Woodworking Fundamentals: Learn the Basic Skills

WoodworkFundamental Skills

In this tutorial, you’ll learn the basics for simple bandsaw or scrollsaw projects. The fundamentals covered are simple cuts, drilling, and sanding techniques for basic woodworking projects. With knowledge and some practice of these woodworking skills, you should be able to create your own quality items.

woodworking basics supplies

  • Safety glasses
  • Wood
  • Scroll saw or band saw
  • Saw blades
  • Pencil
  • Hand drill or drill press
  • Drill bits
  • Sanding paper
  • When working with power tools such saws it is very important to wear safety glasses at all time.
  • Make sure you are fully concentrating on the task at hand as saws and other power tools can do a lot of damage very quickly!
As with any crafting project, it is important to start with good quality supplies that are free of any defects.
  • If you want to paint your final project, pay particular attention to the color of the wood. Bass, aspen and furniture grade pine are wonderful choices because of their neutral color and moderate hardness.
  • Avoid defects such as knots, warping, cracks, gouging, or water damage.
  • Select the correct size of lumber for your project. Note that typically, the dimensions given to a particular size of wood (e.g. 2 x 4, 1 x 2) is the size of the wood when it is rough cut. Once the lumber is finished it will actually be slightly smaller than the stated dimension.

wood working basics wood selection

  • For this tutorial we assume you will be using either a scroll saw or band saw. However, all photos included with this tutorial feature a scroll saw.
  • We recommend using a drill press because holes made in a press tend to be more accurate that those made with a hand-held drill, but either method will work.
Using a pencil, draw a straight line on the piece of wood you will be cutting. You can also print out the cutting lines PDF of your project and fix it to your practice piece of lumber using packing tape.

woodworking basics line 1

Line up the saw blade with the edge of the wood where you will start your cut. Note that most saws do not cut a perfectly straight line (they typically veer slightly to the right) and you will have to angle your wood slightly to achieve a straight cut.

woodworking basics line 2

Once your lumber is in place, turn the saw on and slowly begin cutting on the line. As you make the cut, you might have to make small adjustments to the angle that you're holding the wood. Take care not to force the wood against the saw blade, just apply a gentle amount of pressure on the lumber to keep it feeding through the saw.
The wood should be held firmly so that it does not bounce around on the saw deck. Once the cut is complete, turn the saw off to avoid any accidents.

woodworking basics line 4

Using a pencil, draw a wavy, curved line on the piece of wood you will be cutting. Gentle curves will be easier that tight curves.

woodworking basics wavy 1

Line up the saw blade with the edge of the wood where you will start your cut. You will want to start your cut at a slight angle going towards the top of the first curve.

woodworking basics wavy 2

Once your lumber is in place, turn the saw on and slowly begin cutting on the line. Make sure not to force the wood against the saw blade, just apply a gentle amount of pressure on the lumber to keep it feeding through the saw. The wood should just held firmly so that it doesn't bounce around on the saw deck.

woodworking basics wavy 3

As you make the curved cut you will have to gently turn the wood in a continuous movement that mimics the curving motion of the line you are cutting. This process will take a bit of practice to perfect. Once you feel proficient cutting gentle waves, move on to more dramatic waves and curves. Remember to turn the saw off at the end of your practice to avoid any accidents.

woodworking basics wavy 4

Using a pencil, draw the tight turn with a loop on the outside of the corner on the piece of wood you will be cutting.

woodworking basics turn 1

Line up the saw blade with the edge of the wood where you will start your cut. Make sure your wood is slightly angled towards the angle of your cut.

woodworking basics turn 2

Once your lumber is in place, turn the saw on and slowly start cutting on the line. As you make the cut, gently adjust the angle of the wood so that that the cut follows the guideline.
Apply a gentle amount of pressure on the lumber to keep it feeding through the saw. The lumber should just be held firmly so that it doesn't bounce around on the deck of the saw.

woodworking basics turn 3

Continue cutting up past the turn to the loop. The loop is allowing your blade to turn around and cut down the other side of your corner. This technique keeps the blade from burning the wood at the tightest part of the turn and makes for a nice crisp turn. Once the cut is complete, turn the saw off to avoid any accidents.

