18 things every beginning woodworker should know


I’ve been woodworking since I was a kid
but there are some things that took me years to figure out on my own. Before the
Internet if you wanted advice from other woodworkers you needed to know
another woodworker in real life and besides my dad and my grandpa I never knew
any! But those days are over now we have Twitter and Facebook to tell us
what to do and we can spend hours in discussion with other woodworkers about
why other people are using the wrong kinds of screws and why the brands of
tools they’re using are a joke but if you’re new to this hobby and trying to
sift through all the noise maybe you just actually want to build stuff I
thought I’d share some of my 40 years of woodworking experience and observations
to help you avoid some common rookie misconceptions and give you some
realistic advice on what you can expect as a new woodworker. Keep in mind this is
just one man’s experience and opinion I’m just some guy if you’ve been
woodworking for a while leave a comment with your helpful advice to new
woodworkers. What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you got
started? It’s funny how many lay people think
woodworking involves pounding a lot of nails glue is where it’s at and I buy it
by the gallon. Once you’ve mastered how to build a relatively square box you’ll
be able to make almost anything I have a theory that about 75% of all woodworking
projects are just variations on a box. I’m pretty sure the other 25% are live
edge resin River tables. For most woodworkers a table saw is the most used
tool and the core of their shop. Rabbets and Dados are the quickest and easiest
ways to join boards together without using mechanical fasteners. Other joints
are fun to try but mostly unnecessary those can be personal challenges down
the road. In addition to recurring expenses such as glue screws drill bits
sandpaper etc the biggest cost of a project will be the wood. If you’re on a
real shoestring budget take the time to look for free lumber on Craigslist or
Facebook. I know I give away my excess lumber at least once a year. Pallet wood is usually free and it is an option but I don’t recommend it for new
woodworkers it’s a lot of work to break them down and to get usable boards so I
think the best option is to buy pine boards and plywood from an orange or
blue big-box Home Center you’ll need to take the time to find quality boards but
they are relatively inexpensive and I think pine is beautiful it’s a highly
underrated species of wood. But as a ballpark figure you could build a desk
like this one for under $100 using pine boards and plywood. If you enjoy making
small projects, say, jewelry boxes or perpetual calendars and other decorative
things lumber costs can be quite minimal. But generally speaking get into
woodworking because you want a challenge and you love to build and create your
own pieces, not to save money. If you need say, a dresser, IKEA will almost always be
cheaper than building it yourself. Either download quality plans or design your
own. Sketchup is a free design program and learning how to use it is pretty
easy. Trust me on this one I used to waste a lot of time and materials just
winging it in the shop, making up the project as I went along maybe making a
few crew sketches with a pencil and paper. That could get very frustrating.
Drawing up 3D plans allows me to consider proportions and discover design
problems before I turned on a single tool. Even for the simplest projects I
save money on wasted lumber and I save hours just fussing around in the shop by
sketching up plans first. Don’t fear your power tools but respect
them. I have a whole video on safety basics please watch it. Building a big
project isn’t usually any more difficult than building a smaller project. It’ll
draw upon the same set of skills but just with a lot more steps. This one
might be a little controversial. A lot of people absolutely love tools. They
collect them and even call them their toys. These days you’ll see a lot of
maker flexing on social media people unboxing and showing off their latest
expensive tools. It could be intimidating and deflating I mean don’t get me wrong
there’s nothing wrong with collecting tools if that’s what you love to do but
if your goal is to build things don’t spend so much time obsessing over them.
Anyone, and I mean anyone, can build amazing things with a very modest set of
tools. My mere mortals method of woodworking is the most affordable way
to build while still using modern power tools but again woodworking ain’t free.
Don’t fall into the trap of buying tools you think woodworkers are supposed to
have only buy the tools that you need and know that you’re going to be using
on a regular basis. And try not to fall in love with brands people love to
identify with tool tribes but in reality most power tools for hobbyists and
weekend woodworkers function about the same. Hey, there’s no woodworking rule
that says all your tools have to be the same color okay this is something almost
every new woodworker is going to experience the first time you see purple
heart at a hardwood seller you’re gonna be blown away by its beauty and in a
couple of years it’s gonna be brown. It’s a nice brown, but it doesn’t stay purple. Ignore anybody who tells you anything you’re doing isn’t “real woodworking”. I’m
a big advocate of pocket whole joinery for instance, they are traditional but
they’re effective and a huge help in building projects. Hey if you like to
build things with a CNC go for it. If cutting things with a laser makes you
happy, light up. If you’re completing projects made out of wood
you’re a woodworker. If you want to be a woodworking purist well maybe chop down
your own trees and fashion your own tools out of stone. Along these same
lines, try to avoid thinking that whatever you do isn’t fine woodworking. Fine woodworking is a loaded term meant to kind of invalidate the efforts of
others if you just made your first project say a small end table you just
did something that fewer than 1% of people will ever do and that’s pretty
fine in my book. Every project I’ve ever made has had problems and challenges and
I’ve never made anything that was perfect. Just remember you can always
turn the crappy side against the wall. Oh here’s another one new woodworkers love
to do. Pointing out their mistakes. Be proud of what you made nobody will
notice its flaws, just the fact that you actually build something by hand is
awesome. Hey you could have spent the entire weekend playing video games or
watching Netflix, but you created something from nothing. Just let that
sink in, you have my permission. Use whatever space you have. If you have
stationary tools put them on casters and roll them out when you need them. You can
have a fully functional shop in the space it takes to store a lawn mower and
a couple of bikes. Reclaim a part of your garage.
almost every mistake can be salvaged and fixed rarely do you need to start all
over again if you goof. Find creative solutions to problems. See there’s
nothing that can’t be fixed. If you don’t do a good job sanding
imperfections are gonna show up when you apply finish and you’re gonna regret it.
Oh, by the way there’s rarely any benefit to sanding beyond 220 grit 60, 100, and 220
are the only sand papers I use. Lastly, experience is going to improve your
woodworking more than anything else. It’s really about getting in the reps, the
more time you could spend in the shop making things the more confident you’ll
become and the better equipped you’ll be for handling problems. Plus you’ll be
able to make more informed tool purchasing decisions based on what you
discover that you actually need. So these were just some of the things I
brainstormed. I’ll probably think of more after I published this video but if
you’ve never done any woodworking before I hope this video will give you the nudge you
need to get started. And if you’re looking for a thorough
no-nonsense step-by-step method for getting started I have an online
training course called the weekend woodworker that’ll get you building and
completing your first project this weekend, even if you have no experience.
Start by downloading my free guide to setting up your own workshop for under a
thousand bucks. head over to mytoollist.com or click on the link down in the
description. Thanks for watching, everybody.

