My basic advice is to develop lots of connections with people. Most branches of woodworking are hard to sell without knowing the right people – especially when targeting the luxury furnishings or corporate markets. I started down this path with the idea that I might own my own shop but forgot about that once I’d accepted employment in the field. Since I was satisfied working for others, I didn’t bother making the connections, and now I’m so busy it’s hard to get away from the shop long enough to do so. That’s not the end of the world, as we’re still pulling in plenty of work. It just took longer to get there than it should have. For those considering a self-employed woodworking career, it’s a good idea to meet individuals who associate with the types of people that are likely to become future clients. Word-of-mouth is still a powerful form of marketing even in this age of internet.

In the sixty years of woodworking I have found two tools of increasing necessity. One is a band saw. I can do most of my work with a band saw and hand plane. The second tool is a bow saw, or actually several bow saws. They will replace the band saw if required, though they are slow. One I made about twenty years ago has a one and a half inch wide rip blade and is about thirty inches long. I think the blade is from an old industrial band saw blade I picked up and sharpened into a rip saw blade. It works very well on ripping lumber, logs, etc. Though it tires me out to much to use it now.


Formally known as a “tilting arbor saw,” this tool is just an upside-down electric handsaw that’s been mounted to the underside of a steel table top, with the circular saw blade protruding through a slot. The “arbor” is the shaft on which the blade spins. It’s an axle that can be tilted with respect to the horizontal table top for cutting angles; it’s raised or lowered to adjust cutting depth. A miter gauge enables the sawyer to push stock at angles or perpendicular to the blade (“cross-cutting”). A fence can be fixed parallel to the blade for cutting along the length of a workpiece (“rip-sawing”).

Like you, I too am benchless. I built the “Mozilla” Molson vice variant from last year’s issue (I forget which) and it comes in handy for a lot of operations. I clamp it down to a piece of plywood that I have covered with formica (actually, it’s two pieces that I have piano-hinged together for easier storage) laid across two sawhorses. As long as lateral thrust is not involved, this is a pretty stable way to work. I also have a Zyliss vise for working on smaller pieces. I’ve made do for nearly forty years with a radial arm saw and circular saw. I have only recently acquired a planer and router table (both on wheels) It makes the garage croweded because also sharing the space are two motorcycles and about 400 board feet of rough sawn Camphor. I currently attend classes in woodworking and this coming semester I’ll be enrolled in a class for handtools only (and sharpening).
To corral shelf-dwelling books or DVDs that like to wander, cut 3/4-in.-thick hardwood pieces into 6-in. x 6-in. squares. Use a band saw or jigsaw to cut a slot along one edge (with the grain) that’s a smidgen wider than the shelf thickness. Stop the notch 3/4 in. from the other edge. Finish the bookend and slide it on the shelf. Want to build the shelves, too? We’ve got complete plans for great-looking shelves here.
Multiples of these bookcases can be connected to form a single, larger unit, generally for a built-in application. To do so, simply build them without a face frame, and finish boards that can be used to construct the face frame separately. Then, nail the face frame in place using brads after the cases are installed. To improve the appearance of the face frame joints using this approach, mill the rails (horizontal pieces) so that they are 1/8-in thinner than the stiles (vertical pieces). This creates a nice shadow line and conceals any unevenness at the joint. Also build a single long top to tie all the pieces together. I use plywood with biscuits to span beyond 8″, edge banded with hardwood strips as you have done for your shelves.
Marc, it’s very difficult to answer this question. Many years ago i started out with a book, and then i got another but i just wasn’t getting it. Then I started watching your video’s and everything came to life. I know there are many options that you would fall under but in my personal opinion there needs to be a Woodwhisperer choice or at least a Pod casting choice =)
Cut the 6-1/2-in. x 3-in. lid from the leftover board, and slice the remaining piece into 1/4-in.-thick pieces for the sides and end of the box. Glue them around the plywood floor. Cut a rabbet on three sides of the lid so it fits snugly on the box and drill a 5/8-in. hole for a finger pull. Then just add a finish and you’ve got a beautiful, useful gift. If you don’t have time to make a gift this year, consider offering to do something for the person. You could offer to sharpen their knives! Here’s how.
It’s mostly been learn by doing for me. I can’t afford to go somewhere to take any lessons. However, I do learn from books, DVDs, and videos on the internet. I still believe that learning by doing is the best way. Books and videos can get you going in the right direction but when you do it on your own all kinds of problems crop up that you have to solve. For example, when woodcarving the best way to understand what carving with the grain is is to carve with a carving tool. Same thing about sharpening a carving tool. You had better learn how to sharpen by sharpening your tools when they need it. You’re dead in the water if your carving tools are not sharp.
I learned the basics from J. Arthur Johnson when I was in 7th grade shop class . . . and I’ve been self-taught ever since. I do read Fine Woodworking (I have EVERY issue) and some books that my wife and friends have given me; and of COURSE Marc’s fine blog and a few other on-line sources but I don’t feel like I have really learned how to do anything until I’ve tried and failed and then re- and re-re-tried until I’ve made it work MY way.
If you enjoy these free bookcase plans be sure to check out these other free woodworking plans for shelves, coffee tables, entertainment centers, desks, Little Free Library, wine racks, jewelry boxes, home bars, kitchen islands, bathroom vanities, playhouses, picnic tables, dog houses, decks, workbenches, tree houses, pergolas, sheds, Adirondack chairs, bunk beds, and even chicken coops.
If you enjoy these free bookcase plans be sure to check out these other free woodworking plans for shelves, coffee tables, entertainment centers, desks, Little Free Library, wine racks, jewelry boxes, home bars, kitchen islands, bathroom vanities, playhouses, picnic tables, dog houses, decks, workbenches, tree houses, pergolas, sheds, Adirondack chairs, bunk beds, and even chicken coops. 