woodworking basics turn 4

Select the proper drill bit for the project then mark the place you want the hole to be.

woodworking basics drill 1

Position the wood so that the drill bit will contact the wood at the right place. Check the placement by lowering the drill bit until it almost contacts the wood. Readjust the lumber if it is not positioned correctly.

woodworking basics drill 2

Apply the drill bit to the wood until it has gone all the way through the lumber. If the wood is particularly hard or thick, pull it out of the hole part-way through the drilling process to allow any wood that has built up in the bit to disperse.

woodworking basics drill 3

Select the proper grit of sandpaper. A medium grit is usually a good starting point for most projects.

woodworking basics sanding 1

In long straight motions, begin sanding your project. Be sure to to pay particular attention to the edges and corner. Try to always sand with the grain of the wood so that you don't leave any marks that cut across the grain. Repeat if necessary with a finer grit of sanding paper until you achieve the desired smoothness.

woodworking basics sanding 2

In this tutorial you have learned five important woodworking basics; cutting straight and curved lines, turning tight corners, sanding, and drilling for any scroll saw or band saw woodworking project. These skills are a great jumping-off point for making simple wooden furniture, home decor or even wooden toys.

woodworking basics final product

With just a bit of practice and creativity, you will be on your way to making quality woodworking projects. What kind of projects would you like to make? Let us know in the comments below.
Hands On Learning: Woodworking Classes in Canada 

Listed here are many of the informative and entertaining woodworking and wood-related classes that Canada has to offer. The list is by no means exhaustive; many courses are found only by word of mouth.

Sometimes a master craftsman is happy to take a private student if you just ask. I found a woodworker at a local lumberyard who was willing to give me private lessons.

Also included here is the contact information by province for learning more about taking classes and pursuing an apprenticeship in the wood trades: carpentry and cabinet making. These two trades are both considered “red seal” trades. Once you get certified, your certification is accepted across Canada without the need for further testing.

From Sea to Sea – Lee Valley offers in-store seminars across the country ranging in topic from beginner scroll sawing to picture framing, and much more. They’re an affordable way to get acquainted with a subject. (Photo by Lee Valley Tools)

The main purpose of this article is to list “hobby” or non-trade woodworking classes. Some classes are small and some are large. Some have a cosmopolitan international group of students (Inside Passage and Rosewood Studio), and others have an international group of teachers (Black Forest Wood Company). Some classes are usually one-on-one (Birchbark Canoe Company). Most welcome woodworkers of all skill levels.

Canadian Krenov – Inside Passage, just outside of Vancouver, B.C., offers a seven-week ‘artisan program’ and a nine-month ‘Craftsman Program’ based mainly on the teachings of the late James Krenov. (Photo by Inside Passage)

Fine Furniture – Rosewood Studio, in Perth, Ont., offers classes ranging in duration from a weekend to nine months. It also brings in many woodworking experts to teach focused classes. (Photo by Ron Barter)

Music to Your Ears – The Canadian School of Lutherie offers classes on building and repairing guitars. Classes range in duration from one day to one year. (Photo by The Canadian School of Lutherie)

The variety of woodworking courses that exists is surprising. The Nova Scotia Wildlife Carvers have a course just on carving fish. The Island School of Building Arts has a course on building custom doors. A little homework reveals that there are courses to suit everyone’s taste, schedule and wallet.

In addition, clubs and guilds almost always offer short seminars on different techniques. So joining a local woodworking club, association or guild is a great way to improve your skills as well as network with other woodworkers. Keep in mind that classes sponsored by a club usually have a very low or negligible cost if you’re a member. Definitely join your local guild.

It’s great if there’s a course near you, but don’t let distance stop you. Make it a holiday to take a class and explore a part of Canada you haven’t seen. Hone your skills, learn something new, and most of all, have some fun.


