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When it comes down to it, the only thing that’s going to make you a better woodworker is practice. Don’t get discouraged if your first attempts don’t look like you bought them at the store. The more you work with wood, the better you’ll begin to understand it. How to Get Started in Woodworking
I know we have discussed this several times before, but I am hoping to have a discussion thread filled with tips we can reference for woodworkers just getting started.

If you were helping someone one brand new to woodworking, what tips would you offer?

What helped you get started? :smile:
 

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Theo
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Hah, I got started by helping my grandfather, when I was probably around 8 or so. Our school had shop class starting in the 4th grade. Wasn't allowed to use power tools until the 9th grade, a belt/disc sander, on which I remove the tips of several fingers. In the 10th grade, allowed to use other power tools, and taught how to use them.

First, do NOT watch youtube videos and expect to learn woodworking. Yes, there are some excellent woodworking videos you can learn from, but there are multitudes more that were made by idiots.

Watch a few, and almost everyone stands in a line with the blade on the table saw they are using. If there is kickback, you are certain to get hit - stand to one side, out of line with the blade, and if there is kickback you will not be on the receiving end. Our shop teacher showed us kickback, and told us to stay out of line with the blade. Never yet had kickback, but still remember that piece of wood slamming into the wall.

Use push sticks and push blocks. A lot. Most of the youtube woodworking videos I have seen show someone pushing thru wood with just their hands, in ways that scare the Hell out of me, and I would not dare to do. Don't need to buy push sticks or blocks, make them. Every time I use my saw I almost always have to make a new push stick or block, because I can't find one, and don't want to waste time looking, faster to just make new ones, takes 2-3 minutes on the bandsaw, you're not making fine furniture, you're making a quickie push stick.

Start with hand tools. Learn how to use them first. It's like a calculator. If you can't add, subtract, and all on your own, but depend on a calculator, if the calculator quits working, then you are up defication tributary without proper means of propulsion. You cut your finger with a hand plane, then you should be able to figure out that a power planer will hurt a whole lot more, so you are careful around one.

There's more but coffee is calling.
 

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Doug
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Never forget, it is supposed to be fun. Don't stress so much about perfection, you're never going to get there anyway.

Take pride in learning a new skill or technique, build your knowledge project after project.

New tools aren't as important as learning to use what you have. Lots of fine furniture was built before SawStop, Festool, and Lithium-ion battery technology existed.

Safety needs to be always on your mind

DON'T EVER BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR ADVICE OR HELP!
 

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Budget for the best possible table saw you can get. There are good saws available starting at $700 new. And it goes up from there. If you can't quite manage that, you can haunt weekend garage sales and watch for estate sales. You can also check ebay and other sites for used table saws. Before buying, post what you've found, with brand and model number, plus price on this Forum. You'll get lots of responses. If you must, use some credit to upgrade.

There are portable contractor saws that aren't bad at all, most noteably the Bosch 4100, that gets high marks around here. Haven't noticed many of these used because people keep them since you can move from place to place easily with a portable. Then, there are cabinet saws, usually very heavy, 500-800 lbs--often go onto the used market at good prices, often with 3hp and larger 220 motors. Real beasts, but usually priced well. You'll need a lift truck to pick it up.

My favorites are the hybrid saws, roughly the same mechanism as the cabinet saw with a cast iron table, but encased in a steel cabinet about 1/3rd the weight of a cabinet saw. Many brands are pretty good. I have a Laguna hybrid with a 1.75 hp, 110volt saw that I love. The most important thing is that the cast iron is flat.

The cast iron on used saws is often a bit rusty, which is easily removed. What you don't want is pitting. Once cleaned up, you coat it with pure paste wax, or one of the anti rust coatings.

For new hybrid saws, you'll probably have to assemble and set it up. This step is critical and you can find dozens of you tube videos and many used (amazon) books on using table saws. For a few bucks you will learn a lot from those used books, about setting up in particular.

I have a large collection of used woodworking books on topics including how tos and project books as well as tool specific books.

