Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Following the book and where to start?

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    Matt Cromwell

    Hi all,

    I’ve just recently ordered the Working Wood book by Paul after seeing some of his Youtube videos. It arrived a couple of days ago and after reading it shortly the first problem i have is that i have no woodworking table to use. In the book Paul suggests building the work bench, but as a first ever project that seems a bit ambitious and i was hoping to build up with smaller projects first. In the mean time would a workmate style bench be alright as a substitute?

    I also only have a few of the tools he recommends. Picking them up won’t be a big problem, but he also mentions that any new tools need to be sharpened and set up. So would it make sense to work through the section on tool sharpening before i looked at any woodwork projects?

    Sorry if the questions are a bit bone, but i’m just jumping into this feet first and trying to figure it out as i go.


    I started the same as you with the book working wood 1 &2. I built a bench as my first ever project with hand tools. It was a heck of an undertaking for someone who had never used a hand plane, chopped a mortise, cut a tenon. The bench was far from perfect but works and I still have and use it.

    When you start working wood, sharpening will be a part of every single project.. before, during, and after. With my first project (workbench) I kept making the mistake of my plane would stop cutting so I would advance the blade further (is this a common newbie mistake?) and you learn that when the plane isnt working, sharpen.

    You could just get a norton combination stone and make a strop on a 2×4 with leather and green compund if you dont want to spend the money on diamond stones like paul uses.

    I jumped into the deep end the same way as you. It was not a dive, more like a cannonball. But you learn and improve. Mistakes will be made. Hope this helps!

    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by fjhall.

    I think building a work bench as your first project is a very good idea.

    1) you sorta need a workbench, might as well get one ASAP

    2) making one, esp with Paul’s suggestion of home center timbers and your own labor, means the workbench is affordable, and you can tailor it to your height and your workspace.

    3) there’s a fair bit of work to do (because it’s physically large) so you get lots of much-needed practice on the basic skills, which means you’ll be better prepared for a more demanding projects to come

    4) it’s an error-tolerant project both because it’s just a workbench, so nobody cares if there are small cosmetic mistakes here or there and also because Paul has adapted the classic design so well that it’s very difficult to make significant mistakes, and virtually impossible to make mistakes from which you cannot recover.

    But in the end, it’s your hobby. Do what suits you and have fun doing it.

    As for the tools, set up is minimal if you’re buying new tools. If you’re buying some hard-used tools from ebay, yes, there can be several hours per tool, but if you’re buying a nice new (e.g.) premium plane from Lie Nielsen or Veritas or etc, then it’s just a final honing on the blade and you’re off and running.
    Having said that, more knowledge is always better, so read the entire book (and other woodworking books) multiple times, if you have the time, before jumping in. Watch tons of videos. The more you know the better off you’ll be. Plus, by watching many videos / reading other books / having the same thing taught to you by a number of different teachers, you’ll gain a trickle of perspective.

    Specific to sharpening, yes, while you’re spinning up on your woodworking, get some tools and start sharpening them. Then, go grab a scrap of wood and use the tool as intended until it’s dull, then re-sharpen it. Lather, rinse, repeat. You probably will not be surprised to learn that practice is a very good idea.

    As beginners, we tend to have poor technique with our tools, which causes them to dull more quickly. You’ll get a lot better at sharpening in your first several months (and perhaps subsequently, I can’t say yet!), and there is no substitute for sharp — it increases safety, productivity, accuracy & efficacy, while reducing effort and injuries.


    Hi there,
    Can I suggest you look at an early video on YouTube titled Making a Wooden Cutting Board by Paul Sellers.
    There he shows that you can make things without a bench and make them well.
    While a workbench may be preferred it is good to remember it is not, at least to begin with, essential,

    David B

    Build the bench! It took me about a month to build mine and it is certainly not perfect but it is stout, perfectly functional and I am proud of it. If you mess something up it’s cheap to get another 2×4 (I had to make an extra set of legs for mine b/c I messed up the measurement of my mortises on one leg). You will learn about knife walls, planing, sawing, measuring square and when you’re done, you’ll have a great place to apply your new skills to finer, more detailed projects.

    You could make winding sticks but I think you’ll find that having a stout, rigid surface and a properly mounted vise will give you a proper set-up for other projects. I’d build the bench first (I did).

    Philipp J.

    Agreed you wanna do the Bench first, having a sturdy bench and vise make life alot easier.

