Interested in dipping your toes into the world of woodworking? Then you’ve come to the right place! We love sharing our interest in this rewarding craft. However, maybe you’re not sure about what questions to ask. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered there, too! From suggestions on resources to help you get started to the skills you should learn to best create your pieces, we’ve cobbled together eight common questions about woodworking. However, if you didn’t find an answer to your question, feel free to comment down below! Sharing our knowledge and experiences are some of the best ways to grow in our craft!
I. What’s the difference between woodworking and carpentry?
While both woodworking and carpentry use wood to create different things, there are some major differences between the two trades.
To begin with, carpentry focuses on things like construction or repairs. If you want things like doors installed or siding on your house replaced, then you’re going to want to search for carpenters in your area (I’d say look them up in the Yellow Pages, but I’d definitely be dating myself here!) Carpenters will also have a hand in big jobs like building and infrastructure construction. Simply put, carpentry is for building and repairing things with wood.
In contrast, woodworking is widely regarded as more of a hobby. Woodworkers will use their tools to turn wood into functional items like furniture, toys, and other handmade trinkets.
Nick Offerman - a woodworking enthusiast best known for playing Ron Swanson on the television show ‘Parks and Recreation’ - describes it as such:
“I like to think of woodworking as a form of sculpture. You start with a raw piece of wood and through your skill and creativity, you transform it into something beautiful and useful.”
Unlike a carpenter who might be present at a field site to complete his or her work, a woodworker will more often than not complete their trade in a workshop or a studio. Additionally, due to the decorative nature of the items, a woodworker is often going to spend time paying attention to intricate details and designs.
II. How do I start learning woodworking?
Okay, so we’ve caught your interest in learning more about woodworking as a rewarding hobby. However, it can be a little overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. Lucky for you, there are plenty of resources out there created by woodworking enthusiasts who are more than happy to pass on information about what they’ve learned over the years:
If you’re someone who learns best by reading, then you’re in luck; there are plenty of books written for those who are looking to learn more about the art of woodworking. Amazon recommends titles like Woodworking: The Complete Step-by-Step Manual and The Complete Book of Woodworking, just to name a few!
Simply type in “woodworking” into the YouTube search bar and you will have instant access to thousands of videos to teach all of the ins and outs of woodworking. A good place to start is with The Wood Whisperer. Established in 2006, Marc Spagnuolo has created hundreds of videos for beginners and master craftsmen alike. Another recommended channel is hosted by Matthew Cremona, who takes viewers on woodworking journeys starting with the very trees that will be used in his creations!
Have specific questions? Then you should consult a forum! Forums like Woodworking Talk or Woodnet are frequented by thousands of members who will ask and answer questions within a matter or hours or even minutes!
Find a mentor
Resources like books and videos are certainly helpful, but the best way to learn more about woodworking is to try it out yourself. Finding a fellow woodworker with more experience than yourself is ideal as they can give you advice while you work. An experienced woodworker can also share stories of both what to do and what not to do while creating different items.
III. What are the basic skills woodworkers should have?
So now that you have the resources, it’s time to get some tools in your hands! In order for you to successfully complete a project from start to finish, these are a few important woodworking skills that are important to master:
How to choose the right type of wood
Well, I suppose before you pick up those tools, it’s important to know how to choose the right type of wood for your project. If you’re just starting out, pine and poplar are excellent woods to work with because they’re not only easier to cut, shape, and sand, but they’re also less expensive than other types of woods!
How to use both hand and power tools
A typical woodworker’s shop is going to have both manual and automatic tools. You’ll want to be familiar with safely using things like hammers, chisels, table saws, and drill presses.
How to take the right safety precautions
You don’t want to hurt yourself or others when undertaking this hobby! Be proactive to prevent accidents:
Wear protective equipment
like safety goggles to protect your eyes, earplugs to protect your ears, and dust masks to protect your lungs.
Unplug tools when not in use
This is important so that they can't be accidentally turned on.
Use a push stick or push block when using a table saw
This will help keep your fingers away from the blade while you work."
Use a clamp to hold the wood
Using a clamp is important to prevent the wood from moving while you're working on it.
Keep a first aid kit nearby
Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!
How to prepare the chosen wood
You’ll need to know how to plane and sand the wood before you begin working with it in earnest! Planing and sanding will make the wood smooth; remove mill marks or defects like knots; and make it easier to apply things like paints or stains.
How to finish your handcrafted item
After all of the figurative blood, sweat, and tears it took to create one of your wooden pieces, you’ll want to make sure to do what you can to have it last as long as possible! This means that you’ll want to learn about when and where to apply oils, paints, or varnishes.
IV. Is woodworking hard to learn?
Like any new skill, it will take time and practice to become an experienced woodworker. It’s important to remember that patience is a virtue, and it’s certainly important to have patience when working with wood! From understanding which woods and tools to use for a project, to learning how to use said tools and joinery techniques, woodworking is not something that one will master overnight.
However, with resources like books, videos, forums, and mentors, these things can help overcome obstacles that you might face as you hone your craft. It’s also recommended to start with simple projects before working your way up to more complex ones. Finally, a positive mental attitude will go a long way to helping you persevere through the inevitable bumps in the road (and the wood!)
V. Do I need to be good at math for woodworking?
Don’t worry if you don’t know much about trigonometry, algebra, or what a slide rule is for; woodworking doesn’t require working with differential equations or number theory. However, it is still important to know basic and practical math skills.
Being able to take accurate and precise measurements are essential when working with wood, and basic skills like adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing are vital when making cuts. However, don’t any of these things scare you away from woodworking. Most of the calculations can be completed with a basic calculator. For more complex projects, websites like SketchUp Free allow you to work with 3D modeling software when creating plans.
VI. Can I make a living woodworking?
It absolutely is possible to make a living as a woodworker; after all, wooden furniture is always in high demand! Woodworkers can create custom pieces or commissions, or sell their works online or in a physical store. A woodworker could even open their own small business to sell their handcrafted products (I mean, if you need an example, look no further than Gettysburg Sentinels!)
However, it’s important to keep in mind that building a successful business isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Growing a woodworking business means building up your reputation by creating a portfolio to showcase pieces; networking at trade shows; marketing using both print and social media; and providing excellent customer service, which will help you establish a customer base.
VII. What should I learn first?
Now that you have a basic idea of what’s needed to become a woodworker, you’re probably wondering what skills you should focus on first. Our advice? Start at the beginning with skills you’ll use even before you create your first piece:
Safety: Learn how to use all tools safely to prevent injury to yourself and others.
Measuring and Marking: There really is something to be said for the phrase “measure twice, cut once”. Learn how to accurately measure and mark materials so you don’t accidentally cut too much and have to start a project over.
Maintenance: Know how to maintain and sharpen tools so that you always have a safe - and sharp - one at your disposal.
VIII. What wood is best for crafts?
Curious about the best types of wood to use for different projects? We’ve got you covered! Take a look at some of our favorite wood types that we use in our own products!
A Final Look
Woodworking is a rewarding hobby that requires time and different skills to learn. Luckily, there are plenty of print and digital sources that are excellent guides to help guide you as you grow. Knowing the right tools and materials to use for a job will allow you to practice honing your craft as a woodworker. While it will take time to learn things like how to cut, sand, and use joint techniques, patiently practicing skills and safety measures will allow you to practice woodworking for fun, and maybe eventually profit, too!
Take a look at our unique hand-crafted items made from the wood of the Battle of Gettysburg. Each piece is made with care and attention to detail and is a perfect addition to any history enthusiast's collection. They also make wonderful gifts!
Order now and own a piece of history!