in the same way as before.
Types Of Woodworking
Woodworking can be hard to talk about as a general craft since it can be done in so many different ways to practice the art. You can make cabinets, be a woodcarver, only use hand tools or be a power tool fanatic. The craft changes when you change your tool and your process. I will go through some of the most used disciplines of woodworking.
Starting woodworking can be overwhelming. There is a lot to learn and it is easy to get lost. Stick to learning the basics and get to know one discipline at a time. Then you can transfer and combine types of woodworking later on.
1. Woodworking With Hand Tools
Hand tools are every type of tool you use for working with wood that is not powered by electricity.
Hand tools range from the most basic tools that most people are familiar with like the hammer, saw, and hand plane to specialty tools like Japanese Saws and Shingle Froe.
My philosophy is that every woodworker should learn how to use the basic hand tools properly before upgrading to power tools to do the hard work for you. Some woodworkers also stay true to the hand tools and never transition into using power tools at all.
But most woodworkers eventually take the leap fairly quickly and buys some power tools.
2. Woodworking With Power Tools
Most woodworker uses power tools suits their line of woodworking. Power tools save you time and make the job easier for the woodworker.
Transitioning from hand tools to power tools is one of the greatest feelings in the world, you feel so powerful compared to before. A good example is when you get yourself a miter saw and now you don’t have to do all the cuts with your hand saw. Cuts are quick and straight every time, and you’ll just love them.
But even though you transition into power tools, there are still scenarios where the basic hand tools will be more fitting for the job. So keep them around.
Wood carving is the act of carving grooves and patterns into wood. These can be beautiful patterns on a door, semi-realistic animals, flowers and roses, or small figurines.
The main tool used for wood carving is chisels and gouges.
Wood Carving also has a lot of subcategories like Whittling, Relief Carving, Power Carving, And Chainsaw Carving.
When woodturning we use a lathe to spin a piece of wood while holding a gouge or chisel in contact with the wood. The result is that the wood gets chipped off piece by piece and shaped into a circular shape. Woodturning can be compared to using a pottery wheel but for wood. But the wood is horizontal instead of vertical.
Scrolling is the process of using a Scroll Saw to make intricate cuts in small pieces of wood. Scrolling is mainly used to make art, jigsaw puzzles, and beautiful patterns out of wood.
6. Cabinet And Furniture Making
Cabinets and Furniture making don’t really need an explanation. It is simply making furniture and cabinets out of wood. This can be done with either hand tools or power tools.
The wood used for furniture and cabinet making ranges from cheap plywood to expensive and exclusive mahogany wood.
7. Construction Work
Construction work is a type of woodworking. Even though the class of woodworkers more associated with construction is carpenters. But remember the definition, woodworking is the process of making things and objects from wood.
Construction work can be building framing, building a porch, or even a house.
8. Repair and Restoration
Repair and Restoration is the act of fixing objects of wood that is already made but need some love. Restoration often involves a lot of sanding and painting. But it is a great way to understand how furniture and old wooden object were made since you often have to take them apart and put them together again.
As a matter of fact, I highly recommend doing a restoration project when getting into woodworking. Just be aware of the chemicals that they used paints and varnishes before often were toxic. So take proper safety precautions.
Pyrography is the act of burning wood with a wood burner to create beautiful patterns in the wood. This can be done by itself on a single piece of wood or as a way to make your woodworking project more unique and appealing.
I was a little bit hesitant to put this on this list since it does not really fit my definition of woodworking. But I choose to add it.
10. Epoxy Woodworking
A big trend in modern woodworking is the use of epoxy in woodworking projects. You have probably seen the epoxy river tables or wooden pendants combined epoxy on youtube. It looks great, and can be and can make your woodworking have that extra uniqueness to it.
But epoxy can be expensive when used in large quantities like a river table.
Who Can Do Woodworking?
There are very few limitations to who can do woodworking. So I’m going to say that “everyone” can do it. You do not need to be especially talented to do woodworking, and the barrier to entry is really low. You just have to start somewhere and go from there.
I’ve been woodworking since my childhood, some of the stuff I made was horrific. And when I say horrific, I mean it. Even my mom put the stuff I made far back in a cabinet somewhere. Never to see daylight again.
But I got better through failing and just by being engaged in the craft. Start by making what comes to mind and experiment with what you got. Even if it is just a saw, a hammer, a pallet, and some glue. You can probably make something ugly ( or beautiful ) out of it and learn a thing or two along the way.
