You’ve seen a few shows on TV and working with wood looks pretty fun. After all, you get to use your hands and create something that you can proudly display to your friends and family. But where do you begin to learn to do woodworking? This part provides you with the basic vocabulary from which to build your woodworking skills. Chapter 1 shows you all the steps involved with making a woodworking project, Chapter 2 introduces you to the various qualities of wood, and Chapter 3 helps you get up to speed with your woodworking space and workshop safety.
I’m not sold on the need for a power jointer for flattening a surface. That said, I do have a Shopsmith 4″ jointer.. It’s great for jointing edges, and perhaps flattening the occasional rails and stiles, but it of course is inadequate for surfacing wide boards. Would a six inch jointer be better…..not by much. So what do we do? Go to an eight inch, or better yet a ten inch jointer? Now we’re getting into really big, heavy, and electrically hungry machines that are not really suitable for the small shop that is likely to be in a small shed or garage. 

I have used a Workmate successfully for years and I am in the process of building an upgraded replacement for the work surfaces. My replacement bench top will be a little longer, much thicker and it will have and extended apron between the two halves to greatly improve holding wood vertically for dovetailing. With this simple upgrade it turns the little Workmate into a very capable portable woodworking bench.
Somehow I overlook #1, the jointer and thickness planer, and I saw all the other tools and immediately thought that this was my first set of tools I bought when I started working as a carpenter on a friend’s crew. Then I saw my oversight and just couldn’t get over how incongrous those two items were to the rest of the list. Had I seen a scrub plane and a jack plane I would have more harmony in the list.
Like yourself, I get great satisfaction from working with this small kit. Similar to your wine box, I’ve got this old ‘sausage box’ that I can fit everything in, if I’m out the job site or such. It’s a lovely feeling to know that with just this small box of tools, I can pay all my bills and eat. I just wish I could get the rest of my life so minimal!

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Last, but not least…but often left until last, let’s talk routers. If you already own Ryobi batteries, this is the no-brainer entry-level router for you. As you get into doing more router work you will learn there are different kinds of routers (trim, combination, and full size). Honestly, I don’t own this router, and when I first purchased a router a number of years ago I had no idea what I was getting. If I did it again I would start here and get comfortable with it, then decide from there what my main applications are. I will add that if you are using a router table, which I totally recommend (I use this one), you will need a full size. My old router is going out right now, and I will likely replace it with this Bosch model.
If you bought this superb polished table in a store, it would cost you a fortune, but our detailed instructions will help you make one for less than $100. And it looks like highly polished stone, but no-one would know it’s actually made from concrete with a wooden base. Also, you can embellish the top with leaf prints, like the table shown here, or personalize it with glass or mosaic tiles or imprints of seashells.
Periodically people ask what I recommend as far as tools to build and begin their own DIY woodworking adventure. The journey looks different for everyone, and we all end up picking our own favorite things to focus on, of course. But there are some basic things most of us agree on. For this list of recommended items I picked the brains of some of my fellow woodworkers, and found a few common items. For a few of these I’ll reference you to a tutorial so you can learn more if you like.
Just for the record, a jointer and planer are not from the ICDT kit – the philosophy on that column is, indeed, beginner AND basic (hence the Workmate). The tools we suggest in the ICDT manual are for those who are working at a kitchen table or in a backyard; the tools the editors would recommend for someone who is quite sure he or she wants to pursue serious furniture making would be rather different.
In 1900, just as it was when I was a student over 100 years later, the view is that it is better to buy a quality tool once that will last a lifetime than buy something of poor quality which will not serve you well in your work. Keep that in mind as you review the list — since the tools were not the cheapest back then and surely are not the cheapest today. But with this modest set of tools you can build an amazing array of projects just as many ‘Sloyders’ (Sloyd school students) have done before us.

Relax and enjoy your outdoor space with this smart patio combo consisting of a sofa and chair. You can adjust the size completely to make it fit perfectly onto your patio or deck, and both the sofa and chair have arms that double as trays for al fresco dining. And you can make your own cushions to fit, or use shop-bought ones and add your own ties, if necessary.


Aside from the privacy it offers, a latticework porch trellis is a perfect way to add major curb appeal to your home for $100 or less. The trellis shown here is made of cedar, but any decay-resistant wood like redwood, cypress or treated pine would also be a good option. Constructed with lap joints for a flat surface and an oval cutout for elegance, it’s a far upgrade from traditional premade garden lattice. As long as you have experience working a router, this project’s complexity lies mostly in the time it takes to cut and assemble. Get the instructions complete with detailed illustrations here.
If I were to give someone new one piece of advice, it would be to buy their chisels new, not used. I have wasted more time and more money trying to save butchered chisels than I want to admit. There’s a good chance that the used chisel will be bellied in the back or pitted at the edge and it will take more than beginner skills to fix it. You may make things worse rather than better. Sure, learn to do this _some_ day, but maybe not as a beginner first thing. I’ve had similar problems with used planes, but it isn’t nearly as bad a problem for a joinery plane. If there are pits that lead to scratches, it may not matter for anything other than a final smoother. Also, a tiny back bevel may save the day on a plane, but you likely don’t want that on a chisel. So, I’m less fussed about planes and, if it all goes south, you can buy a new blade for smoothing work and use the old for rough work (all in the same plane). You can’t buy a new blade for a chisel. Well, you can, but it’s called buying a new chisel. I use 3/8″ a lot. 1/4, 3/8 to handle all the mortises and dovetails and either 3/4 or 1″ for paring shoulders and for fat parts of some dovetails. I probably learn towards the 1″ because there are times you want to reference off the blade to keep moving in a line, like for a housing. I think Lee Valley’s version of the Narex are excellent and mine came with flat backs that could go straight to polishing.
Part IV is filled with really cool projects. The purpose of this section is to give you some woodworking experience and to progressively build your skills. Chapter 12 leads you through the process of making a project so that you know what you’re getting into before you begin cutting wood. Chapter 13 gets you started woodworking with the easiest project to build — a bookcase. Not just one bookcase, but several, so you’re sure to find one that fits your design ideals. Chapter 14 builds on the skills you developed in Chapter 13 by helping you build tables. Like Chapter 13, you have several table designs to choose from (heck, build ’em all; you can never have too many tables!). Chapter 15 ups the ante by providing projects for making cabinets with either drawers or doors. Again, you get to choose among several really good designs (if I do say so myself).
This time I surprised one of my favorite dice games and took it outside. I made a set of wooden dice in just a few hours, and instead of sitting in the room and doing nothing, we are taking our dice game out into the yard. With this set of wooden dice, dice games are becoming our favorite backyard game. Check out the step by step tutorial below so you can make your own.
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I have used a Workmate successfully for years and I am in the process of building an upgraded replacement for the work surfaces. My replacement bench top will be a little longer, much thicker and it will have and extended apron between the two halves to greatly improve holding wood vertically for dovetailing. With this simple upgrade it turns the little Workmate into a very capable portable woodworking bench.
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