An article appeared recently on the Women in Woodworking website that we hope catches the attention of anyone who's having a little trouble deciding how or where to start with the craft. In "Designing Your Own," Barb Siddiqui sets out a plan of action that will help novice woodworkers steer clear of a common pitfall that crops up in the early stages:
"One of the first hurdles a new woodworker must get past is the fear of messing up a project, and one of the best ways to tackle that apprehension is to simply “think outside the box”. Most beginners decide to start with something simple (but may not know which projects have simple joinery) and then set out on a search for preprinted plans to make such- and-such. In doing so, a beginner has set herself up for:
- buying materials when she may not really know what to ask for
- learning to read and use preprinted plans
- not knowing how to substitute if she lacks machinery listed to accomplish the outlined procedures"
She goes on to make some very useful observations about the advantages of jumping right into the design process, rather than committing yourself to the preset dimensions, materials, joinery methods, etc. that you are likely to encounter in a set of plans. The article offers encouragement and some straightforward advice for novice woodworkers who'd like to design their own projects.
As Barb mentions, there are a number of resources for novice woodworkers and many ways to learn the basic skills you'll need to realize the projects you design. You'll find plenty of experienced woodworkers in woodworking clubs and guilds or on the internet in any of a number of exceptional woodworking forums who are more than willing to help you build just the thing you have in mind.
Another great way to develop basic skills is to take a class on one or two techniques that you'll be able to apply in a variety of woodworking projects. Many Rockler retail stores offer classes designed to help woodworkers of all levels of experience develop the most useful woodworking skills.
Woodworking books and videos are a good source of in-depth information. In Rockler's selection of woodworking books and videos, you'll find information on just about any aspect of the craft you could name. There are a number of excellent books in Rockler's selection that offer detailed information on fundamental woodworking skills. Here are just a few:
Peter Korn's Woodworking Basics has helped countless woodworkers start off on the right foot with detailed explanations of everything from safe use of woodworking machinery to hand-cut dovetail joinery techniques.
In Creating the Perfect Wood Finish, Joe L'Erario shares his 25 years' experience in an area of woodworking that has one of the steepest learning curves.
If you've just unboxed a swanky new router and you're wondering what kinds of great stuff you can make it do, Fine Woodworking's classic video Router Joinery (recently re-issued in DVD format) would be an excellent place to start.
(the list goes on and on...)
There's nothing wrong with woodworking plans. Many woodworkers prefer "pre-tested" nature of a set of plans - knowing that someone else has taken the time to work the bugs out of the project. But that doesn't mean you can't set out to build something you haven't seen anywhere but in your minds eye, even if you don't have years of woodworking experience. Designing your own project is a great way to broaden your skills in a hurry, and with all of the imformation resources available for woodworkers, it's pretty easy to have success right from the start.