100 thoughts on “18 things every beginning woodworker should know

  1. I build all kinds of things with a circular saw,drill and router lol I'd love to have more tools but I don't have the room

  2. Steve, great video, very good points… I saw myself when you mentioned tool's collector, rookie, etc, I realy enjoied your tips.

  3. Download and learn Sketchup, like he says. That's great advice. Fun and intuitive program with plenty of youtube tutorials. Saves heaps of time and avoids too much head scratching when it comes to making things

  4. I like you, too much. We are gonna get along just fine. Thank you very much.

  5. I have you now!
    You summon demons in your spare time! I see that spirit board!

  6. Just found your channel! Usually don't comment on videos but I wanted to say thank you! Very new to wood working and easily discouraged but w wood I noticed my patience is high. I love your positivity. We need more ppl like u in the world!! You restored my faith in humanity 🤙🏽

  7. Use offcuts to practice. I just got a new doweling jig and I'm going practice my joins on some offcuts first.

  8. Honestly, to start out with woodworking, you don't need much. I've started with 5 chisels, a hammer, 2 clamps, a hand saw, a square and an electric drill and made a small bookshelf and a larger shelf to store food in literally in my bedroom and they turned out alright and are still in use.
    The advantage with hand tools I think is you get accustomed to the properties of the wood more quickly.

