Basic woodworking is fun and generates a sense of accomplishment and achievement!

Having owned a cabinet shop for ten years, I enjoy both building furniture and gifts, making useful items for friends and around the house.

In addition to great resources on the internet, acquire a “reading library” of woodworking books.  My favorite read is the John L. Feirer “Cabinetmaking and Millwork”  (Here is the Link at Amazon: Cabinetmaking and Millwork: John L Feirer: 9780684132778: Books ).
While the Feirer book may seem dated to some, the basic principles are the same, and you will get a piece of usable information every time you skim through it.
Beyond educating yourself, you will need a basic toolbox, patience, a good tape measure, pencils, and a working plan of what you want to build.  You can buy this in a kit. 

25 piece beginner tool set, from Amazon

Most items can be built out of basic 3/4″ pine and plywood for cases, 1/2″ plywood for drawers, and 1/4″ plywood (or paneling if you are on a budget) for backs of cabinets and boxes. I like Pine as it is affordable, readily available, easy to cut and sand, and takes a painted finish well.   Stick to these materials to start, while you learn the basics.  Hardwoods and exotic species are expensive, and good for high-end projects.
In addition to basic hand tools, I suggest getting a cordless screw-gun/drill, skilsaw, palm sander, power miter saw (10″), sawhorses, and a small table saw.  (This list is just basic, buy things as you need them – and don’t forget glue, clamps, screws, etc. etc.).

1000 piece fastener set, from Amazon
1000 piece fastener set, from Amazon

While there are many joining systems for wood, basic furniture can be glued, nailed, and screwed together.  I have biscuit fasteners, Krieg drills, air powered nail-guns, and more in my work shop. this depends on whether you will be “blind fastening” (no exposed fasteners) or using exposed fasteners (nails, screws) and filling or covering the holes.
Woodworking is a challenge, as you are the mechanic, building functional pieces using your methods and tools.  Don’t worry if you have some pieces that are “less than perfect” – as your skills improve, you will be able to build some really good pieces.

The attached pictures are an oak desk for my 8 year old grandson, and a great Tiki Bar on wheels!

Oak and Pine desk built for Authors grandson
Oak and Pine student desk built for Authors grandson
Tiki Bar on wheels
Tiki Bar on wheels, made with shop scrap, left over paint, and some old casters.
rear view of Tiki Bar
rear view of Tiki Bar, showing shelves for buckets, and plastic barware!

It’s always fun to build for fun.

This is a footlocker/toybox:

Footlocker Toybox
Footlocker Toybox

Be creative, be safe, and enjoy woodworking – where you get a real sense of accomplishment building, fixing, or even working on a new project!

Take your time, “Measure twice – cut once“, and enjoy building your own cabinets and furniture!

Don’t let this happen to you!!



How to get the best lumber from Lowe’s or Home Depot!

Lowes and Home Depot both carry graded lumber (usually #2 and better), although you may see a lot of lumber with low moisture content for framing lumber – prone to splitting- and lumber from Fast growing trees that don’t have the same qualities as the older, slow-growing trees of my youth.  I will try to shed some light on lumber buying.

Lumber grading is usually visual, and based on the timber.  Graders can have variation within lots of timber, and a board that is a pristine  #2 on one end can be dunnage or scrap on the opposite end!

Lumber is graded and stamped, with mill numbers, Grade, and features like Kiln drying.

Rules and Specifications for the Grading of Lumber: Adopted by the Various Lumber Manufacturing Associations of the United States
Rules and Specifications for the Grading of Lumber: Adopted by the Various Lumber Manufacturing Associations of the United States

The more you know more about lumber, you can see why many DIY’ers and tradesmen have a concern about mass-marketed lumber at big box stores. There can be tremendous variation in grades, and QUALITY, depending on the mill and experience of the graders.

My advice is not to label the wood product of either store good or bad, but look at the stamp and inspect the wood when you purchase it. I frequently pick through lumber ALL THE TIME when I buy it, and it will vary from one side of the pallet to the other.  I even sight down the long end of the boards, to ensure they are straight – as opposed to cupped, bowed, twisted, or warped.

More Books on Lumber grading from Amazon

So understand lumber grading (don’t buy #2 common when you need a #1 select), buy the best lumber for your project, and inspect it when you pick it. No one wants to run from store to store picking boards, so make the best compromise you can.

I would also recommend that you speak to the Lumber Manager at the store, they usually are familiar with the product they have in stock, and can suggest material that is “out in the yard”

The Essential Wood Book: The Woodworker’s Guide to Choosing and Using Lumber
The Essential Wood Book: The Woodworker’s Guide to Choosing and Using Lumber

In this time of pandemic, I needed some Pressure treated lumber, which is in short supply – I ordered 30% more than called for, and crossed my fingers that the product delivered was “good enough” for the project. Fortunately, I got lucky!