How to Pick the Right Beginner Woodworking Project

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This is how to pick the right beginner woodworking project. It can be hard to pick a project that is perfect for a beginner. There are a lot of ways to go, and it can be overwhelming. Instead of all that trouble, I’m going to show you exactly what to do instead. Enjoy.

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Beginner Woodworking Projects

how-to-pick-the-right-beginner-woodworking-projectWhat makes a good beginner woodworking project? Well, there are a lot of things. Unfortunately, as a beginner, it can be difficult to know what you should be looking for. It’s also difficult to know what you should be looking to avoid.

Most of this knowledge comes from mistakes. In order to be wise and have good judgement, you must first have experience, which only comes from bad judgement.

Even so, there are more resources now then ever before, so you can help yourself get a better start.

Inside this post you will learn several ways to make a good decision on a beginner project. All you need to look out for are a few things. Think about these when you are looking for a good project, and you will have a much easier time.

Ignore them, and you might have to learn from experience, which may be a good teacher, but is also an indifferent teacher. It’s much better to read the post and use the ideas to give yourself a better start.

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Start With a Simple Project

This is the one place where most beginning woodworkers make their fatal mistake. Instead of going for a project that is at their skill level, they shoot for the moon. While ambition is great, it can also become a big problem.

When you pick out a project that is really high end, it comes with a really long and difficult build most of the time. When you are an advanced woodworker, you might even struggle with a project like this. As a beginner, it’s a death sentence.

The victim is your passion and love for woodworking. In the beginning, you will form a lot of ideas about woodworking. These will become a foundation for how you see the craft. If you start out by making it really difficult or frustrating, that may be how you come to see all of woodworking.

In reality, any hobby that you try to break into at the top will feel the same way. If you picked up the hobby of running and decided to run a marathon on day one, you would be in the same boat. It’s important in the beginning to pick out a project that is simple, and you will be happier.

See Also: A Beginners Guide to Woodworking

Nobody Likes to Think of Themselves as a Beginner

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One of the other big problems with new woodworkers is that nobody wants to think of themselves as a beginner. You skip right past the beginner stuff all the time and go for the advanced stuff. This is bad for several reasons.

First, as a beginner, you should not feel ashamed. There is nothing wrong with being a beginner. If someone is rude to you because you don’t know something about woodworking that they do, that’s a reflection of their character not yours.

Being a beginner is something we all do. Even the most seasoned expert was once a beginner, so you re in good company. Don’t feel bad about picking out a beginner level woodworking project. It’s a good decision, and you will learn more easily if you do.

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See Also: 13 Myths About Getting Into Woodworking

Think About the Tools You Have

When you pick out your first couple projects, it’s important to think about the tools that you have available to you. These tools are important, because you need tools to do the job. You don’t necessarily need a ton of them, but you will need some.

If you pick projects that are able to be made with the tools you have, you can start out in woodworking without a lot of cost. If you have some wood laying around that you can also use, then you might be able to start for free.

This is a huge win, because you have no downside. If you had to buy an entire shop, there is a lot riding on the happiness you get from your project. In contrast, starting simple and working within the tools you have makes it a lot easier to start.

Also, think about what your tools can do. There are almost always hidden things that are not so obvious about tools. They can do more than you might think. Learn this, and you can get more from the tools you have.

See Also: The Myth that You Need Lots of Tools to Get Started in Woodworking

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Think About the Tools You Will Need

how-to-pick-the-right-beginner-woodworking-project-edge-routingIf you are fine with getting a couple new tools, then think about the tools you will need when you select your project. If the project you want is made with a $10,000 CNC machine, then you need to be prepared to buy one to complete the project.

This is an extreme example, but it still works on the smaller scale. If you need a $5 tool to make the project, and you don’t intend on buying it, then you are up the same creek. It’s all about what you are comfortable buying.

That being said, when it comes to buying things, make sure you absolutely need them. If you are just starting, you can do a lot with basic hand tools. Woodworkers for a long time before you have done just fine with them, and you can too.

You will also need materials, like scrap wood, wood glue, sandpaper, screws, and other common woodworking items. These are typically not expensive, but if you are making something large, they can be.

See Also: Where to Buy Woodworking Tools

Accessing the Difficulty of the Project

When you pick out a first project, it can be difficult to know just how much goes into the project itself. This is normal. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. There are clues though, and you can use them to make a good decision.

