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How to Approach the Woodworking Learning Curve
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Learning woodworking from "scratch" is an achievement, but it isn't supposed to be a chore. Most experienced woodworkers would agree that taking your time and mastering skills one or two at a time will do the most to make the initial learning process productive and rewarding. Getting used to the idea that not everything you do, right from the beginning (or toward the middle, or after 20 years of practice) is going to work out perfectly doesn't hurt either. We found this "Ten Thing's I Learned this Year" list on the Forum. In it Chris, a forum member, describes the revelations of his first year of woodworking. We think it's very insightful, and would make an excellent game plan for any beginning woodworker:

1) I will make mistakes. Many mistakes. When I make a big mistake, it is best to just walk away for a while.

2) It is well worth it to take my time with everything. The saying goes, time is money. In this hobby, I can really waste a lot of money on nice wood if I don’t slow down.

3) Design beginning projects around 1 or 2 techniques I need practice at, any more and I get frustrated with the time it takes to complete.

4) I need to take a class.

5) Joining’s forums is invaluable.

6) I don’t need fancy tools, I need to spend time working on good projects that will teach me the fundamentals.

7) Seeing the look on someone’s face when I give them a successfully completed project as a gift is priceless and inspirational. x10 if it was especially difficult to build.

8) Don’t start building, or even milling, before you’ve either really thought your project through or put your design on paper.

9) Don’t give up. Remember my mantra, “Excellence is achieved through commitment”.

10) Have fun with whatever I am working on.

If there's anything we'd add, it's this: You don't have to "discover" everything for yourself - i.e., you don't have to learn woodworking strictly through trial and error. There's plenty of woodworking expertise out there, and most experienced woodworkers will be happy to help you out. Forums are a great place to exchange ideas and pick up a few tips. Taking a class is another great way to smooth out the learning curve. If you're fortunate enough to live near a Rockler Retail store, check their schedule for free demos and beginning classes (use the Store Location Map to find a store near you). It also helps to know which tools and supplies are best for which things, and how to pick out good ones. Rockler can help you there, too. Just let us know what you want to do, and we'll do our best to help you get started. Don't be bashful - we like helping people approach their projects in the best and most efficient way possible.

posted on February 8, 2007 by Rockler
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2 thoughts on “How to Approach the Woodworking Learning Curve”

  • Mosdad

    A couple observations..... #6 - You don't need "fancy" tools but you sure as heck need good ones and keep them in top condition. Figure out what the absolute MOST $$ you can spend on a table saw is and then double it. If you can't cut a straight line or a 90 degree corner it's downhill from there. #8 - Buy a couple pads of 8 1/2 x 11 layout (graph) paper with 1/4 inch ruling. Unless you are buildng something pretty big you can scale off the 1/4 inch marks and build the project completely on paper. The whole pad of 50 sheets costs less than one board foot of nice wood. Buy a good eraser while you are at it. #7 - I'd say it's more like x100! #1 WORK SAFE!!! Make sure your "mistakes" don't require a visit to the emergency room. I'll add a # 11 - If you have kids, teach them while you learn. Craftsmanship is becoming a lost art. We 'old' woodworkers need some youngsters to carry on the traditions.

  • Blog Editor

    Thanks for the observations, Mosdad - especially the safety related ones. That makes taking a class, or at least reading-up on tools and procedures before you try them all the more important. Not all woodworking techniques are "self-evident". Understanding how to use tools safely is the most fundamental safety requirement.

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