Get a Wixey digital angle gauge. $30 on amazon. It allows you to set your blade precisely 90 degrees to the table. A small error of less than half a degree will make assembling a project a nightmare. You set it on the table and set it to zero, then run up the blade and use the magnet to affix it to the blade. Adjust the angle until it reads 90 (or any angle you want). Do this often. Do not depend on the scales on the saw, they are never accurate.

For safety, the other must have to me is a Gripper, see pix., which allows you to press down, sideways against the fence, and forward through the blade. The economy version is about $60. The last item you'll use for setting up the saw, is a good combination square. You'll use it to be certain the blade is aligned with the miter slots and that the fence is aligned with the slots. I can't imagine doing woodworking without a combination square.

Those items with the saw will get you going and help produce pretty good projects from the start.

Pictures in order: 1) Bosch 4100 contractor type saw 2) Combination squares 6 and 12 inches. 3) Microjig Grripper with removable outrigger on the side 4) Wixey digital angle gauge set on side of blade
 

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Thinking about this, I recalled just how helpful a couple of the people on this forum were when I expanded my years of DIY experience into the more exacting world of woodworking. Lots of questions and an enormous amount of help was generously offered and followed. In particular, Stick, Gene Howe, Harry Sinclair offered unending help. I suggest to anyone new to this that they ask lots of questions, take pictures of your shop, your projects, and post them with your questions. Fill in your profile so folks here can see what tools you have available so they can make informed suggestions and even suggest alternatives. So ask lots of questions.

Here is an up to date version of a pdf on the 17 things that helped me accelerate my learning curve. It covers about 10 years of great and not so great experiences. It has pictures to help make the points clear, and it's long. I wouldn't expect to do everything in the document at once, but over time. Hopefully it will help you avoid a few very costly mistakes. I update this regularly as I learn more (or make new mistakes).
 

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Practice, practice and practice some more - don't be afraid to make mistakes and don't hesitate to ask for help. If you can, take a college course - many colleges offer beginner courses in woodworking, taught be experienced professionals at very low cost.

The one piece of advice that I would stress is this: every power tools has a danger zone - learn where that zone is and keep your hands and fingers out of the DANGER ZONE.
 

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Don't put a chop saw on your early buy list. Do put a sizable bench model drill press on your must list. It's the only way you can make a perfectly aligned hole. WEN makes a nice one for a reasonable price. It has a variable speed drive without having to change belts around. Believe me, you'll be happy not to have to figure out the belt system. Here's a picture of my WEN, which is terrific to use. And it is identical down to the casting marks on the cast iron body of the saw.

Projects: Make stands for all your tools. Learn to make them with rabbets and dados. You will learn a lot doing that, and every one will look better. This is where the Wixey digital angle gauge comes into play. As soon as you can manage it, start buying real Baltic Birch plywood. Many, many layers, no internal voids to ruin your edges, amazingly flat. Comes usually in 5 foot square sheets. No comparison to the Chinese junk you are stuck with at the big box stores.
 

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Theo
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Don't start out by buying every tool in the book. If all you want to do is make birdhouses, you can get by with just using hand tools. And start with free or cheap wood. You are going to make mistakes and better to make them with a piece of pallet wood say, rather than a piece of teak or other pricey wood.
 

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As Tom said buy a good table saw. Without a table saw you're not going to get much done. You don't have to spend a fortune. A Craftsman a cast iron saw from the 70's or 80's can be had for under $200 and will outlast most of today's $700 saws. Once you get established buy the biggest most powerful one that you can afford. Powermatic comes to mind. And last don't try to make do using a tool for something it wasn't designed for. The router is the biggest offender in this category. But the correct tool and you'll won't struggle in the future.
 

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When using, especially when first using, power tools, keep your hands and body parts far away from the spinny sharp things. If you find yourself doing something that gets your hands, etc. closer than that, to STOP, and find another way. My uncle taught me to stay at least 6" away from spinning saw blades, router bits, etc. and to use wooden clamps and other tools to hold the part while I drill, rout, saw, etc. so I can do what I want without putting myself in harms way. He taught me this when first teaching me how to use a table saw safely at the age of 8.