    Oh and one thing right of the getgo, you will screw up. Dont worry about it, just part of woodworking and learning.
    Its alot less critical on the Bench then other projects and the material is also pretty cheap in case theres a mistake in layout.

    And thats the biggest thing you can screw up, layout. Take the time and make sure all your (pencil)lines, measurements, knifewalls, gaugelines are accurate and where you want them to be.
    I’ve seen quite a few pieces that look great from a distance but once you get close you’ll notice gaps, mistakes etc that all go back to sloppy layout. Its hard to make an accurate cut when your line isnt quite where you want it to be. Accuracy really is key.

    Edit: oh i forgot,
    Yes you do have to sharpen almost any tool out of the box, a few exceptions like Japanese Saws, Hardpoint saws or Xacto blades etc., are just that, exceptions.

    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by Philipp J..
    David Perrott

    Be aware that mistakes will be made!Actually, they never seem to stop. I would say what ever project you start on, finish it. I think there is a tendency (at least for me) to quit and start over or totally move to something else. Finish the project. They all go through an ugly stage. I think it is fulfilling to complete the project.

    Mark H


    I am in the same spot you are. First project is the bench.

    Heading to Home Depot tomorrow morning for the first load of wood.


    Matt Cromwell

    Apologies for the late reply on this! Thanks all, seems like making the bench first was the first project many of you did as well, that makes me a bit more confident that i’m not gonna jump into something so far out of my league i’ll just get annoyed and frustrated at it.

    Looking at the tools i need to buy, i have a decent set of Marples chisels, and some generic tools i use for DIY (handsaw, tenon saw, combi square, tape measure) that i either picked up cheap or were given, so they’re probably not the best quality. Are these ok to start the project with or should i wait til i get some higher quality stuff? I’m ordering one of those Stanley knifes and a thorex hammer. From the book it looks like i’ll still need a 4 1/2 plane, a router plane, a marking gauge and some clamps. Any recommendations for where to get these in the UK, or what makes to look for?

    Debra Jenney

    The plane is essential and so is a marking gauge and clamps. My plane came from ebay because that was my best option at the time. My marking gauge and clamps are from Harbor Freight. The marking gauge is not square (sad) and not big enough for marking the leg mortises. The clamps are awesome.

    However, last night I glued up the first of the leg frames for my bench!

    If you are in the UK, I would imagine you may have access to loads of used tools if you look around. Good luck and God bless!

    Matt Cromwell

    Cheers mate, good luck with your product too! I’ve ordered a plane off of Ebay and am just waiting for delivery, and after a bit of research have found some clamps that i’m heading to pick up today. How many clamps did you buy if you don’t mind me asking, and what size? I was thinking five 2′ clamps, and two 3′ clamps as a starter.

    Debra Jenney

    I started with five of the 2′ clamps which are fine for gluing up the benchtop and aprons. However, I went back and got four of the 3′ clamps because the leg frames are far too wide for the 2′ ones. Having more clamps is always good.

    Sarrienne Cousland

    Hi Matt – How’s the bench turning out?

    In the mean time would a workmate style bench be alright as a substitute?

    I’m guessing you’re a squaddie? Certainly there are no bone questions, except the one you don’t ask… and anything the Adj asks…

    Anyways – I’m just starting out and at the very same point as you with this – One thing I will say is that, unless you’re especially short, a Workmate is rather low and just sharpening the one chisel had my back screaming!

    That said, working off a stool or something does help. To that end, I found the best first thing to make is a board to hold your sharpening stone(s) and another for your strop. Most chisels come sharp enough to make the inlay for this, but beyond that you’ll need to start sharpening them. Same with a plane. You can grip the board in the Workmate, especially if you have those little plastic bench dogs but putting a batten on the back as a bench hook works too with the Workmate ‘vice’.

    The Router Plane and Marking Gauge are very useful, but the first one is usually quite expensive even on eBay. Happily, Paul has videos on making a Poor Man’s version of each of these and they’ll work well for these first few projects.

    Next, I’d suggest making the sawhorses, as they’ll make for a more comfortable working height and will support your long bench top while you make the rest of it. Not essential, but looks to be a useful and easy thing to start with.

    Once your bench is done and you put a vice on, the world is your shellfish, mate!!


    I stared out with making the sawhorses, in fact I found that harder in some ways (the compound angles) than the bench build, I really couldn’t have done the bench without the sawhorses though, they are great.

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