Start Here - A Reflective Guide To Start Woodworking

Start Here - A Reflective Guide To Start Woodworking
Photo by Barn Images / Unsplash

Furniture Making in a Garage or Dedicated Small Setup

FOR THOSE WHO CARE: I update this guide regularly based on new insights or material available; I also write based on my learning experiences.

Let's start with what I am NOT. I am not a master craftsman, master woodworker, or anything along those lines. In fact, most people who call themselves such grandiose titles are almost certainly not. Nor am I someone who has mastered all techniques to a teacher-level proficiency to teach you the "proper" technique.

My father and mother taught me the importance of being capable with my hands; it is not enough to be smart in academic concepts if you cannot change a simple light bulb or your car tire. I would venture to say, that if the former is the case, you have some introspective thinking to do.

We have been in a constant decline when it comes to handicrafts. I believe woodworking is one of those simple, yet gratifying and useful crafts that most of us should have some knowledge of.

Why? It's actually quite simple. Did you know that among our renewable resources, wood is at the top of the list? We have, if we take care of it, incredible supplies, and with proper management of our forests and a little less compulsive buying and changing things for the latest trend, wooden products and houses are extremely eco-friendly and also accessible for almost anybody to make.

You cannot just go and cut a piece of iron; you have to dig the mineral and then process it. It is different with wood; you can take a tree down and make something worth talking about in a very short time.

You DO NOT need this guide, as there are thousands of materials available for free on YouTube and paid in many other publications. And, that also why you DO NEED this guide as there is just too much information out there.

Most importantly, there are amazing books that have all you really need. I will certainly draw a lot of my insights from many of them, as well as from my own experience.

Regarding books, I will recommend two easy but pivotal ones and a third series of two books that I plan to start digging into soon.

  1. The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing
  2. Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking (The three books)
  3. With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture
  4. To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry
There are no affiliate marketing links that bring me financial benefits from buying products I recommend. I have decided that this will deter people from the credibility of this guide. It certainly keeps me from trusting reviews anymore.

We begin this specific guide of Woodworking 101 with an introduction and the first chapter. Subsequent chapters will be rolled out as I keep wrangling kids, working and practicing the craft:

  1. Chapter 1: Business or Personal? Setting Up Your Space and Counting the Cost of Tools, Set Up, and Learning Curve - Discover whether woodworking is a hobby or a business venture for you, and learn the essentials of setting up your workspace.
  2. Chapter 2: Starter Guide to Tool Usage and Techniques - Learn to use your basic equipment.
  3. Chapter 3: Starter Guide to Choosing, Buying, and Drying Wood - Navigate the nuances of wood selection and preparation.
  4. Chapter 4: Starter Guide to Essential Tools - Explore the core tools of woodworking, from jointers to miter saws.
  5. Chapter 5: Starter Guide to Basic Joints - Master the art of creating strong, functional joints.
  6. Chapter 6: Starter Guide to Glue-Ups and Clamping - Learn the critical skills of effective glue-ups and clamping techniques.
  7. Chapter 7: Starter Guide to Finishes and Application - Understand the finishing touches that transform good work into great work.
  8. Chapter 8: Pricing and Marketing, How to Sell Your Work - Delve into the business side of woodworking, focusing on pricing and marketing strategies.

Why would you want to hear from me?

I am someone who started from zero and dared to open a woodworking shop with my brother. Over ten years, we learned and managed to make some nice furniture. Basic, but sturdy, well-built, and with an eye for detail. You can accomplish this kind of work without being a super-skilled woodworker.

Play-based learning is what they call this kind of learning for kids, and that's how I feel we did it in a certain way. We play and learn while doing it. One problem that became apparent is that we lacked the foundation of our craft, as do 99% of other woodshops, especially when everyone is trying to embody the lumberjack and flannel persona but does not want the sweat and blood that comes with it.

Me (Javier) and my brother (Jose). Left to right.
Me (Javier) and my brother (Jose). Left to right.

What do I mean by fundamentals? I mean hand tools. If you are not a hand tool person, then there are likely two categories you could fall into. The first, you admire hand-tool woodworking but are intimidated by it, do not know where to start, and also it takes time to finish a project. I will talk about these misconceptions later on, but rest assured, this is not a hand-tool woodworking guide, at least not yet, because I am not yet a hand-tool woodworker.

The second is more unusual, but I have met the type. You do not think we live in a day and age where hand tool woodworking has a fundamental space and, in fact, you see it as a second-class kind of style. Possibly, this guide is not for you, even if I am for now sharing about mostly machinery, I will soon enough change that as I believe that we are all learning wrong by neglecting hand tool technique. But if you are still here, keep pressing on. You may see how it is just through hand tools that actual mastery is accomplished.

You also don't need the finest and best tools, although I will ALWAYS encourage you to buy the best ones you can afford that way you will avoid buying twice or space the gap between purchases.

I have sold a couple of hundred thousand dollars' worth of handmade wooden furniture built by my brother and me, and I've learned a few things along the way. Most importantly, I know exactly how to start without being paralyzed by the plethora of information out there.

These are some of the projects I built with my brother José.

Here, you will find my personal reflective guide, with curated material from others more skilled than me, and my own insights on how you can apply different techniques and approaches.

Welcome to my 2024 project, an ever-changing space for experiences, skills, and insights shaped by my journey in woodworking. After the closure and sale of the woodshop I ran with my brother, life took me on a nomadic path - moving places, nurturing kids, embracing the chaos and joy of life. But amidst this whirlwind, my passion for woodworking remained a steadfast companion. Now, it's time to delve deeper into the craft, particularly mastering hand tools and traditional joinery.

Through these guides, I share with you not just instructions, but a narrative of rekindling a lost love for woodworking. My desire? Constant growth as a craftsman.

Craftsman's Odyssey

This guide is part of a bigger and more ambitious project. I am developing "Craftsman's Odyssey," a library of resources for craftsmen of all stripes, but especially woodworkers. You can read more about it here. In short, it is intended to develop a community that connects like-minded people, giving them access to exclusive content, interviews, and knowledge.

Yes, there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of free materials online, filled with affiliate links, and that, my friend, is exactly the problem. Knowing exactly where to start and figuring out what constitutes an honest perspective can be overwhelming for many enthusiasts who just want to get started. This is what this guide is all about: honesty, resources, community, and helping you to start building something.

I am building this online library from previous experiences and hoping to bring you more valuable content. You also have access to my personal email; every time you receive a newsletter with a new article, just hit the reply button, and you will be able to contact me directly.

Craftsman's Odyssey

by Javier Feliu

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