Mastering woodworking is another story. Woodworking has so many disciplines and subcategories that you would go mad if you were to try to master all of them. Mastering woodworking takes dedication and years of work, and you can’t be a master in all types of woodworking.
Is Woodworking Expensive?
Woodworking can be expensive but it does not have to be. Power tools and wood for projects are the main two costs associated with woodworking.
If you can start woodworking with just the basic hand tools ( Which I recommend anyways ) and build on that, then you can get started woodworking for under 100$.
The wood can be obtained free or cheap from several sources. For example, Facebook marketplace, craigslist, driftwood, containers, cut-offs from construction, and so on
Woodworking As A Hobby
People make stuff from wood for different reasons. Some do woodworking out of necessity but most people in today’s environment are involved in woodworking as a hobby.
Woodworking is a rewarding hobby, it can be relaxing when everything goes as planned and you are making good progress. It can be frustrating when you make a mistake and don’t know how to fix it. It can be joyful when you finally figure out how to fix that mistake. It can also be thrilling when you are planing a piece of rough wood and get to see the grain pattern for the first time.
The final product of woodworking is also usually something you can give away to family, friends, or sell. That thing you made, has value to others and brings joy to their life as well.
These are the reasons I love woodworking as a hobby.
Can you make an infographic?
Can Women Do Woodworking?
How To Get Started Woodworking?
The best way to get started woodworking is to close your computer/phone now, go get some tools, some wood, and start making something. Woodworking is learned best by doing. But I’ll give you a small actionable guide before you leave. You can also read on if you want to. The article is not completely finished yet.
1. Get Some Basic Tools
You don’t need much to start out with. The most basic tools I would start with are a hammer, small nails, a handsaw, measuring tape, carpenter pencils, and wood glue. That is literally all the tools I would recommend you to get for your first project.
2. Find Some Wood
You got two options when looking for wood for your first project. Your first option is to buy a plank at the same place you buy your tools. Like Home Depot or Lowes. A simple plank made of pine or any whitewood will work.
The second option I recommend is to find a pallet, dismantle that and use the wood. But be aware that some pallets may contain toxic chemicals. Read this article before using pallet wood for our projects: What Wood Is Pallet Wood
3. Make A Square Box ( or anything that comes to mind )
If it is your first time woodworking, it is better to make anything than not starting at all. A square box is the main shape used in woodworking. If you can make a wooden box, you can learn to make most things.
Try making your project without any tutorials, just make a small plan of how you are going to make the box, how it will look, what cuts you have to do. Get used to using a handsaw, measuring, using a hammer, and wood glue.
Hopefully, your first project will look a little less horrific than mine.
4. When You Are Finished
When you are finished go and look up how to make a square box on youtube, and make one more. It is easier to know what not to do if you have already done it.
Check out this in-depth complete guide for how to start woodworking as a beginner.
The Difference Between Woodworking and Carpentry?
Carpentry and woodworking are not the same. Carpenters use wood to make structural elements like houses and framing. Carpentry is a specialized type of woodworking. Woodworking is a more general term used to describe the activity of making an object or anything out of wood. A carpenter is also a woodworker, a woodturning expert is not a carpenter by that metric alone. But the woodturning expert is also a woodworker.
Maybe that was a little bit confusing. But I hope you get my point.
Is Woodworking Physically Demanding?
Woodworking in a shop is usually not physically demanding. You have power tools and other helpful resources to do the heavy work for you. Now, if you only use hand tools, it can be Physically demanding to be a woodworker.
Carpentry is definitely physically demanding. Carpenters have to lift heavy objects like building materials, wood, concrete. They sometimes have to work in awkward positions and tight spaces, which can cause problems in muscles and joints for the carpenter. Most carpenters develop deficiencies in musculature and back if they work for many years.
Do You Need A Lot of Space To Do Woodworking?
Nope, you do not need a lot of space to do woodworking. It is nice to have a lot of space when woodworking. But it is not a requirement. My home woodworking shop is only 64 square feet (6m2), and i can make river tables in it. It is just a little bit more awkward to get things done. If a small shop is all you can get, it is way better than none.
And if you do not have a room for woodworking, you can do I outside, in the garden, or even in the corner of the garage. Just optimize the space you have to work with.