Woodworking 101

With this bounty of resources (plus some insights from a fellow beginner), you’ll be creating in no time
Cutting wood is a big part of woodworking
If you’re staying at home, woodworking can be a great way to pass the time. (Photo courtesy Blaz Erzetic/Unsplash)


Woodworking can be more of an art than a labor, and with social distancing guidelines still in place, this is the perfect time to learn. Crafting wood into a practical box or a sign for your home can be really pleasing. And why not create a homemade end table or sign to liven up your living room?

There are a number of resources, both in-person in Minnesota and online. The Minnesota Woodworkers Guild consists of more experienced woodworkers who focus on fine furniture, and they hold meetings and a tool exchange; Rockler has locations in Minnetonka, Maplewood, and Burnsville and offers workshops and events. While most woodworking events in the Twin Cities are currently postponed, there are still plenty of online resources to help you get started. When I began to learn woodworking myself at the start of the pandemic, Steve Ramsey became one of my favorite YouTube resources. His approach is simple and accessible—he doesn’t tell you to go buy the most expensive tools or the nicest wood, and he really approaches his project videos as a teacher.

In Ramsey’s “18 Things Every Beginning Woodworker Should Know” video, one of the tips he shares is that every woodworker should learn how to build a box. According to Ramsey, you should get the basics of a wooden box down. Once you do that, every other project that follows is just a variation of the box. See for yourself with Ramsey’s box tutorial, and consider trying two of Ramsey’s other basic projects, a wooden crate, and a work bench.

Ramsey jokes that you don’t get into woodworking to save money, but there are ways to do so. Based on what I have found to be most commonly used in woodworking projects, here’s a list of basic tools you’ll need to get started:

  • Hammer and nails
  • Screwdriver
  • Chisels
  • Clamps (Clamps and wood glue are sometimes better to use than a hammer and nails.)
  • Saws (Hack saws, table saws, and jig saws are commonly used, but there are many types depending on what you are using it for.)
  • Power drill

As for the wood, you don’t always have to go to your local lumberyard. Oftentimes people are giving away wood for free, and wood pallets work great for many projects. Basswood, pine, cedar, and redwood are all nice starters. (Note: Over time, all wood gets darker. If you buy a nice red or purple wood, over months or years of exposure, it will naturally lose its color.)

No matter what kind of woodworking you do, from building boxes, to crafting tables, to whittling or carving intricate designs in wood, you should be proud of what you create. Because, as Ramsey says, at the end of the day, “You created something from nothing.”

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