Woodworking is the craft of creating all types of objects with wood using carving and cutting techniques. This can range from furniture to smaller items such as sculptures. While there is an initial investment to acquire the tools necessary, once you have the basics all you need to buy is inexpensive wood and you can start creating your own items. 

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Woodworking resources. We have a Woodworking forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Woodworking how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Woodworking books and products. 
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Woodworking – An introduction

Woodworking can be defined as the art of creating things out of different types of wood with the help of tools. As one of the oldest crafts in the world, woodworking is used to make decorative as well as utilitarian objects.

Woodworking has become a very popular hobby and a lucrative profession. The tools and materials needed for woodworking can be bought from hardware, lumber and hobby stores. Woodworkers use both hand tools and power tools to shape the wood. Woodworking can include carpentry, carving, sculpture, turning, making furniture and much more. As you can see, this could easily start as a hobby and turn into an enjoyable career if you are passionate enough to pursue it.

As a hobby, woodworking can be very fulfilling and bring you several hours of recreation, along with the satisfaction of creating different things out of wood. While some people take pleasure in doing the actual woodworking, some prefer to collect beautiful works of art in wood and restoring them.

Woodworking is both relaxing and exciting, particularly if you like making things. To get started, all you need are some tools, hardware and basic lessons that can help you begin. When you work with wood, you can make a variety of decorative items, items you can use and much more.

Here is a history of the woodworking hobby followed by basic information you need to know to get started, including the tools you need, safety rules and tips.

Getting started with woodworking

Depending on what kind of woodworking you would like to take up as a hobby, such as making furniture, carving, scrolling, sculpting, turning, do it yourself fix-its around the home or restoration work, there are two ways to get started. One is to go in for a fully equipped shop. The second, and the better way is to start small and accumulate the tools you need, gradually. This is also a less expensive way to begin, since equipping a workshop can cost you thousands of dollars. Also, there are chances that you might end up adding tools you hardly use. Another thing is that one almost always buys a tool that has more than one use. For example, you can cut dados with a table saw or a router. Curves can be accomplished with a saber saw, a band saw or a scroll saw.

As a beginner, therefore, consider investing in a pre cut kit that comes with the wood pre cut in the necessary sizes and shapes. All you need to do is match the parts and follow the instructions to build the item. You would most probably need to nail, screw on, glue, sand and finish the piece. Kits usually consist of parts for making bird houses, feeders, benches, holders for plants and other easy items you can make and feel proud of.

When you move on to more complicated woodworking projects, you can purchase prepped up lumber in different widths. If you are making a table, table legs and chair spindles and several other pieces that need turning are available and ready for use.

Go in for a simple kit at first. If you buy your project as a kit, you will get instructions and a list of tools you will need. Depending on what you plan to make, you will probably need hammers, measuring tapes, clamps, saws, square, a hand drill and chisels. This should cost you around $200 to $300.

Do you need lessons?

Some beginners prefer to take a few lessons before they get started with the hobby. This familiarizes them with all aspects like understanding woodworking plans, safety measures, clean up, handling tools, etc.

A note about the wood you use

Woodworking uses wood and that can be expensive. So when you begin your hobby, use cheaper wood such as pine, which is soft, and then poplar, which is hard. This will help you practice with soft wood first, and then hard wood when you get used to handling the tools. If you plan to work with painted projects, choose MDF or plywood like Baltic Birch which is convenient to work with.

In woodworking, you also need to be aware of the nature of wood. You probably know that wood tends to change with weather conditions. It can expand or shrink, twist, warp or cup from its internal stress. It takes experience to look at a board and identify where these stresses are located and how they can affect the board when it is exposed to changes in weather. You will need to know and understand the right type of wood for your project.

Beginners’ tools for woodworking

Here’s an overview of different tools you need to be familiar with as a beginner in woodworking, followed by a short guide on how to set up a woodworking workshop at home.

1. A table saw

A small one should do and you will need this when you get serious about woodworking as a hobby. This does not mean you have to invest in an expensive one since you can easily get one in the range of $100 and $200. You can use this to cut wood when you build shelves and boxes.