  9. Steve (or anyone else), would you have any suggestions on some good woodworking books? Any level would be acceptable.

  10. I would highly disagree with buying cheap tools and tooling. Always buy best you can afford ESPECIALLY blades and router cutters, jigs. All cheap stuff is there for a reason you buy cheap and pay twice in the end and any higher end brand will outlast the cheap crap and are made for more precision saving time in a long run. If you want to save on jigsaw blades yes you might get 20 of them for $5 but they wont last as much as couple good blades and this is especially true with router bits and saw blades.

  11. Cool! I`m gonna build a TV and Speaker stand using scaffolding pipes and wood, wish me luck!!! ( probably gonna need it hahah )

  12. "Maker flexing." I love it. This is great advice. I am very budget conscious. I started out in the hobby by buying tools from estate sales, and learned which tools I like/need to use most. I bought my first table saw at an estate sale for $40, made a crosscut sled from scrap melamine and sold it all for $60 when I upgraded my table saw. Bought 2 router tables with routers (one from an estate sale, one from FB Marketplace). Bought a nearly new immaculate drill press from someone on FB Marketplace. Bought a beefy 2HP dust collector from an estate sale. Bought lots of clamps at estate sales. Pipe clamps, bar clamps, handscrew clamps, and corner clamps. Bought a vise at an estate sale. Bought a scroll saw and a beefy 6×48 belt/9-inch disc sander that were never used (just returned and sold as refurbished for 40-50% off). New tools depreciate quickly, but then the value holds steady. You can buy a used tool, use it for a year or so, and probably sell it for what you bought it for (or very close). When I want a new tool, I always wait for sales, and rarely buy a tool without researching reviews and prices. It's worked out great so far.

  13. Your videos are amazing,they get me thrilled to do some woodworking
    Today I made a wood pipe out of pink peroba, not sure if is safe to smoke from it,but it look great

  14. I really enjoy your videos. I do a little of everything in the shop. One week, I may be cutting wood with steel and reattaching it with adhesive, while the next week I will cut steel with fire and reattach it with electricity. But whatever I do, I like to observe people that are not only better than me, but good at describing it. And you are one of those guys. So not only do I get a lot out of your videos, I recommend them to my daughter who is trying to developer her own shop skills. Thanks!

    By the way, you are dead-on when you tell people to build a simple box. Whether nailing, gluing, dovetailing, squaring up, or anything else, a box covers it all.

  15. I pretty well agree with everything you say but the rule about buying tools of the same brand "color" is not important… Here I got to say… if your starting out from scratch, planning on cordless tool choice is in my opinion, very helpful in the long run. While it is not essential to have all one brand… it is efficient and less frustrating to do so. (in the cordless world in my opinion brand matters less… it's when you get into the big stationary machines that brand starts to make a difference. Ryobi, Makita, Bosch etc….. the darn drill makes a hole and drives a screw!) I admit I have Cordless tools from several manufacturers, and from several eras as well… and the collection of chargers is, well, a pain in the ass… so if starting out from scratch… try and limit the color to one 🙂 Having Interchangeable batteries will make you smile!

  16. thanks. so question. i want to make a sofa entry table. nice pine board ontop. what would be best way to secure the top to frame? thanks.

  17. Thank you so much for the list of tools. This is exactly what I was looking for. I have some woodworking experience from my job but it's a scene shop making sets for theatre productions so it's all just making things as quickly and sturdily as possible while still not looking absolutely ragged since everything is painted and usually viewed from far away. Everything is put together with screws or a pneumatic staple gun. I've been really longing to get my own shop together so I can learn some real craftsmanship. The fact that I can set up a complete workshop for less than $1000 is amazing

  18. You would be so cool to have as a dad. Thanks for your video, it was refreshing

  19. Someone made fun of me for using a not so popular brand of tool in my little garage shop the other day. But honestly like you said, for weekend projects they work just fine. I make cutting boards for Pete's sake. Thank you for your video

  20. My teacher at industrial school used to say: Life consists of boxes. After birth they put you in an incubator – box. You live in a house – box, driving a car – box, playing on PC – box, watching TV – box, sleeping in a bed – box. Eventually you die and they put you in a ……. box….

