Very Beginner – Guidance?

  • Creator
  • #141220
    Ian Marra

    Hi all,

    I’m very new to woodworking with no woodworking specific experience in the past. I have yet to buy any tools but I watched the workbench video series and some additional stuff and have become very inspired to get a workbench in my garage.

    However, I’ve not found a good tool list or “minimum required” tools for that project, a cut list or a numbered project. The video is good and I have a good idea but I’d really like some more concrete and obvious information to go off. I read through the majority of the blog series on both “Buying Tools Cheaply” and “Workbench” but they don’t always communicate in the most effective way – there’s a lot of good life lessons and general lessons, for instance, but not always a great “here’s what you need: 1,2,3”.

    Is there a post somewhere, whether a blog or a forum or a project, to get someone from essentially nothing to just ready to start a project (preferably workbench so I can then continue with other projects)? I also looked through the videos here and didn’t see any additional information on the workbench project so I assume the youtube and blog series are the information about that?

    Thanks for any help

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  • Author
  • #141221


    Paul has a basic tool list here:

    As someone who bought ALL the tools early on, and then sold them all a year later (long story), only to buy some again a few months ago, I recommend:

    1. Good marking tools are the most important things to have.
    2. After that, buy the basic tools you need to complete a specific project. For each new project, buy only the tools you need. This keeps costs down and helps you build up a toolkit over time.
    3. Don’t be tempted to buy the best, or newest planes. Second hand ones are cheaper and often better.
    4. DO spend money on new, good saws. Paul will disagree, but he’s sharpened thousands of saws. As a beginner you want a sharp saw you don’t have to worry about for a year.



    For the workbench, here’s Paul’s post on dimensions:

    For the most part, make them up based on the space you have available. And add extra height. I built my first bench too low and had to add a spacer between the legs. It’s better to cut off height as you get used to it.

    TaDa Man


    One quick note on saws. Paul had some thoughts on buying inexpensive new saws that are sharpenable here:

    I wish I had done more research and bought a sharpenable saw, but one disposable saw to get you started is not the end of the world.

    I actually bought a disposable saw with hardened teeth from the home center, so I could build my workbench and have a vise so I can practice sharpening the vintage saws that were handed down to me from my grandfathers. When the disposable saw finally is too dull to use, I am planning on making a planing stop for my bench, and using some of the rest of the plate for making scrapers and chair devils.

    Just $0.02 from the peanut gallery.

    Because Everybody Deserves a Little Fanfare.



    Paul has an earlier book called, “Working Wood 1&2: The Artisan course.” Despite the name, it is one paperback volume. Amazon shows it for a ridiculous price, but Lee Valley lists it with a reasonable price. This book would be perfect for you. The tool book (recently released) describes tools and their use, but the earlier book is really an ordered curriculum. It starts by describing the basic set of essential tools and then proceeds through reducing and shaping via making a spatula and stool, and then works progressively through a small wall shelf, dovetailed box, table, and bench. Using this book to give an order and context plus the videos online here (even without a subscription) would do the trick for you.



    Yup +1 on what Ed said.
    It really is a great reference.

    Ontario, Canada

    Ian Marra


    @ed I saw that book on Amazon and didn’t think I would find it anywhere. I will happily get the stand alone book from Lee Valley though, that’s kind of what I was hoping to find.

    @brianj thanks for the verification on a good idea, always good to have back up

    @tadaman I will take a look at a disposable saw and price compare – having something to get started with to then build the workbench and get everything else involved is a good idea in my mind and then upgrading to sharpenable saws and learning that skill once I have the rest in place.

    @davewilkinson thanks for all the feedback, the links are great and exactly what i was looking for. For second hand planes, the “buying tools cheaply” series and eBay are the solutions to any questions for that right?

    Thanks again all

    TaDa Man


    @boxian – One thing to look for in any saw is that the handle is comfortable. I spent a little more for a disposable saw with a wood handle that I could shape for a better fit. If I recall the total cost was under $25.00 for a saw.

    Here are some of Paul’s writings on fitting a saw to your hand, well worth the read.

    Questions Answered – Sizing Saw Handles

    Just Another Saw – What Are You to Look For?

    Saw handles revisited

    Hand saw handles more than mere looks

    Because Everybody Deserves a Little Fanfare.

    Hugo Notti


    The most important tools of all are a really square square, sharp pencil and sharp marking knife (any small knife will do, it only needs to be sharp). There is so much frustration caused by inaccurate marking, when you try to make joints or simply get four boards to form a rectangle with square corners. For planing and a couple of other purposes, a straight edge is extremely helpful too. It should be the length of the piece of wood you are working on.

    You can also make your own tools. Depending on equipment and skill level, this ranges from a simple marking gauge to almost any handtool needed for woodworking. Many tools are made of wood and only need little additional hardware, such as a blade. There are even kits for making tools, but I think, they are intended for the tool-making enthusiast rather than for the woodworker.

    Well, others have said pretty much all you need, so I will stop here.




    I am not a big fan of buying used tools.

    Dave Ring


    I am a big fan of buying used tools.

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