First, look at how big the project is. Bigger projects require bigger tools. They also require a bigger space, and typically more work. Also, look at the level of detail. This is another key to the overall difficulty.

A side table or coffee table may be similar in difficulty, and so might be a wine rack, candle holder, or cutting board. However, a lazy susan may be more because of the addition on movement in the project.

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If the project looks intricate and complex, then it might be best to avoid it. At least for now, until you have more projects under your belt. Once you do, then the complexity will not look as intimidating, and you can give it a shot.

At first though, look at the project and try to make your best decision. Odd are that if the project looks too hard, that it just might be. There are exceptions of course, but trust your gut and don’t take on something that is far too difficult or involved as a beginner project.

See Also: 9 Important Things to Put In Your Woodworking Notebook

Project Space Requirements

how-to-pick-the-right-beginner-woodworking-project-staining-woodDifferent projects require different amounts of space. As a new woodworker, you may not have a ton of space to work. You can use this to decide on a beginner project, and the limitation will actually help you in the end.

Instead of being worried about a project fitting into your pace, just pick one that fits. The space will narrow the field for you. In this way, the bigger and more elaborate projects will be eliminated, and you won’t make the mistake.

Don’t think of the space limitation as a bad thing. It actually is a good thing. Beginners can take on more than they should. Limiting your project size to your shop space will make you more comfortable, and make the project less of a burden to move around and build.

See Also: 29 Ways to Maximize Your Woodworking Shop Layout

How Long the Project Will Take to Make

One of the easiest ways to ensure a good beginner woodworking project is to see how long the project will take. Projects that take less time tend to be completed more than projects that take a lot of time. In the beginning, this is huge.

Momentum is a big factor in how long you continue woodworking. If you start out with a bear of a project, it can kill your momentum. Instead, start with several quicker projects to establish some speed before moving on.

If you pick out a couple quick projects, you will have a much higher chance of finishing them. Once you finish your first, you can make another, and another. Work like this in the beginning, and pick short term projects. You will be glad you did, and you will finish more of them.

The act of finishing things builds confidence. The added motivation from that boost in your abilities and your confidence will make you better on each following project. This will start to snowball, and eventually you will feel better about tackling bigger projects.

See Also: 13 Woodworking Ideas to Help Any Beginner

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How Much Will the Project Cost to Make

Woodworking is not expensive unless you make it expensive. However, you should think about your beginner projects in terms of cost too. After all, if you pick a very expensive project, you might be left with a bad taste if it doesn’t go well.

You can get an idea of the total cost of the project by looking at the materials. Once you know what you need, price it out. See if the cost is high for you, and make a decision. If you are not willing to invest that much in a beginner level project, then look for something else.

It’s best at first to think of inexpensive projects. You are going to ruin some of them, so don’t spend a lot. After making a few less expensive projects, you will have the ability to move on to more expensive stuff with more confidence.

You can also do things like use pallets, or reclaimed wood to minimize your costs. This is great, especially if you have to get a new tool to make the project. You can offset some of the cost by using creatively sourced wood.

See Also: The Myth that it’s Expensive to Get Started in Woodworking

Great Places to Find Beginner Projects

Now that you know several important things to look for when selecting a woodworking project, it’s time to find out where to actually look. Thankfully, the journey is not very far from where you are already reading this post.

The internet is awesome. It’s literally shrunk the world in the last decade, and you have a lot more reach than you ever did before. You can look around online and find millions of posts on making projects, tutorials, tips, and everything in between.

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Spend some time looking online. Browse around the web and find sites that offer good advice on projects. Return to them often, and start making a list of the projects that you would like to make one day. Research them, and build your tools and materials lists.

If you make this a habit, you will never be at a loss for a good project. There are so many places online that share stuff just like I do. Woodworkers love to share, and that’s a great thing for you as a new woodworker.

See Also: 11 Great Ways to Find Woodworking Inspiration

Places to Watch Woodworking Projects Being Made

If you are more of a visual learner, there are lots of projects for beginners on YouTube. If you search for beginner level woodworking projects, YouTube will return millions and millions of videos. Start watching them. You will see step by step just what it takes to make.

The really nice thing about YouTube is that you can watch the piece being made. This is another level beyond written instructions. If you are just starting out, seeing someone make a project is a huge help. Even simple wood projects like a picture frame have dedicated videos for them.

Not only do you get to familiarize yourself with the steps, you also see it in action. It’s not just about still pictures, it happens in real time. After you see the project come together, you will be in far better shape to do the same thing yourself.