  21. My tip…..always read the instruction manuals before using new tools. I can't count the number of times I've seen new woodworkers trying to make miter saw cuts by pulling instead of pushing, or feeding a router table left to right.

  22. I'm still kind of an amateur but the first thing I learnt was "stop bitching and overthinking, just get to work". There's no way you won't make any mistakes, these skills develop overtime through experience. So, just give it a go and see how it turns out!
    Kudos for the anti-elitist attitude. Spot on!

  23. You sir, are amazing. I wish you were there when i was learning some years ago, and not my uncle who used to be like my boss in my first workshop and kept part of my profit every time I had the opportunity. Lol.

  24. Wow! You have literally all the videos I am looking for. Thank you so much for your dedication 🙂

  25. Great positive attitude and encouraging for new Woodworkers. I cringed however when you ran your work piece tight to the fence using a dado blade. It's much better to clamp or screw on auxiliary piece of wood to the fence short of the dado blade and let the piece Run free of it as it passes through the blade, using a slide table of course. This greatly reduces the risk of binding. You don't want the wood trapped between the fence and the dado blade.

  26. Steve R. I have some PRICELESS advice 4 u. Burn that ouija board, repent and seek Jesus Christ.

  27. While I do agree you don't need a lot of "fancy tools" to do basic jobs at times you DO need certain tools to make things "better"!! In truth there is no substitute for a good plane or a decent set of chisels when you need them!! And at times even having a scrap block of wood as a sanding block is better than just trying to hold sand paper to sand with!! Knowing WHAT tools you need or figuring out ways to "work around" not having a certain tool at times becomes more of a problem then just running out and buying the tool you NEED to do the job properly!! In fact I used mostly just a circular saw for years BUT it wasn't until I bought a used table saw that my wood working improved almost over night even though my saw was so out of whack it wasn't funny!! Two years ago I finally broke down and bought a decent but cheap contractors table saw, simply because I do not have an actual "shop" and I have no room to use or store a full on WORK SAW that is "top of the line" to start with, nor do I have the money (I am disabled) to race out and buy a $4500 saw with all the "bells and whistles"! In short at times you do have to consider too what tools or functions you need to preform to get the MOST out of your project!!! Sure you can get by without a table router for example if you are willing to hard sand corners which will take literally HOURS of labor to get nice results but the aforementioned table router DOES MAKE work much faster and easier in most cases just the same!! Just like at times it is a nightmare to cut straight lines with a jig saw, though not totally impossible, but again a table saw makes work so much easier faster and far more rewarding in the end!! Besides your results WILL be better just having the proper tool for the right job which is where I sort of disagree with your logic of "You don't need certain tools" because at times a miter saw will still make far superior miter cuts than a circular saw ever will as an example!! Sure you can still make decent cuts if you want to take the time monkeying around with it, but even a cheap or rented miter saw will make things easier or faster in the end thus proving my point of "the right tool for the job"!! Anyhow I just wanted to add those thoughts to your post and I love the work you do, but at times YOU NEED the right tool for the job or spend hours pondering how to make things you just can't with limited tools at times!! And trust me some tools have their limits no matter how good you are using them in the first place!!

  28. i'm about to begin my first project in woodworking and bro…this video was absolutely inspirational! thanks a lot for taking your time and sharing those drops of wisdom in this most light-hearted and generous way. god bless you!

  29. Steve, you're an absolute DUDE.
    As per my fellow viewer's comment, I too… "loved the positive, anti-elitist encouragement here".
    Thanks for all the videos!

  30. Good advice worth following, Here's my two pennyworth to add to what Steve said, buy the best not most expensive hand tools for example Lie Neilson make wonderful tools but very expensive, an older Stanley or Record can be fettled to be as good as a Lie Neilson(which are often copies of Stanley tools) , you just have to put the work in to get them up to standard, get your Lie Neilson and Veritas tools in years to come when you know what you are doing. Hand tools will last you(and your kids) a lifetime so dont be afraid to buy quality used hand tools which are often sold for a song, and are little used and just need a tune up to be better than new, e.g. modern planes rarely have flat soles and chisel backs on modern tools are usually not flat, better to buy older tools. In contrast cordless Power hand tools have a limited lifespan because technology is always improving, especially batteries, and unless you are a pro(or rich of course) dont buy the best, buy what I call upper handyman range, they will more than serve your needs. If you are American, count your blessings because timber(lumber) is cheaper than anywhere else on the planet. Watch lots of YouTube videos, especially ones by masters like Paul Seller and Rob Cosman, just be aware that sometimes they are sponsored, so dont get carried away when they recommend a product, I'm not saying the product isn't good, its just that they have to make a living to.

