At the same time, in order to improve your skills, you have to first use those skills and will make mistakes as a novice. How quickly those are overcome and improved on varies from person to person. Some craftsmen grasp a skill quickly and progress to higher levels, others, for several reasons, take more time. Those that do this quickly thrive as self-taught artisans.
Dan, my work space that is available for power tools is quite small, about 6′ x 20′. It may seem like a lot on the surface, but a long rectangle is a bear to work in. It requires a lot of serpentine action. That said, I don’t have too much room for large footprint tools. I have settled finally on three big tools; a small bench saw, a thickness planer, and a drill press. I had to forgo the jointer, so I use hand tools to make up for it’s absence (as I do with a lot of my hand tool techniques). I have gotten to the point where I can flatten one side and true an edge of a board reasonably quick. I then finish it up with the thickness planer and table saw, giving me a nice flat board. I guess what I am basically saying is, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and don’t write off hand tools as a quaint way to experience the past. They worked for thousands of years, and still do! Thanks for the blogs, they make for great reading.
Always be on the lookout for usable wood. You might be able to salvage some. You can use a metal detector to find nails and screws. You don’t need a full fledged metal detector. I use a pinpointer made by Garrett. If your wood has some woodboring beetles you can still use it if not eaten too badly. A healthy dose of cyfluthrin will take care of them.
Using these bookcase plans, I built three of these for my children’s school about five years ago (five years in an elementary school is equivalent to a hundred years in a typical home). They have seen tons of abuse, and have held up beautifully. The school can’t wait to get their hands on more of them to replace the “bargain” bookcases they got from a furniture chain which have needed extensive repairs over the same five year period.
Thank you for that info. Is there any recommended size for crosscutting? Lets say I purchase a 4×8 sheet of plywood or MDF at my local home center. I have them cut it down to strips of 18×8 (for example). When I get home, if I need to crosscut the 18×8 piece, is that possible on a cabinet saw with a crosscut sled or better with a track saw? Reason I ask, that will most likely be my scenario when I purchase lumber. I would rarely bring home a full 4×8 sheet from the store because it’s easier to transport it in smaller widths. I’m at the point to make some tool purchases, and seeing if I should go solely with a track saw for my scenario or get both? I do have a 12 inch compound miter saw but cutting to size on that with 18 inch depth panels is hard in one pass.
I use chisels perhaps more than any other tool in my workshop, so it’s a good idea to not cheap out here. A high quality set of bevel edge bench chisels (new or vintage) will last you many years (likely  your entire life) and will be used on nearly every project. I’ve used some descent affordable plastic handle bench chisels, but highly prefer lighter wooden handle chisels with excellent steel.
For large outdoor gatherings, copious seating is a necessity. This outdoor couch can fit several adults, and oversized arm rests act as end tables for drinks. Before getting started, you’ll want to pick up the cushions for the couch first; depending on their size, you can make any adjustments to the cut list necessary for the perfect fit. Once you have the cushions, all the materials you need can be found at local home centers. We used treated lumber, but you can splurge for a naturally rot-resistant wood like cedar or cypress. We’ve got the full plans here.
Adjustable shelves beat fixed shelves in just about every way. They make storage and display space more versatile, of course. And they’re usually just slabs of plywood nosed with strips of wood or edge banding, so they’re easy to make. And because you can remove them, adjustable shelves simplify staining and finishing. The easiest way to support adjustable shelves is by using shelf standards are ($3 for 6 ft. at home centers). Just screw them into place and you’re done.
Nightstands are just not big enough for everything: lamp, alarm clock, phone, photos of your kids … so books, magazines, your tablet or your cup of tea ends up on the floor. This shelf unit gives you about 10 times more space for decorative and essential stuff. And its dazzling design will transform your room. Best of all, it’s easy to build with basic tools.
I am finally getting to practice my woodworking more after years of collecting tools. By using tool reviews and thinking of the kind of work I would like to do, I have accumulated a nice set of tools without purchasing many mistakes. I decided to use Paul Sellers book and videos and start learning from the beginning. He starts with projects that begin with a small set of tools. One of those tools is a spokeshave. Even though I know much of what is in the first lessons, I have picked up a few new tricks, and am learning to use my tools more efficiently. My most important tools are my workbench and vise. The workbench was tough to build as I was on the floor using hand planes; not a good way to work. I have no jointer; did get a small planer and made a sled for it so I can flatten a board. My tools are in my house, so there is no room for a big table saw or bandsaw. I have a chopsaw and a piece of an old Craftsman tablesaw I got for free. It has to be moved outside to use. A circular saw with a guide is handy. My guide has a plate on which the saw is mounted. The plate slides on aluminum angle (with help of rollers) which is screwed to plywood. Once the initial cut is made in the plywood, the plywood is simply lined up with your cut marks and clamped down.
Robyn Mierzwa is the founder of Makeville Studio, a community workshop established in 2008 that offers classes in woodworking and furniture making in Brooklyn, NY. A self-taught woodworker, Robyn has honed her craft over many years and continues to learn something new on every project. In addition to furniture making, she is passionate about teaching and is grateful for the opportunity to help others tap into their creative selves through craft.
Build a model boat. Model boats are a bit tricky to shape and it's best to find individual patterns for these, depending on the type of boat you're after. A very basic one can be made from a rectangular block of wood with a dowel hole drilled in the center, a dowel inserted for the sail pole and a sail (cloth or paper) attached to the dowel pole. It's not the most elegant but it's quick and simple, and from there, you can start building more advanced versions.

If you can buy a bunch of tools at one time, you can save a ton on shipping, as the more you buy, the lower the rates. Also, take advantage of free shipping offers. Compare to see where you can get the best deal. Whatever you buy, make sure it is high quality. I have a Nicholson backsaw I bought at a local store before I knew of the woodworking suppliers. It has never been used much, but cuts much slower than saws such as Gramercy or Lie-Nielsen, even though mine have smaller teeth than the Nicholson.
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.
A small jointer is better than no jointer, but a small jointer is not a great addition to a shop. A jointer needs table length. I would skip buying a small to medium size jointer. Once again, rely on your hand tools. They can perform as well or better than a machine that costs hundreds more, they require a great deal of room, and they should be run in conjunction with a dust collector. You can flatten boards with a jack plane and straighten edges with a jointer. With a little experience it becomes a quick task.
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