These 13 woodworking ideas to help any beginner are all mindset tricks that will help you build a better project, no matter your skill level. In the beginning, you may not be as talented as other woodworkers, but you can put out great work if you start doing some of these thirteen things.
Woodworking in the Beginning
That being said, there are several things you can do that can help you to level the playing field and help you produce better. Many times, woodworkers with more experience forget these small but important things.
When they do, they can make more mistakes, have to modify more of the plan, and end up taking longer to build the same thing. While woodworking is not a contest (unless you enter a woodworking contest) you are judged against what other people see in the world.
Use these thirteen woodworking ideas in your process, and you will make better projects…
While there is nothing wrong with shooting for the stars, it can lead to a lot of frustration in the beginning. Woodworking is such a big field, and you can really do a lot of different things and still be called a woodworker. With that kind of scope, it’s easy to go overboard.
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In the beginning you need to learn a lot. There are tools, skills, techniques, and more. If you pile on top of that an overly elaborate and complex build…you are asking for trouble. In the beginning, give yourself time to learn the basics before you force yourself to learn even more. See 50 Woodworking Tips for Beginners for more.
Learning in stages gives you a distinct advantage. As you devote more time to specific and targeted learning, you will learn better. Trying to learn ten things at once means devoting only ten percent of your learning to each thing. When you direct your learning in a very narrow direction, you have a better chance of fully learning the skill.
Also, simple projects that are well executed tend to look better than really over the top projects that are poorly made. Even though there may not be as much detail in a simple and small project, it does end up looking better most of the time.
For a great way to learn, Practice Like It’s Your Job can help you develop better practicing skills, and in turn better woodworking skills.
If I could sell patience instead of woodworking books, I would be a millionaire. Of all of your tools, patience is the most powerful tool that you use the last often. Even if you are a patient person in general, we can all stand to be a little more patient in our lives and our woodworking.
Patience is the tool that saves you from making mistakes. It’s the feeling that keeps you from ruining a project, or delivering something too soon. It can also save you from an injury, because it will try to stop you when you are about to do something the wrong way because it’s the fast way.
Something that you can do to increase your patience is to not set deadlines, and enjoy your time in the shop. When you have a deadline, you can artificially create the need to rush, and that can lead to mistakes. Relax an enjoy your time, and when the project is done, it’s done. Measure Twice is an old saying, but it goes along with stopping, and is a good read that can help you see the real meaning.
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Be Prepared to Stop Often
Along with patience, if you surrender to the fact that you are going to need to stop often in the middle of a project, you will be in better shape to actually do it when the time comes. There is a lot to learn in the beginning, which means you are going to run into roadblocks all the time.
A woodworking idea that will help you a lot is stopping when you reach something you don’t understand. Stopping at these junctions is the best move, because you can’t mess something up if you are waiting to take action.
Instead of plowing through the unfamiliar section, stop and think. Unless there is wet glue on the piece, there is no penalty for stopping. In fact, you can do yourself a huge service by stopping and thinking rather than just going. If you plow through and go the wrong way, it can mean going back to the beginning. It’s much better to stop.
Do Your Research
When you come to a stopping point, this is your opportunity to learn more about woodworking academically. Instead of going blindly through the step, you should do your research, and then go back to the project with a much better understanding.
Since you are going to run into these stops a lot at first, just remember that you are not alone, and you are not the first person with this problem. There are so many people that do woodworking that you are nearly guaranteed not to be the first. This is something I cover in A Beginners Guide to Woodworking.
Use that as a confidence builder, and know that the solution is out there somewhere. It’s just up to you to find it. This is a good feeling, because you are looking for something that really does exist, and your efforts will pay off if you research hard enough.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
This is a funny thing, but you have no idea what you are going to run into, and until you encounter certain things, you just don’t know that you don’t know. It sounds weird, but if you knew what you didn’t know, you would just research and fix it.
The problems that you are going to encounter in the beginning are mainly going to be from things that you don’t know you don’t know. Until you learn that wood moves in different weather, and that there is a best way to feed stock into the router table, you just don’t know.
Once you make those mistakes, and then have to deal with them, you will learn, and that means the next time you will do better. Some mistakes you just find out about later in the process and there is not much you can do for them.
For example, if you use cheap glue, you may find out several months or years later about it, and at that point you can’t do anything. However, most of your mistakes are going to present themselves right away, and you will get more instant feedback to learn from.
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Find Inspiration Online
Inspiration is a wonderful thing. Sometimes a picture, a written phrase, or a well presented idea can give you the gas you need to plow through days or weeks of woodworking. We are all emotional beings, and motivation speaks right to your emotions.
If you need a large dose of motivation, my 11 Great Ways to Find Woodworking Motivation is a great place to start, and it is a great resource for anyone. If you have a smart phone, that is all you need to carry your motivation around with you all day.
When you need a quick boost, or you want to look online to see what other people are making, you have it right in your pocket. I use these resources all the time, and they keep me full of great woodworking ideas and inspiration.
Make Sure Your Heart is in the Project
If you are not the best at something, but you really love it, you can overcome a lot of your short comings. Sometimes, the love for something can power you through the lack of skill, because when other people fall off from frustration, your love keeps you going.
There is nothing like working on a fun project that you have your heart fully invested in. The emotions that you have for the project keep you going out into the shop, even when you have had a long day, are not feeling well, or need to get up early the next day.
This is a hugely powerful motivator, and it all comes form inside you. When you pick out projects, intentionally look for things that you love. Look for projects that make you light up, and even through the hard times, you will still keep on moving forward.
If you Make What You Love and Sell What You Make, it will provide you with a lifetime of creative joy as a woodworker.