  31. Wow, thanks for the pep talk. Nice video. Just subscribed. One thing. all my tools are the same color only because I don't like green 😉 haha. Keep up the great videos.

  32. So glad I found you!🔆 I now know I can and will make my outdoor sofa!!!❤❤❤

  33. Coming back after a long hiatus, man i feel like when I am just working in my shop it really just alleviates most of my stress. I truly enjoy it Love this channel

  34. you dont need expensive tools but you do need the right tools most the time, especially when starting out

  35. The only thing I can say is that if you're buying cordless tools, get all the same brand, that way they all take the same battery. Less chargers more batteries if you're only using one or two tools

  36. I am just starting to toss around the thought of starting some woodworking projects. I can't get enough of these Mere Mortal videos!!!

  37. Все коротко і по-суті. Ніби нічого нового для себе не почув, але все одно така подача матеріалу надихає на роботу. Дякую за мотивацію

  38. You are a very nice person and I appreciate everything you do for us. Thank you <3

  39. You'd also maybe be surprised how much wood/lumber you can find in construction site (generally home remodel sites) dumpsters that is not only good but sometimes far superior to the lumber you can buy new. An example being TRUE dimensional lumber (where a 2×4 is actually 2"×4" and not 1.5"×3.5") made from the darkest heart pine you've ever seen…like iron. Just pull a few nails…maybe not even that.

  40. Excellent presentation, Steve. I began woodworking with hand tools, & gradually progressed to accumulating power tools over a number of years – & obviously, the advent of same – particularly cordless models afford me portability, & where possible, I don't care for trailing cables in my work space (but that's my preference, & not necessarily anyone else's). My only failing (seemingly) is that I tend to save up for more expensive power tools, & not to be "elitist", rather, because I know that I will be building wooden projects for the rest of my lifetime, so I want them to last as long as possible, which, in this day & age, is a challenge all it's own – given the 'throw away' ethos many manufacturers have adopted (& which I consistently rail against). I still have my original first 165mm cordless circular saw (& even that was a reconditioned unit); it's as reliable today as it was upon receipt – only the blades have come & gone.
    The one thing I did do in the early days was to buy the cheapest screws (tho' never slotted) – & of course, back in the day, Phillips were all that was available: I learnt the hard way, with failed projects not staying together – now I just employ 'Spax' – sadly, we can't get Canadian square slot screws in the UK, & I consider the import duty on same would be more than the goods themselves. Thank you, Sirrah !!

  41. Those tips are huge help for me since I'm a fresh beginner in wood working. Thanks for your tips and your excellent video ! Well so .. that Ouija Board you have in the background, does that actually work? Asking for a friend.

  42. If you dont want to make boxes or tables or chairs(you can still make them), a way of cutting like a knife or axe, sandpaper and or rasps will get you a looong way…. it might take a lot more time and work but you will get there with patience. More and better tools will only get you there faster. Is what I have learned from a lot of fiddling in my kitchen 🙂

  43. I made my own wooden pc case from scratch, in my living room, on a small desk as a work table and the floor… with a jigsaw, a drill, screws and glue. Lowkey proud of the whole thing, it looks great and most importantly, is silent as heck and keeps everything cool during summer. Better tools and a bigger space would be awesome, but you can build amazing things with a few tools and a desk, just make a plan (or follow one) and have fun. ♥

  44. You don't want to waste your time at Home Depot cause their wood boards and plywood are horrible in quality so save your self a waste of time and gas – go elsewhere!

