Woodworking and carpentry are rewarding hobbies. You experience the satisfaction of making something out of nothing, and it will allow you to create so many useful and beautiful things with wood. But before your start sawing, hammering, and staining, review these few things to know before you start woodworking as a hobby.
Safety Above All
As fun as it is, woodworking comes with its own set of dangers. Not knowing how to use your tools safely can risk life and limb. Take a carpentry class to get a feel for the tools, as well as the knowledge about to use them properly. Your most important tools are the ones that protect you from harm, such as safety goggles (keep them on at all times while you work), foot protection, and hand protection as needed. There are too many rules to keep a safe shop to list here, but keep these in mind:
- Keep things clean
- Unplug power tools when not in use
- Always pay attention when you’re working
Know Your Woods
Wood is wood, right? Wrong. Beyond the simplest designations of softwoods and hardwoods, wood comes in a wide variety of forms with specific functions. As a shorthand, soft woods come from conifer trees like pine, cedar, spruce, fir, and redwood. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves in fall) and include oak, maple, ash, cherry, and others. Hardwoods are denser than soft woods and tend to be used for flooring and decks, as well as other places that face a lot of potential damage. They’re also used in high-grade furniture, musical instruments, and more. Softwoods are generally used for construction, but their cheapness and versatility lend themselves to different projects. That’s Wood 101, but you have a lot more left to learn!
Get the Right Tools
No, you don’t need to visit the hardware store and buy every tool available. A fully-equipped woodworking shop is the result of many years of time, effort, and investment. But every beginning woodworker should pick a few essential tools to start with. A cordless driver or drill is indispensable, allowing you to drill holes in most materials (with the proper bits) and insert screws at a rapid pace without tiring out your arms and hands. A powered miter saw lets you cleanly cut wood at perfect angles and lengths. A powered sander will also save your hands and arms as you smooth down rough wood. Finally, clamps are your friends. Buy assorted sizes so you can hold the wood in place. You’ll need other tools, but these are important ones.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Here’s one more of the few basic things to know before you start woodworking as a hobby: never work without a plan. Know what you’re getting into with a project, set a budget, and take your time with it. It’s not just a question of safety but also one of doing things right the first time. And if one adage stands true after all this time, measure twice, and cut once!