Whether as a hobby or as a way to upgrade the home, many DIYers focus on woodworking and related areas such as whittling or construction with wood. Many people think of woodworking as requiring a lot of skills and experience as well as a number of tools. This is undoubtedly true for professional woodworkers and advanced DIYers. However, almost everyone can start a simple and easy woodworking project without power tools and without having yearlong experience. This is, in fact, the point where many, if not all, woodworking enthusiasts started as well.
In this article, we will look at the types of projects you as a beginner could tackle, as well as a small set of tools that you will need to complete your first woodworking project.
If you are new to woodworking or need to refresh some fundamentals, read also our introduction with useful basic knowledge and practical tips.
Woodworking Projects Without Power Tools
Power tools, such as electric saws, grinders, drills, etc., can save a huge amount of time for finishing certain tasks and provide certain convenience as well as a high level of control over the work you are doing.
However, there may be reasons not to get a set of power tools right away. As a beginner, you might want to focus on simpler projects first. There may also be storage and budget constraints that might prevent you from getting your entire workshop equipment at once.
For small woodworking projects at home, you will not necessarily want to buy a number of expensive power tools. You may also find yourself having to work in areas with no power supply or you may simply prefer woodworking with hand tools only.
The good news is: Whatever motivates you, working without power tools is possible, but you may find yourself needing extra time and patience to complete the job.
Woodworking Tools for Beginners
As woodworking is one of the oldest handicrafts and professions in human history, a broad range of efficient hand tools has been developed over the centuries. There is a range of hand tools that you may want to consider for a start.
As a first set of hand tools, we recommend the following items (buy them as needed for your first projects):
- A jack plane,
- a panel saw,
- a variety of chisels,
- a backsaw,
- a combo square,
- a hammer and nails, and
- a screwdriver and screws (read our screwdriver set reviews).
A backsaw (compare prices on Amazon)
A combo square (find it on Amazon)
Choose the right type of hammer for your project (see the different kinds of hammers on Amazon)
How to Choose Your First Woodworking Project
If you are new to DIY and woodworking, it is important that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. You should choose something that is easily manageable, so you will be able to finish it. If you do so, you will probably be so proud that you will move on to something new, more challenging.
Simple hand tool projects can produce things that are functional and can also look great without being too complicated. Picking something that is too difficult bears some risk though. You might not be able to complete it, cancel the project halfway out of frustration. Or you might not like the result and throw away your woodworking ‘career’ before it had a chance to take off.
Keep in mind that your first project is probably not the best one you will be doing given a lack of experience and a steep learning curve ahead of you. To avoid frustration and make a rewarding outcome more likely, follow these tips:
- Choose a small, manageable project that is still challenging. Bedside tables or coffee tables would be a great place to start. Find more ideas in the next section.
- Work with a single joint. Doing so keeps the complexity at a minimum and allows you to practice and eventually master that particular joint. A bedside table, as an example, requires eight mortise and tenons, which you will be able to cut super-precisely by the time you have finalized the piece. Using too many different types of joints means you will have to learn and apply different techniques in one go rather than master any of them.
- Finding the right material is crucial. Rather than working with cheap pine wood, for example, you will be much better off with a decent hardwood (such as a maple or oak) that will be resilient, look great, and somewhat forgiving if you make a slight mistake.
- Do not stain or dye. With your first project it would be a good idea to avoid stains and dyes, and just choose the type of wood that looks the way you want your final product to be. It’s very easy to accidentally ruin a project at the end when you stain it, so it’s only worth doing once you are more confident about the whole process. Better go for an easy-to-apply oil finish that protects the wood and enhances its natural appearance. You can use our calculator to find out which amount of oil you will need.
- Create a proper working environment, be it in your garage, barn, workshop or just outside the house. Make sure your material and equipment are not exposed to sun and rain, and you can focus on your project without interruptions or distractions. Familiarize yourself with a few safety ground rules for woodworking.
- Lastly, do not forget to enjoy the work and the visible progress you will be making over time.
Simple Woodworking Projects for Beginners (with Hand Tools)
Here is a selection of projects that are ideal for making by hand, and ones that are feasible even if you are new to working with wood.
Building a Side Table
Whatever you use them for, there’s always space and need for a side table in the house. They are also relatively simple to put together as you will only need to make a board top, four legs, and pieces to connect them. There’s plenty of ways to tailor the design to make it unique, and the only joinery you will need is eight mortise and tenons. By making a side table, you’ll learn all the basics you need for future more complicated, projects.
The following video gives you an idea of how to do it:
Building a Small Simple Shelf
Shelves and bookshelves also have multi-functional uses in a home. Similar to side tables, you will learn all of the DIY basics you need. At the same time, such a project is simple enough for you to complete it even without much experience. Just start with a small kind of shelf first and select one of the many different ways to construct one. This will give you the opportunity to experiment with new types of joints and woods. A detailed plan can be found on woodgears.ca.
Other Woodworking Project Ideas for Beginners
While there are probably a million possible woodworking projects for beginners, we have selected the following ideas that seem reasonable and worth to be tackled by a beginner.
- A wooden bench,
- extensions and installations to existing furniture (e.g. a shelf installed in a closet)
- a simple kitchen table,
- a picture or photo frame,
- a coat rack,
- useful kitchen and garage equipment (racks, shelves, boxes), etc.
The use of power tools has become the norm for the majority of DIYers. This is because woodworking projects without power tools often take much more time and effort. The results of projects without electric helpers can, however, be much more personalized and may provide you with a result to be even more proud of.
How to Get Started Now?
It is rather simple to get started! All you need to do is make sure that you have some basic hand tools, some decent wood, and a manageable project to start with. But before that, don’t forget your safety precautions before you start a project.
Read also our introduction to woodworking where we introduce the different types of projects and tools.
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