At Rockler, we spend a good share of our time talking with experienced woodworkers, helping them expand their tool collection and bag of tricks. But we have an equal interest in helping aspiring woodworkers get going. And to them, we think one of the most important things to point out is that a huge shop, a vast tool collection, and loads of experience are not requirements for success. There are plenty of woodworking projects that anyone with a few common tools, a little space in the corner of a room, and small amount of free time can make. Here, for example, are a few great-looking, useful things that a rank amateur can knock off in an afternoon.
If you’re interested in woodworking, but are short on tools, time and free space, one of the best ways to get your feet wet is to put together a kit with pre-made parts. Rockler offers a number of woodworking kits, some of which take care of everything except the final assembly and finishing. The jewelry/music box pictured above, for example, is available in a kit that can be easily completed in few hours using nothing more than an inexpensive web clamp, sandpaper, wood glue, a screw driver, and a few finishing supplies.
Even a simple project like this offers valuable beginning woodworking lessens: You’ll get a feel for how parts fit together, how much glue to use for a glue-up, how to work quickly and carefully and how to finish-sand a project. It also offers an introduction to one of woodworking’s more challenging areas: finishing. Whether you choose an easy solution - such as a few coats of Rockler’s nearly foolproof WunderCote - or a more demanding hand-rubbed technique, you’ll get a valuable first course in the art of protecting and beautifying wood.
If that sounds too easy, a project that requires more woodworking processes but doesn’t have numerous or complicated parts is a good place to start. Game boards, an ever-popular choice, typically fall into that category. Rockler’s Sudoku Template and Self-Centering Drill Bit offer a slightly more hands-on woodworking experience and an opportunity to make a great-looking board for this hugely popular brain-teaser.
The Sudoku kit comes with a clear plastic template - predrilled with the necessary 9 by 9 grid - and a specially designed “self-centering” drill bit that makes accurately drilling peg holes easy. With the most challenging part of the project – accurately drilling the holes – out of the way, you’ll be able to concentrate on other, less demanding aspects of the project. The Sudoku board project also allows plenty of latitude to add your own personal touches, and to adjust the project to your skill level and tool collection.
Again, if you’re just starting out and have limited access to tools and shop space, the Sudoku board can be made using a pre-cut blank. That way, you really don’t even have to own a saw. The Sudoku blanks are cut to just the right size and are available in three species of veneer core hardwood plywood. The board you see in the background on the left has the added touch of hardwood framed edges. This type of simple frame can be accomplished with a piece of S4S (surfaced four sides) hardwood lumber and the addition a miter box, a block plane (to bevel the edges) and frame or web clamps to your tool collection. Or, for an even simpler solution, you can finish off the plywood edges with pieces of iron-on veneer edging.
Wood carving is another popular entry point into woodworking. Like the projects described above, carving doesn’t require a large working space or loads of expensive tools. All you really need to get started are a few carving tools and pieces of carving wood (although for traditional mallet and chisel carving, a sturdy workbench, a carving vise and a carving book or DVD to help you get going does help).
In fact, getting started with carving projects that you’ll be proud of can be even simpler than that. With a single carving knife and materials that you can literally find in your back yard, you can get started carving beautiful one-of-a-kind walking sticks. A simple pastime that you’ll find elevated to a high art in Charles Self's Make Your Own Walking Sticks, cane carving offers plenty of aesthetic freedom and the opportunity to complete projects in a very short time. Topped off with solid brass cane hardware and brought up to a satiny luster with a traditional tung oil finish, the results of your first few hours work can be the start of a collection of unique artwork.
Woodworking is a pastime that you can take as far as you want. That’s one of its best qualities. There are always new horizons: new skills to master, new tools to acquire, bigger shops, more complicated projects and so on. The point we want to stress here is that success is readily available at every point on the learning curve. Even if you’re starting at the very beginning, you don’t have to spend months shelling out big bucks for expensive tools, arduously learning skills and making piles of sawdust while you’re waiting to “get there”. With only a modest investment of time and money, there are plenty of great projects that you can start making right away.