  45. I really appreciate your video, it's also very helpful and inspiriational. I have started woodworking two years ago and boy oh boy, you learn something new every single day, just like in your video. 🙂 Thumbs up.

  46. Your video is brilliant, your delivery too. I’m a Chef and the BS that goes on is unreal. Cook a steak in a ziplock bag submerged in a saucepan of water to 55°C and you are a fraud. Seal it in a vac packer plastic bag and put it in a water bath heated by an immersion circulator and you are Top Dog. Smoke and mirrors, when it’s called out.

  47. Hi Steve, mere mortal Alan here. Maltese by birth from Malta currently living in Dubai. As a kid I always looked up to my grandad and dad (just like yourself really😊) as they always fixed and built stuff when needed. I recently adopted a fitter lifestyle and my passion for woodwork was triggered two fold and so the shopping and projects were all lined up. Before that, however, I knew I needed guidance, tips and hints from the pro’s and your channel became my go to hobby. Your advice, pointers, motivation and of course easily visible talent are second to none and I can now proudly say that after buying all I needed keeping it all within my budget, I successfully completed a vanity mirror for my other half with lights, drawers, in built speaker and electrical/charging outlets in built as well. Couldn’t have done this without all your videos so just wanted to say thank you for sharing your vast knowledge with all of us and keep up the great work. Keep well and keep these great clips coming. Thank you and good day. Big fan and new woodworker because I actually made something 😉👊

  48. One advantage of sticking to one brand is using one same battery on all your tools

  49. Oh man. Drawing up a plan in 3D has been such a helpful discovery for me… it’s very true that it helps save material and save you lots of wasted, potentially frustrating, time building. High five on that point !! Btw another free software is blender !

  50. There is differnce between tools used profesionally and use for hobby. If you want to try stuff. Hobby tools will probably suffice. But if you want to get into it seriously. Tools do matter. I stick with makita since it has the larges battery platform. Almost anything they have work with the same battery. I don’t like to drag multiple chargers and/or battery packs with me all the time. And for cutting with smooth edges. Try a worx circular saw and a festool. You’ll see what I’m talking about. Anything else. Thumbs up. You need to give it a try, not be afraid to make mistakes. 👍

  51. Hey brother, I love your videos. Do you have an opinion on corded vs battery powered tools? It seems these days they are battery powering EVERYTHING, and just… A battery powered table saw? REALLY? Seems to me, as a novice, like some things just need more juice. Thanks in advance buddy.

  52. 25-30 years ago a couple Fine Woodworking editors flew to Pakistan and checked out a back ally furniture maker – they were humbled. What those guys did with a couple of tools, bar feet and time was much better than what most of us can do with a full shop.

    What separates us hacks and the really good woodworkers – they have much better excuses. 😀

    OK, I'm in the camp of "Plans are Over rated", a pen and a napkin are plenty good (proportions still bite me so I'll give you that one). Your mileage may vary. I also frown on paint on good wood, probably due to Mommy issues, but there you go. If it was cooler out I'd be in the shop instead of wasting time on YouTube. 😀 Good video though.

  53. I don't think I've seen a better and more encouraging woodworking video than this. Thank you for breaking down those elitist barriers that most videos seem to set up.

  54. The main thing I wish I knew about when I started are hearing protection and dust collection. These things are cumulative. You don’t notice it when you’re young and you don’t think it’s an issue. Over time it gets to you. It’s never to late to start protecting yourself, the sooner the better.

  55. Still tho… No workshop/garage/quiet secluded hut = no woodworking unless I wanna get a fine :/

  56. Steve your a charm !!! I’ve got a question for you about paint and other materials you put on wood after sanding it .
    1st if I don’t paint wood what kind of material should I use after sanding ?
    2nd if I do paint on wood should I sand it little bit more then do over painting ?

  57. I found your channel a couple of days ago and I love it! You're really good

  58. Dang, that's real time wisdom. And no Steve you're not "just some guy". I am blown away by the myth bust that nails are necessary for woodworking I am a compulsive nailer now that I think. Thanks as always.

  59. 2:53 Hello, as a man who fears the Lord, let me kindly warn you friend that your house is under a curse until you burn what's in your background.

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