Woodworking for Beginners: 6 Easy Tips to Get Started

When it comes to woodworking for beginners, there are 6 things that I think are essential to know for how to start woodworking. I’m going to discuss each of these tips in hopefully a really simple way to make it a breeze to understand, so you can get to the fun part of actually starting to woodwork! I wish when I started and was learning how to woodwork that I had a simple beginner tips guide like this one!

Picking out lumber in home improvement store

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1. Create a simple woodworking setup

Figure out a simple setup for your woodworking space. You don’t need a fancy and expensive workshop or garage to start woodworking. In fact, we’ve never had a workshop or garage (though I do dream of having one haha). In our current town home, we always setup a temporary workshop table in our backyard with a pair of sawhorses and a plywood board from the home improvement store.

easy woodworking setup with sawhorses and board in backyard

When we lived in our Charleston apartment, we did a lot of apartment woodworking on the ground of our little apartment patio. Sometimes we would use the sawhorses and plywood there too. Now, if you do have a garage or shed space, I’d recommend setting up a space there since then you won’t have to take it down and set it up each time!

apartment building with a miter saw on apartment patio

2. Learn how to read a tape measure

I know this seems really simple and you may already know how to read a tape measure so just hear me out on this one! Often times with woodworking you need to make exact measurements and cuts and it’s rarely pretty even numbers like 15 inches or 15 1/2 inches. It’s usually like 15 5/8 inches or 15 9/16 inches. So, really knowing how to read a tape measure in its entirety is important. And I’ve created a quick post on how to read a tape measure the easy way along with a helpful free printable.

3. Understand lumber dimensions and species

First, let’s start with the fact that there are many different types of wood species which are categorized as softwoods and hardwoods. Softwood examples include pine, cedar, spruce, fir, etc. Hardwood examples include oak, walnut, maple, birch, cherry, mahogany, etc.

I could write a whole post on wood species as each species has unique characteristics and traits. But, one of the most common types of wood used in DIY projects and furniture building is pine wood (a softwood). Pine is an affordable and readily available option at your local home improvement store and it comes in many sizes. I highly recommend using pine for beginner woodworking projects. Then, as you improve your skill, try working with some different wood species!

pine wood board that is unfinished

Second, learning how to read lumber dimensions, like knowing what 1×2 or 2×12 actually means, is really important. Understanding softwood lumber dimensions will help you to read woodworking build plans, shop for lumber, and understand the general measurements for your projects. I’ve provided a simple explanation to lumber sizes along with a free lumber size chart printable here!

Intro to Woodworking: Lumber Sizing Guide

4. Try to always use straight wood boards

When it comes time to pick out the wood boards for your woodworking project, try to use the straightest boards you can find and avoid warped or bowed boards. This may require a bit of picking and digging through the wood pile at the store, but it will make a huge difference when your actually building and it will save you a lot of headaches!

Often times at first glance a board looks straight and the fact that it is actually bowed or has some warping isn’t always obvious. So the trick to knowing for sure, is to hold the board up towards your face, with the other end on the ground, and look at it at a downward angle (as shown in the below photo). This method will allow you to see if it is bowing at all.

How to check a board for bowing when picking out lumber

Below are two photos comparing more bowed wood boards (on the left) versus a more straight board (on the right).

Two wood boards that are warped and bowing
Avoid warping boards
A straight board when picking out lumber
Look for straight boards

Keep in mind, there are no perfect boards, but try to always use the straighter boards and avoid warping boards. Also, Brandon and I have found that when it comes to picking out lumber at Home Depot and Lowes, they tend to stock up on fresh boards a few days before the weekend starts (so Thursday/Friday). And then, on Sundays and Mondays, the boards are usually really picked over and there isn’t a good selection. Just another tip to keep in mind!

You can also check out the lumber selection at your local lumber yard for more selections and better pricing too!

5. Learn how to use a few essential tools

When it comes to woodworking for beginners, I think it’s important to just learn how to use a few of the most essential woodworking tools for beginners. There are so many awesome tools available on the market today, it can be quite overwhelming as well as expensive to try to buy them all and know how to use them. Once you learn the basics of the most essential tools you will be able to start building in no time and feel comfortable learning any other new tools in the future.

You can check out what tools I think are best for beginners here! I do want to mention my most favorite tool, which has really helped me to build many of my DIY furniture projects, which is the Kreg Jig. See my tutorial on how to use a Kreg Jig for more details on this tool as well as how to use it!

Using a drill and Kreg Jig

Finally, as I shared in my post last week on how I learned woodworking, I learned how to use power tools by watching YouTube videos and then just trying them out for myself. I highly recommend this method to learn how to use your power tools. There are lots of videos on specific models of tools too. So, watch a few how-to videos and very importantly, review the tool manual and safety guide for your own tools. Then, go ahead and try the tool out yourself and start using it!

6. Sand your wood

Finally, properly preparing your wood surface is super important. It will make a huge difference when it comes times to stain, paint, or finish your wood. There are a lot of tips for wood surface preparation, but sanding the wood is one of the most important steps. And I find it really helpful to do the bulk of my sanding before I start ripping (cutting) and building with my wood since it’s still in whole pieces. You can check out my simple tips for how to sand wood in my how to stain wood tutorial, which is also good to reference if you need to learn how to stain too!

Orbital Sander sanding wood

Well that’s a wrap on my best and easy woodworking for beginners tips! I hope you’ve learned what you need in order to get started with woodworking! It may seem like a lot at first, but you will get the hang of it soon!

Once you’re good with the above tips, it’s really just a matter of actually doing it! Pick out your first beginner woodworking project tutorial that you want to make and start building! You may just fall in love with woodworking and become hooked like me 🙂

Thanks again for following along! Be sure to follow along on Instagram and Pinterest for my latest projects, fun updates, and sneak peeks!

Check out the other posts in the Intro to Woodworking Series:

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