2. Cordless drill

You will appreciate having a small cordless drill as this will help you drill holes to drive in nails. Drills are a neat way to perforate wood without damaging or splitting it and help you work conveniently. For about $50-$80 you can buy a 12-volt cordless drill.

3. Sander

Sanders help you smooth rough edges in the wood easily. You will get a random orbital sander for $35-$50.

4. Square

For around $10 you can get a square to ensure that your projects are square.

5. Bar clamps

Bar clamps are very useful to help you assemble your projects. You can choose fairly cheap clamps for around $10.

6. Router

Routers are useful for rounding corners and similar work. You can get one for under $ 60.

7. Miter saw

An important tool, it will help fix trim work and you would need to invest around $100 for one.

8. While this is really not a full list, it is a good beginners’ list. As you begin with various projects and complete them, you can decide what you want to add to this.

After you have got your tools and hardware, you would need to get the right wood for your project. Then, all you need to do is, get started. Choose easy tasks to begin with. Beginners usually use woodworking plans that give them a clear idea about wood patterns, simple projects, plans, etc. You can get woodworking plans for free online, with instructions, tips and pictures to make it easy for you depending on what you intend starting with.

A woodworking workshop at home

Now let us look at how you can set up a woodworking shop at home. You may start off with ready made kits and buy a few tools to get started, but eventually you are going to want to set up a workshop at home. Most people start by using a corner of their garage or basement to set up a workbench. Regardless of location or size of workshop, you need to have good air ventilation and dust collection system since an air or dust build-up can be a health hazard as well as a fire hazard.

You will also have to create storage space to keep your supplies, tools and wood. Ceilings are good choices for storing wood and rarely used tools. Storing tolls under your work bench is also a good idea. Make wall shelves or cabinets to store your hand tools for regular use.

Some woodworking hobbyists prefer to set up two work benches; one to do the rough work of putting the project together, sanding it and so forth and another for the finishing touches and drying.

Woodworking safety tips

Working with wood can be highly satisfactory as a hobby, but you also have to be careful about avoiding accidents. Here are some tips that will help:

- Ensure that you read instruction manuals related to each tool and equipment you acquire.

- Check each machine before you operate it.

- Wear eye protection when necessary and gloves to guard your hands from wood splinters, cuts from blades and saws and finish removers.

- Your electric equipment must be properly maintained and in good working order.

- Learn to use hand tools the right way. This includes chisels, augurs, power tools like routers, lathes, sanders, saws and drills.

- Be conscious about safety at all times. Wear well fitting clothes and if you sport long hair, tie it back since it can get caught when you use tools.

- Wear slip resistant footwear to avoid tripping over things.

- Wear dust masks.

In addition to safety, proper maintenance of your tools is mandatory. Keep your work area clean. Machines help you do your work efficiently. Make sure you switch them off when you finish for the day.

Now here are some tips about woodworking plans, which are the blueprint of your project. When you start out with your woodworking hobby without experience, your plan guides you step by step through your project.

- Take a good look at your plan and understand it. Ensure that all the instructions, measurements and the other information you need, are in it before you start your project.

- When you feel that the plan is complete, check whether the project is within your budget. Make a checklist of the materials you need and get an estimate of its cost.

- If the project is affordable for you, get your tools together. Take stock of what you need so that you do not have to interrupt your project.

- When you buy the wood you need, check different types of wood and the tools they must be used with.

- Get your safety gear together, ready for use before you begin your project.

- As mentioned earlier, you can buy pre cut wood kits, depending on your project. This will save you time and effort and will require only nailing, sanding, turning the screws on together and finishing. This gives you the satisfaction of completing your project sooner.

- Do not rush your project. Take it slow and steady so that you get it right the first time. Even one mistake can set you back, both in terms of cost and effort.

- Remember, clearing up after your project is done, is just as important as beginning it well. Get rid of the saw dust, wood shavings and extra debris.

You need not spend a lot of money to begin your woodworking hobby. It is also possible to rent equipment from your local hardware store. If you are not sure whether you will stick to this hobby, this can be a good option.