But what if you want to make a box? The revered (and overly-mystified) dovetail joint is a very strong way to join corners of boards. Of all features that non-woodworkers admire today, the dovetail joint is the one that creates the most awe. It is composed of one side cut into wedge-shaped “tails” that mate into corresponding “pins.” When fitted together, the wedge shape prevents the boards from sliding apart in one direction. This joint has been very standard construction since the 1700s. Never meant to impress, it was usually intentionally hidden behind veneer, molding, or paint so that no one would have to look at that “ugly” joinery. It wasn’t until the arts and crafts movement that visible joinery was considered an aesthetic asset. Today, making dovetail joints has become a litmus test for serious woodworkers, but don’t let this scare you away from trying it. Check out a few of the four million “How to Cut Dovetails” videos online and then get into the shop. It’s much more straightforward than people think: Cut tails. Trace the tails on the other board. Then cut out the waste you traced. That’s pretty much it. All the fine tuning is just practice.
Make It: Let your child choose a few bright colors to paint his dragonfly. Paint a wood clothespin to be the body and paint two mini craft sticks to be wings. Once dry, cross the craft sticks on top of the clothespin and glue in place. Add googly eyes to the front and glue a strong magnet to the bottom of the clip. Display it on the fridge and your little one will feel very proud.
So my partners and I opened a Woodcraft store that had an established school as a main part of its business plan. What could be better? Come for a class and buy some tools. But when I first presented the idea of a full-fledged school to the corporate people and told them the dollar amount that I planned to do in school tuition sales, they basically laughed at me. A year after we were opened, they finally started to take notice of this whole "education thing" because I had not only met my projections, I doubled them.

Measure back opening (the plywood sits between the protruding outside edges of the sides that were formed from the rabbets that were previously milled, and fully overlaps the backs of the carcass top and bottom panels). Cut 1/4″ plywood to fit snugly. Even though I have a large cabinet saw equipped with ample outfeed support, I like to make the cross-cut first using a circular saw for a safer, more controlled operation, and then rip to width on a table saw. Be careful when cutting 1/4″ plywood on a table saw, as it can flex, allowing the material to rise above the blade which can cause a dangerous kickback. Use a slow feed rate, apply steady downward pressure when needed, and be sure to use your blade guard for this operation.

As far as schools, there are lots of fine schools that teach woodworking, and I think that they are a good way to get started. However, the best way to learn the trade, in my opinion, is by working alongside an experienced woodworker in a working shop. You’ll learn a lot of valuable skills in a school, but in a shop you’ll learn those skills in more of a practical and real-world surrounding. You have to not only do good work, but do it efficiently, and schools can be a little less demanding than a working shop.
Teds Woodworking is a big collection of woodworking plans and all of these are well organized and categorized so that you find what you are looking for fast. These woodworking plans include bed plans, table and chair plans, furniture plans, shed plans, bird house plans and many more. Each of these woodworking plans come with full comprehensive instructions as well as diagrams. You will be able to see, what it is you want to do. The program also includes 150 training videos, so you can see and learn how things should be done. You will be able to see the complete pieces that you need to build and learn how to fit them together. The diagrams are used by many individuals as they go through each part of the process.

Bruce Lamo has done woodworking pretty much all his life, although never exclusively to make a living. He prefers making furniture and working with solid wood, but often uses plywood when making cabinets. This article originated when a few friends were considering buying tools that based on his experience, he thought would not be a good investment.
And, although a formal education is helpful, it is not necessary, and most woodworkers receive on-the-job training under the supervision of other more experienced workers.  However, because of the ongoing development and modernizing of woodworking machinery, many employers are requiring applicants to have at least a high school diploma, or a few years training in math (specifically geometry) and computer applications.  Many woodworkers will receive training by enrolling in a community or technical college.  Some may attend a university that offers coursework in furniture manufacturing or wood engineering. Individuals who have earned a degree can often move into management or supervisory positions, or go on to open their own woodworking shop.  Becoming a skilled woodworker can often take years, and knowledge of blueprints and work sequences takes training and practice.
As someone who is just progressing past being a “beginner” (just getting into building furniture) in the woodworking community, I would say there are a number of changes I would make to your list. First, I would say that a power jointer/thicknesser does not belong on the list by any means. They are way too large of an investment and take up a lot of space (not to mention you can buy your stock at the desired dimensions). I also strongly disagree with the concept of joinery devices. As someone new to the trade, I feel this is a very important skill that must be developed, not skipped over by buying devices power devices that achieve a single goal. I think the jigsaw should be replaced by a good bandsaw. I just purchased my first major power tool and it was a 14″ bandsaw and not a tablesaw for space reasons as well as versatility. The bandsaw allows me to resaw, cut curves, (now that it is adjusted for drift) rip pieces of stock accurately that are thicker than a table saw could handle, etc. Once the cut is complete, a handplane can remove any saw marks and square/flatten a surface. It is also really useful for cutting tenons and dovetails. Handsaws can be used for crosscutting and anything else the bandsaw cannot handle. As for a bench, if you are getting into woodworking, this should be your first real project (and it is not expensive to make). You are also missing a good vise to be attached to the bench.

Thickness planer. A thickness planer is used to fix surfaces of imperfect wood. If you are picking up less than perfect wood from the lumberyard, wood with some surface defects, a planer will let you fix that wood in the quickest time. A thickness planer pays for itself quick as it allows you to buy cheaper wood that doesn’t have perfect surfaces and fix it yourself. Be careful though. You loose wood during planing. So the remaining amount of wood still has to be worth the price you paid for it.
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