If you have never used YouTube to find woodworking projects, you are in for a treat. You are also in for a long day. You can get lost on this site, and end up watching hours of video before you know what happened. Again, it’s a good thing. It’s free, and you get to learn a lot.

See Also: The Best Time to Learn About Wood Finishing as a Beginner

Books and Resources for the Beginner

Books are also a great resource for projects. When you buy a book, you get to keep the volume as a reference book. Over time, you will build up a series of books, and they will all have something to teach you.

Beginner level books are the best. They are designed with the reader in mind, so they make less assumptions about what you know. A few good beginner books will get you very far, and provide you with many projects.

Also, if you go online to look for books, check the reviews. If a book claims to be a beginner book and lots of people struggle with it, you will see it in the reviews. Toss out the overly colorful and overly negative reviews, and look for what people are really saying.

Make sure that when you buy a book, you are getting what you want, and that it will serve you well as a beginner. These books can become a foundation for your development, so choose them well and buy them often. Read them too. That helps a lot.

See Also: Woodworking Library

If You Like My Posts, You'll Love My Books

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Find Someone With Experience to Help You Pick

There is something awesome about having a woodworker for a friend. For you as a beginner, it’s extra awesome. If you ask, a friend can help you pick out a good project. Not only will this be a relief on making the decision yourself, you will have built in help.

People that have been doing woodworking for a long time know what they are doing. They know what projects are easy, and they know what is hard. They can look at a project and tell you just how involved it may be.

As a new woodworker, you might not have that same ability. For example, old fashioned joinery looks very simple on the outside. The tools are simple, and the wooden pieces do not look elaborate. That’s the end of simple right there.

Joinery done well is not easy as a beginner. It’s not impossible at the basic levels, but the cooler looking joints are way more involved. Someone that is new might see that and say it looks simple. An experienced woodworker however knows the truth.

See Also: I Don’t Have Lots of Fancy Tools

Get a Hands on Tutorial on a Project

Another thing that is great about having a woodworker friends is that they can help. You might even be able to get a hands on tutorial. This is just as good as taking a class. It will be very helpful, and you will learn the process faster.

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There is nothing like being taught in person. As you learn more, you will feel the same way. A book or a video are one sided. They deliver information to you. When you want to ask a question, they are silent.

This is where a friend is a tremendous resource. Not only will they deliver information, you will also be able to ask questions. If you are confused about something, just ask, and you eliminate a lot of trial and error.

Mistakes and learning through error are a fact of life in any new hobby. Woodworking is no different. If you can bypass some of that by learning with a tutorial from a friend, then you are putting yourself on the fast track to having the knowledge.

See Also: Printable Woodworking Tips Cards

Simple and Finished is Better Than Complex and Unfinished

Finally, it’s better to finish a simple project than never finish a complex project. Remember, the simple projects end up being finished. The complex projects stay in the shop for years, eventually either being thrown away or broken.

At the end of this beginner project, you need to actually have a project. It does no good to set yourself up for a very long and detailed project. Instead, give yourself the best chance of finishing by making it simple.

After you pick a project, finish it. Take the project all the way to the end. Don’t burden yourself with too much at first. Later in your woodworking adventure, you will have more under your belt, and you will be better equipped to handle the complex stuff.

Ironically, at that point, the complex stuff will not be nearly as complex. That’s the nature of building up project after project and advancing your difficulty level over time.

See Also: There are Two Types of Woodworkers

Your Homework

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Now that you know everything you need to pick out a great beginner woodworking project, it’s time to pick. Use the skills you just learned, and find your next project. I recommend starting out online. It’s a huge resource, and it’s probably in your pocket.

Start there, and find inspiration. Find some projects that you like, and then look for beginner level versions. Maybe it’s a style that you like? In that case, there are beginner projects in that style you can start right away.

After that, watch some videos. See how the projects are made. Assess the cost, make sure you have the right tools, and then start. Just start. Then, after you start, finish. Finish the project and move on to the next one.

That’s how you get really good at woodworking. One project after another.

If you have any questions on How to Pick the Right Beginner Woodworking Project, please Post a Question in the Q&A Forum and I’ll be glad to help. Happy building.

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  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
Buy My Books on Amazon

I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post.

Come See What I'm Making on Etsy!

Check Out My Shop!


You Can Find My Books on Amazon!

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