Can You Teach Yourself Woodworking?

There is no better feeling than getting the guts to tackle a new challenge.

We all have stood at the foot of something brand new and completely unfamiliar.

To overcome the unknown and find yourself on the other side of “I got this” is gold, but how difficult is learning woodworking? 

Teaching yourself woodworking is something that anyone is capable of as long as they have the drive and do extensive research. Find a space for woodworking, get to know the wood species, dimensions types and essential tools out there, keep a clean shop, and keep things safe in your workspace. 

Woodworking is a diverse and ever-evolving trade, but it is one you can teach yourself if you really set your mind to it.

Of course, it will also take a bit of natural ability to make this work- and lots and lots of practice.

Continue reading to figure out how to get started in woodworking and all the different components that will help you get your feet on the ground. 

How to Teach Yourself Woodworking

As mentioned above teaching yourself woodworking is totally possible. But, this is not a job for the weary.

Teaching yourself woodworking requires extensive research, practice, patience, and natural ability to make this work.

After all, professional woodworkers have most often spent years perfecting their trade.

So, you can expect the same- especially when teaching yourself.

To teach yourself woodworking, consider the following steps: 

1. Do Your Research

Truly, teaching yourself woodworking is likely not something that is going to take place overnight.

After all, most woodworkers have spent years dedicated to learning this trade, and they have worked under other experienced woodworkers to teach them the rules of the road.

If you are planning on teaching yourself woodworking, you need to do the research on where to begin.

Look at the space you will need, tools you can work with, different types of woodworking that you might want to take a look at, and what piques your interest most about the field.

Then, learn how you can make this dream a reality in your region, climate, and based on your specific interests.

2. Get a Workspace Set Up 

If you think of it, every little task you do has some type of formal place for tackling it.

When you pay bills you sit at a certain table, you cook dinner in the same area, you knock the mud off your boots at a certain point on the ramp every time you come into the house, you shake your laundry out next to the same laundry posts every Saturday, you set your coffee on the same side table every morning, and you leave your paper in the same spot every evening. 

These tasks may seem menial, but they reveal how everything you do has a designated spot, whether it’s a project or simply a habit, they have their own designated areas.

So, now that you want to start woodworking, the biggest first step is to make sure you have a place to get projects done – this should happen before you even open the first page for learning all the woodworking ends and outs. 

Do not be intimidated by that last statement though, woodworking does not have to be a venture that requires an entire garage full of equipment.

Woodworking can actually be something that only requires a few tools to get the projects you are interested in completed.

Figure out the projects that you think you want to tackle and make sure you have the room to get them underway. Get creative and find a way to make your dream a reality! 

3. Get to Know Your Wood 

Never thought you would have to have a sit-down dinner with different wood species, did you?

Surprise! One of the first and most important things you need to teach yourself before getting on your feet with woodworking are the types of wood species out there and how they are going to work for you and all your different projects you plan to knock out.

When it comes to wood, it can make or break your project depending on how you plan to use it. 

Because of this, you need to understand all the variations of hardwoods, softwoods, their porosity, how they weather when it comes to age and sun exposure, if they are toxic, and what their prices are when it comes to meeting the cashier at the register.

Familiarize yourself with wood and the most common species you will be working with.

This will help get your projects off on the right foot because you will know what you’re up against with your wood.

4. Familiarize Yourself with Wood Dimensions 

So you have all your wood species down: walnut can’t walk past you without you two saying hello, you spend your weekends with cherry and holly wood in Nantucket, you get drinks with oak and pine, and you and mahogany go way back.

However, knowing your wood is not enough.

You have got to get to know its personality a bit.

By personality, I mean dimensions.

Knowing the dimensions of wood out there is just as important as knowing the wood itself.

You have to know how to read the dimensions of wood to understand how to build plans, look for the lumber that you need, and figure out the measurements for your own projects.

Knowing the difference between 1×6 and 1×8 is a big deal and it is going to make a big difference in your woodshop.

If you get the wrong dimensions it can either mean more work in cutting for you, or a total scrap because the piece is too small. Know those numbers. 

5. Know Your Basic and Essential Tools 

Every woodworker is going to need a few tools that vary from the next woodworker due to the particular type of woodworking they are involved in.

That is the beauty of woodworking though – there is so much room to tailor your shop to exactly what you want and need.

However, there are a few essential tools that most woodworkers are going to have in their space and you need to get familiar with their names as well as their functions. 

I will not go into massive detail here, but there are tools that every beginner needs, just check them out before you get started.

Look to see which ones fit the bill for your needs, browse different brands, decide on how much you want to spend to get yourself set up, and get to tinkering with them.

Make sure you are totally informed on their safety regulations and go slowly with all your first runs – a safe woodshop is one that will last; accidents are not welcomed.

6. Understand the Importance of a Clean Shop 

Whether your woodworking space is as big as a house or as small as a closet, it must stay clean.

I mean must with a capital “M.” Knowing your woods, having your space, getting to know dimensions, and being familiar with the right tools is all a huge step in setting yourself up properly, but if your workspace stays dirty, your woodworking dreams will end as soon as they have begun.

Keeping things clean is essential to the longevity of your shop and tools.

If you are working with wood, there is going to be loads of dust and dust is one of those things that finds its way into and onto every surface imaginable.

You want to make sure that you keep tools put away, keep surfaces wiped off, and keep any of your power tools free from dust buildup.

A great way to manage the dust in your shop is to grab a dust collecting system.

This will do a lot of the work for you without you having to think twice about it. 

7. Pay Attention to Safety 

I wanted to put this category in last because I want it to be the very last thing on your mind when you leave this article.

Teaching yourself woodworking is completely possible, but it cannot be successfully done if you don’t implement the proper safety procedures in your shop.

Of course, this means using tools responsibly and as they were built to be used, but those also include a few other things that you may not have thought of before now. 

Along with being sure to always practice safe operating procedures with tools, you have to make sure you’re protected.

What do I mean by this? I mean your attire.

This means no baggy clothes, no long sleeves, and steel-toed boots.

You have to protect your body and this means being aware of what you wear.

If you wear improper clothing while working in your shop, it can lead to the end of your woodworking career and the beginning of long medical bills. 

8. Practice, Practice, Practice

Just like a professional woodworker has spent years acquiring knowledge and perfecting his or her trade, you, too, will need to begin this practice.

It starts with the basics.

Learn how to use your tools and become familiar with them and their various quirks.

Watch videos on how to make certain types of cuts or carvings. 

Get comfortable using a specific type of wood, or sort through various types of wood until you find a few of your favorites.

Learn how to read wood in all of its various grain patterns, natural hardness levels, and other intimate details.

Practice on small pieces and work with larger projects.

The more you practice woodworking, the more you learn about the trade, and, consequently, the better you are able to teach yourself woodworking.