I'm 77 now and I still have all 10 fingers and no blade or bit scars. I've managed to injure myself many other ways in my life, and I do tend to leave a little blood mark, usually from a splinter, on almost everything that I've ever built of any size, but fortunately, these have all been little injuries. In other endeavors, like firefighting, I have not done so well.

Charley
 

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If your short term memory isn't so good, get a tape measure with a writable surface on the side of it, or keep some wood scraps nearby, so you can write down measurements using a pencil. It can save a lot of wood by helping you remember the correct measurements. Here's one, but there are others https://www.amazon.com/Malco-T425WM-Measuring-Writable-Erasable-x/dp/B01B97OIVY.

A story stick can save a lot of wood if you will need to repeat a lot of measurements. It can be as simple as a long stick onto which you mark and make notes for every dimension that you will need to repeat many times. Carpenters of old days many times used story sticks more than rulers for things that they built.

Charley
 

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Check around for some friendly neighbors or wood shops that welcome visitors in for a chat. One can learn a lot over a cup or two of hot coffee and a few visits. Any community colleges in the area that offer intro to woodworking classes?

Pick a simple project and buy good tools to build it. If you are happy with the outcome step up the game and the tool chest.

It is a fun trip.
 

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Check around for some friendly neighbors or wood shops that welcome visitors in for a chat. One can learn a lot over a cup or two of hot coffee and a few visits. Any community colleges in the area that offer intro to woodworking classes?

Pick a simple project and buy good tools to build it. If you are happy with the outcome step up the game and the tool chest.

It is Can and should be a fun trip.
 

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You can find all kinds of woodworking how-to books used on Amazon. I also like to have some picture books of projects people have done. One of the things you get from perusing those project books is seeing something you didn't know about. For example, beading on an edge or face of a piece of furniture for decorative effect. Easy enough to do, but I never thought about such a technique on my own. I've found lots of good, used books for less than $6. Found a number of books on toys, wind powered whirligigs and whimsical projects that can produce really fun weekends and smiles on the faces of kids and even the wife.
 

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Get to know the people at woodworking and other stores. For example, my local Lowes and even Home Depot have a small cadre of very experienced people who are pleased to share their expertise. My Rockler store has several people who've spent decades making sawdust, and they enjoy answering questions.

Rockler has regular demonstrations on Saturday mornings. The most important aspect is getting to know some of the woodworkers there. For example, that's where I learned about the best wood sources in the area. It's a long trip for me to get there, but always a pleasure to visit and at least, fondle the nifty tools. The other woodworking stores have similar demonstrations, some host woodworking classes and clubs.

In our area, the woodworking group participate in the community college shop classes. Many have accumulated years of college credits taking those classes with chums. You can learn about such offerings by talking with folks at stores, including both staff and customers. Woodworkers are a pretty friendly lot.
 

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You can find all kinds of woodworking how-to books used on Amazon. I also like to have some picture books of projects people have done. One of the things you get from perusing those project books is seeing something you didn't know about. For example, beading on an edge or face of a piece of furniture for decorative effect. Easy enough to do, but I never thought about such a technique on my own. I've found lots of good, used books for less than $6. Found a number of books on toys, wind powered whirligigs and whimsical projects that can produce really fun weekends and smiles on the faces of kids and even the wife.
I spent a number of years tracking down out of print, limited edition, and other books, on-line. Amazon was not my top choice. At one time I had a list of I think about 40 on-line used book sellers, and Amazon was not on the list. Yes, they have books, yes, they are handy, but not a site I used often. And when nowhere else had what I wanted, I would check eBay - got to check shipping there, some of the sellers seem to make their profit off of shipping charges. Actually, my first choice for used woodworking books is a good used bookstore. Had one in Raleigh I used to hit every time I was in Raleigh. I could sometimes pick up as new books for around $3-4 that were selling new in Barned and Noble for around $35 each. Often hit Barnes and Noble also, but not to buy, rather to look at specific books to see if they had information I wanted. Then I would buy the books on-line.
 
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