Beginner – where to start?

Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Beginner – where to start?

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
  • #130736

    Hello folks, I am new around here and completely new to woodworking. No prior experience at all, none, nadda, zip.

    I’ve been thinking about starting for a couple of years but was always put off as I just don’t have the space at home for all the equipment not even to mention the expense that I thought was involved. Then I saw Paul’s workbench series on Youtube and my eyes were opened; I don’t need all that machinery, in fact I’m probably better off without most of it and you don’t need a set of chisels that cost £250!

    I’ve been reading through Paul’s blog on basic tools and I’m in the process of ordering a few basics; hand saw, no 4 plane, set of faithful chisels etc.

    Now I was wondering if there’s a recommended way to start into the projects or get started in general e.g. what is the best project to start with given no prior knowledge. I know a key point I need to start with is how to sharpen tools but other than that maybe I’d be best to start with the techniques and practice joints on some scrap wood before moving onto one of the box projects?

    I would love to attempt my own work bench but its probably out of my league right now.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

    Philip Adams

    Hi Kevin,

    Great to hear we’ve helped you find a way to start woodworking. As you say, getting sharpening is important at this stage, but as far as projects and practice, here is a suggested possible progression to help you on your way:

    How to make the three woodworking joints
    Carrying Tote
    Woodworking Christmas Gifts & Projects for Cutting Board & Spatula
    Building a Workbench (This could be made earlier or later depending on circumstances)
    Dovetail boxes & dovetail caddy
    Making a spoon with a gouge and spokeshave
    Foot Stool

    Hope that helps,

    I work alongside Paul to plan and produce the videos for Woodworking Masterclasses


    Hi Phil,

    Thanks so much for the list of projects it will be a great help! Really appreciate it and look forward to engaging with the community on here as I progress.


    Hi Kevin,

    i think sharpening your chisels and the blade of your new No.4 plane is the first step. Mr. Sellers has a few videos about this on youtube. Then as next step i think would be to create a mellet for your chisel work. The next useful step for me would be then to learn how to make mortise and tenons in a proper way and to cut wood in a korrect and precise angle that you want to have.
    And, the most important: Don’t give up and make no compromises! Tom Fidgen says always: “Make your daily masterpiece” what means do not except little mistakes!
    Go on an have fun


    • This reply was modified 6 years, 11 months ago by .

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you I will checkout those videos on YouTube and add the Mallet video to the list from Phil. I certainly agree with the ‘no compromises’ statement it’s something I have to practice everyday in my day job.

    Matt McGrane

    Hey Kevin, welcome to the community. There are so many ways to answer your question. Phil has great suggestions. I might also suggest a few things. First, practice sawing to a line. If you’ve got a saw, get a piece of scrap wood and square some lines on it. Put the lines on the end grain and square the lines to both faces. Maybe 10 lines about a quarter inch apart. Try sawing to the lines and evaluate how you’re doing. You can also try drawing angled lines as if you were cutting dovetails. Try sawing to these lines and see how you’re doing. Practice makes perfect (or at least a lot better).

    Second, practice using the planes, especially the no. 4. Practice sharpening it – get into the good habit of keeping it sharp. I probably still don’t sharpen frequently enough, but I’m getting better about it. Plane edges and faces. Practice getting an face flat and then getting an adjacent edge square to that face. Practice, practice, practice.

    I have Paul’s book “Working Wood 1 & 2 – The Artisan Course with Paul Sellers”. This book starts the beginner out easy. After discussing woodwork, tools, wood and other preliminaries, Paul gets you to start shaping wood – a key skill. Later he gets into joinery and several projects. This book could be a great investment for you.

    Whatever, you do, have fun with it. There will be setbacks and times when it seems that you can’t figure out what is wrong with a tool or with a board or with a technique. Keep at it. No skill comes without a certain amount of practice. We’re here for you if/when you have questions.

    Matt, Northern California - Started a blog in 2016:


    Hi Michael,

    Welcome to WWMC 🙂

    I agree with all of the above.. I would say I’m only about four years in myself…

    I would add that you say that the workbench project is ‘out of your league’ .. I would say that after getting some sharpening experience and a few practice joints I would tackle the workbench.

    From personal experience nothing brought my sawing and planing skill up to scratch like that project. MY Mortice and tenon joints may be a challenge but having a finished workbench will be a major confidence boost and because all the joints are fairly large and after all it is a workbench.. It doesn’t have to be really pretty.

    That would be my advice after a month or so of practice. ( I think my first project was the side table from Paul’s book.. Not the best idea haha)

    Let us all know how it goes!

    Martyn Chick


    Hi Martyn,

    That’s encouraging to know about the bench and yes I agree you are right the joints are large so may be a bit more accessible to me with with some initial practice. I do have a couple of question if you would be so kind:

    1. I’ve been told that I should probably start with soft woods rather than hard as they are more forgiving to the novice woodworker, would you agree?

    2. For people based in the UK where do you source your wood? I assume you don’t buy a lot from the the big retail places, local builders merchant perhaps? Do they sell in relatively small batches?

    Thanks all for your help so far.



    @kevinohara Most of my wood so far has been from Howarth Timber. That said I found a sawmill on National Trust land in the Lakes that’s I’m going to go see next time I’m up there. Their list prices are unbelievable….. 😉

    Paul has mentioned a saw mill in Yorkshire he uses.


    Hi Kevin,

    I think most of us start with softwood yes. I suppose it’s cheaper when you make mistakes. Not necessarily more forgiving as it dents / dings / crumples easily.

    I would also say that when I started out I went out and bought wide boards of pine and spent hours trying to flatten them / dimension them / square end grain etc…

    Not that this isn’t important.. BUT … I WISH someone would have told me that B&Q sell ‘pine stripwood’ (I think it’s under the name Richard something) in perfect thicknesses and widths for projects like the dovetail boxes… So if you’re looking to get little stock to start you off on some small projects it’s perfect! (I would say that the lengths sometimes have lengthening joints in them that looks kinda like a zigzag.. avoid those pieces and some of it has some lovely grain etc)

    After you get some practice in, then go looking for a good mill etc.

    Hope that helps.



    neyvnxxx – thanks mate, I’ve taken a look at Howarth Timber seems they only have a limited set of products for delivery to my neck of the woods (N. Ireland), shame really as they seem pretty decent!

    martyn – thanks this is exactly what I was looking for initially, just something cheap to practice cutting joints etc on so cheers for this brilliant!


Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.