As a hobby or a profession, woodworking can be very relaxing. You can create many works of art that will be treasured for generations. Therefore, master the use of your tools. Some hobbyists like to keep written records of their learning process, techniques etc. so that they can learn from them.

While it can appear intimidating for beginners to get started with woodworking since it involves the use of tools, machinery and hands, make yourself familiar by getting as much information as possible. Knowledge is power. Woodworking involves a fair amount of skill and application. Don’t spend too much too soon on costly toolkits. Wait until you gain some experience. Learn how to measure, cut, attach and assemble. Learn to use your tools properly. Take your time and when you feel comfortable with your skills, go in for good quality material.

Start off by making gift items for family and friends, as this is fun. Who knows, you could probably make it into an enjoyable and lucrative profession.

Woodworking can be an enjoyable hobby that allows you to express yourself creatively and work with your hands. Furthermore, wood can be cut and shaped
Whether you are looking to build furniture, tackle some home improvement projects, or build smaller objects like jewelry boxes, learning how to get started in woodworking requires only a few tools and resources.

  1. Collect some tools for measuring and marking projects. Before making any cuts, most woodworking projects will require you to make measurements and mark out your cuts on the wood. Essential tools for these tasks are a tape measure, a carpenter's pencil, and a combination square.
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    Acquire tools for cutting wood. Of course, making cuts in wood is the backbone of woodworking. A handheld circular saw is an essential power tool for making straight cuts, while a jigsaw is ideal for making rounded cuts. A handheld backsaw provides a cheap and quiet alternative to these power tools.
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    Purchase a few tools for shaping wood. To create woodworking projects with elegant, finished appearances, you'll often want to shape the wood by creating beveled edges or intricate molding. Crucial tools for shaping wood include a block plane, which will allow you to create basic beveled edges, and a router, which can be fitted with a variety of bits allowing for more intricate patterns.
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    Use tools for putting your wood projects together. Screws, nails, and glue are the go-to choices for assembling your woodworking projects. A cordless drill is essential for drilling holes, while a screwdriver, hammer, and clamps are also very useful. (For your first clamp try a one-handed bar clamp so you don't have to take both hands off the project.)
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  6. Learning the Basics of Wood Joinery

How to Get Started in Woodworking

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    Learn to create a glued or screwed butt joint. When joining wood, the most straightforward approach is the butt joint, in which you simply butt the end grain of one panel against the side of another. This joint can be secured with glue for a clean appearance, or with screws for a sturdier, if less attractive finish.
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    Use a biscuit joiner for strong, attractive joints. A biscuit joiner is a power tool that cuts a narrow groove into the end of each piece of wood to be joined. You can then fit small wood chips called "biscuits" into these grooves, which gives you extra stability for a glued joint.
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    Create grooved joints for extra surface area. Another way to increase the surface area for the glue to adhere to is by cutting a groove into one piece of wood. These grooves allow the second piece of wood to contact the first piece along multiple surfaces. Rabbits, dadoes, and grooves are 3 types of this joint, so named based on the orientation of the cut to the wood's grain.
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    Explore traditional woodworking joints for extra beauty. Of course, the 2 quintessential woodworking joints are the dovetail and the mortise and tenon, in which the 2 wood pieces interlock with each other. These joints take much more careful cutting to create, but are unrivaled in their elegance and strength.
  5. Applying Finishes to Your Woodworking Projects

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    Learn the basic oil and wax finish. The most error-proof way to finish wood projects is by applying boiled linseed oil and furniture wax. These finishes can be applied with cotton rags, and thus eliminate any danger of leaving brush strokes or other defects.
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    Seal woodworking projects with polyurethane for durability. For surfaces that take more abuse, like a dining room table, you'll want a finish that cures to a hard, protective layer. Polyurethane is the standard product for this type of finish, and can be applied using a foam brush or a high-quality bristle brush.
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    Experiment with other wood finishes as desired. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to finish wood, each with their own advantages, drawbacks, and appearances. Wood stains, paints, lacquers, varnishes, teak oil, and Danish oil are all common options for creating durable, attractive finishes in your woodworking projects.
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