So you want to be a woodworker? Now what?
So You Want to be a Woodworker? Now What?
You've decided you want to give woodworking a try and you're super excited, right? You think to yourself, "let's go online and see if I can figure out how to get started." After all, we are in the information age and there are millions of hours of content at our disposal.
This is a good thing, right...? Of course! Well, most of the time. Being a new woodworker in today's world of instant information and social media can be overwhelming. You can type in the phrase "how to get started in woodworking" and get 500 or more results instantly.
What video should you watch? What blog/article should you read? Who should you listen to? A vast majority of these results are going to offer a different idea of how to get started.
None of these ideas will necessarily be wrong but a lot of them may be wrong for you. To determine how you want to get started, I believe that you need to ask yourself "what kind of woodworker do I want to be?" Do you want to be a DIYer, basic carpentry woodworker, fine woodworker, etc.? Do you want to be a hobbyist or do you want to earn a living at woodworking?
Understanding what kind of woodworker you want to be will help you figure out where to go from here. For example, if you want to do simple DIY style projects, you likely don't need to go out and buy a $200 dovetail saw or learn about complex joinery like you would if you wanted to be a fine woodworker. You'd want to focus more of your attention on learning about butt joints, pocket holes, etc. and buying the supplies needed to do those style projects.
From my experience as a new woodworker in the last couple of years, I can tell you that only YOU can decide what woodworking is to you. As you become more interested in the craft and start following other more experienced woodworkers on social media, blog and video sites the messages that can be conveyed to you is that if you're not a fine woodworker, you're not a woodworker. Or, if you use materials that others don't care for such as pallet wood or pocket holes then you're not good enough. Nine times out of ten, this is not the message that was meant to be conveyed. It was just personal preference. However, if you start to see these messages enough, it can start to feel this way.
This feeling is part of the overwhelming experience of living in today's information age. There are so many options and we don't know where to begin. No matter what type of woodworker you decide you are going to be, there's room for you in the community.
How did I get started?
In trying to figure out what I kind of woodworker I wanted to be, I had to try out several different things. The first thing I did was really sit and think about what style of design really spoke to me. The answer was farmhouse and rustic style. There's just something I love about mixing colors and wood or just the simple combination of black and white pieces together. Plus, there's shiplap!
One of my favorite parts of the rustic/farmhouse style design was that it didn't have to be fancy or complicated. A lot of farmhouse style design is very simple. I didn't need to learn complicated joinery right away and the best part about the rustic style? Mistakes and imperfections are celebrated! This wouldn't necessarily be the case if you're into mid-century modern furniture.
In fact, my very first project I ever did was a simple coat hook. I literally cut a piece of wood, painted it with chalk paint and placed hangers and four knobs on it. It was the most simple thing you could make. I was so proud of it. Someone even bought it!
From there, I started to get a little more complicated. I started making small tables with basic butt joints. The wood was so warped and I didn't have any tools necessary to straighten it. Nothing was square, the tables were wobbly and the only thing I knew to do was stack furniture pads on the legs until they weren't wobbly anymore. People bought those tables though and they loved them. In fact, they're still one of our most popular items in our Etsy shop.
As time went on, I got better and learned more techniques. Recently, I finished my first custom order for a client using crazy curves and techniques that I'd never done before. It turned out beautiful. I've never been more proud of anything I've ever built.
Once I figured out that I loved the farmhouse/rustic style, I started following woodworkers on Instagram that specialized in this style. I looked at their posts, watched all of their stories and even went over to their YouTube pages for more information. That's when I started learning about more complex joinery, techniques, etc.
Once I figure out what style I like and what kind of woodworker I want to be, what should I do?
The first thing I suggest you do is to learn everything you can about wood. There are plenty of good resources out there that can teach you everything you need to know about it. An example would be this article that teaches the basics of wood movement. In order to be successful in working with wood, you need to know how wood works. It's also good practice to learn about wood terminology so that when you go to the lumber yard or hardwood dealer for the first time, you won't be too overwhelmed. I'll be doing a post on your first trip to the lumberyard or hardware dealer in a few weeks!
Next, I would go online and see if there are any woodworking classes offered in your area. You can watch videos or read books, magazines, articles, etc. all day, but nothing is as good as a hands-on learning class. I've taken a couple of day classes at the woodworking school here in my area. The things I learned there could never have been replaced by reading or watching a video. If you have a Woodcraft store in your area, a lot of them do day classes as well.
Another great resource would be to join your local woodworking guild. There are a lot of more experienced people in your area and guild meetings are a great time to learn and run ideas by each other. I found mine simply by searching "woodworking guild in my area" on the internet.
Finally, it's time to start getting some tools and wood. You don't need a shop full of fancy tools to work with wood but you do need a handful of GOOD tools. In next week's blog, I'll be discussing tools for the beginner. Make sure to check it out!