Learn About Lots of Wood Species
Woodworkers use wood. That is the medium. So, it should go without saying that the more you know about wood, the better you can express yourself. Learning about wood is easy, again if you have a smart phone you have the entire world of wood inside your pocket.
I wrote a post about 7 Beautiful Wood Species for Ring Making, but this is a great start no matter what kind of project you make. Most people have no idea what kinds of wood are available in the world until they start woodworking as a hobby. Even then, most long time woodworkers still do know know all that there is out there.
Did you know that there is wood that is purple? Red? Green? Did you also know that there are types of wood that are so dense that they do not float in water? Wood is such a diverse material, and it comes in nearly every color and look you could imagine.
Work Slowly Through the Steps
Another woodworking idea for beginners that can give you an edge is to work slowly through the steps. As a beginner, you don’t know exactly what you are going to run into. The more you slow down your steps, the better chance you have of seeing the bus before it rolls over you.
As you are going through the steps, don’t speed through them. Give each step the amount of time it takes to complete it, and then you can move on. Also, inside each step, move slowly from process to process.
When you work carefully through the steps, you give yourself a better chance of seeing something bad coming along. When you do, you can change course as needed and avoid the problem. Working like this will actually turn out faster in the end.
Fully Complete Each Step
There is a temptation among beginners and even among seasoned woodworkers to leave a step before fully completing it. This can be from lack of understanding, worrying if you are capable of completing the step, or something else.
Whatever the reason for leaving a step too soon, stop it. You don’t know what is going to be building upon that step, and you don’t know what the effects will be. Odds are that the person who made the tutorial put that step in there because it was important.
People that teach about woodworking don’t include extra stuff just to mess with you. Those parts of the process are important, and will make a difference in the end. You might not know how immediately, but they do.
Don’t Skip Steps You Don’t Understand
One of the worst things you can do is just skip a step that you don’t understand. These are not optional thins unless the writer says it is optional. If that is the case, then skip away, but skipping steps is a recipe for disaster.
For more ways of avoiding disaster, here are 19 Things I Wish I Knew About Woodworking, which is my short list of things I wish I knew when I started.
Instead of skipping steps, when you some to something that you don’t know, stop and research. This was covered earlier, and it’s how you prevent yourself from skipping steps. Just do some looking online or in your book, and you will find the answer.
When you skip steps, they nearly always come back to haunt you. Steps are important, and there are typically no extra unnecessary steps in any tutorial. Perform every step, in order, and you give yourself the best chance for success on your project.
Take Your Time Final Sanding
Final sanding and finish prep is a pain in the butt sometimes. It can seem like you have been sanding for a month and nothing has changed on the surface. It really has changed, but you are tired, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
This is a great time to stop and take a break. The best way to make sanding fun again is to stop doing it for a while, then come back. A little break makes your arms and body feel better because of the rest, and your mind gets a break too so you come back in a better spirit.
This part of the process is where your efforts really shine. If you skip on this area, your project will live forever looking as though a rookie built it. Don’t make that mistake. Instead, spend more time sanding, and invest in getting it perfect before you move on.
I wrote a post called the Last 10% Principle, and the idea is that you do all of your real work in the last ten percent of the build. If you stop early and just ship the project as-is, you are wasting all the other time you spent.
Nobody looking at your project is going to know how much time it took, or how much of a challenge it was to you. All they are going to see are scratches and defects, and they are going to judge you as a poor woodworker. Don’t give them that opportunity.
If you are totally new at sanding, read Sanding Wood to learn the best practices, and how to make the experience more enjoyable.
Apply a Simple Finish
Finally, the finish that you choose is the last woodworking idea that I have for you, and it will give you an easy slide right into home plate. The finish that you select is the biggest difference here, and thankfully there are lot of great products to choose from.
Pick out a finish that will protect your piece, and is easy to apply. Hand applied finishes are among the best and the easiest, and you don’t need much equipment past a few rags, gloves, and a respirator to apply them.
My 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing is a downloadable PDF that you can take with you, and it will give you detailed instruction on applying finishes by hand. This has been the finishing method of choice for thousands of years, long before spray equipment was invented.
Your homework is to start getting these thirteen ideas into your process. As a beginner, it can be difficult to compete with the rest of the world that has been doing it for far longer. However, you can out work them, even in the beginning.
Of these woodworking ideas, the best are patience, and completing each step fully before moving on. If you can do those two things first, you can then add more in later on in your process as you need them.
If you are already great at one or several of these, well done. Keep those in your mind so the skills do not deteriorate, but focus on the ones that need help. Bring the other skills up to par, and you will be able to make better projects even as a beginner.
13 Woodworking Ideas to Help Any Beginner Wrap-Up
Woodworking is such a big hobby that you can get going in a poor direction if you don’t have a little guidance at first. There thirteen woodworking ideas are foundations that you can build your own process upon, and they will help you grow faster.
There are no tricks, and no secrets. Getting better at woodworking is about patience, knowing when you need to stop, doing research, and fully completing each step. These are the simple things that are the fundamentals of woodworking.
Work carefully, and never have a deadline in the beginning. This way, you are free to work on improving yourself and your skills without yet another form of stress. Your projects will turn out better, and you will be able to compete with other form of work even as a beginner.
More From Westfarthing Woodworks
I give away the majority of my woodworking, wood finishing, and guitar making tips, but I also have several books if you want to take the next step.
You can see them in my Book Store, and they are all on Amazon.
Also, if you want to Join the Facebook Group, you can do that as well. We are just starting to grow a fantastic community and I would love for you to be part of it.