How to get into woodworking? Listen to podcasts, watch videos, read books
Tom McHugh of The Woodworks, with his dog Rebel.
I once heard that to go into woodworking, you had to be in love with it or it just wouldn’t stick. That’s a powerful statement. Woodworking is the beating heart of the craft. If you don’t love it, woodworking is not for you.
But you can’t love it until you know how to do it. That’s where a sense of empowerment comes in. My shop is messy, my tools are overabundant, my confidence is barely above the middle grade. I’m a journeyman cabinetmaker who’s been making cabinets for 12 years and just celebrated my first trip to the Global Woodworking Fair in L.A.
By any measure, I’m not very good at woodworking. But I’m not worried about that. The power comes from knowing that I’m a beginner, and everything I have now is the best I can do, even if it isn’t always the best thing for the job.
Woodworking is a craft and not a science, so you can’t depend on manuals and FAQs and perfect pieces, for the most part. Don’t let that discourage you. There is plenty to learn at your own pace, and not being a pro is totally OK.
Having said that, my advice is to take a serious look at podcasts, videos, books, and other information to get into woodworking. Podcasts are a free medium for woodworkers. I listen to more than two dozen podcasts every month. The old carpentry podcasts from American Woodworker magazine and Woodcraft Magazine (the one that interviewed me) are great, but those two are gone. They are still available from various websites, but their content is up-to-date and they don’t exist in the same way as they used to. Other podcasts focus on specific woodworking topics: wood turning, hand tool work, and the like. You can get podcasts that focus on wood, the outdoors, or the craft of woodworking.
You don’t have to look hard to find information on YouTube. I check out videos and tutorials when I need something new. A lot of the top woodworking YouTubers are having a great year. I also find lots of video instructions for complicated machines, like cranes and bandsaws.
There are plenty of books on woodworking available. No, I’m not talking about the technical manuals. I’m talking about the easy to read stuff that will show you step-by-step how to do anything woodworking related. There is no best seller list on woodworking books, so buy them the way you would buy a book about crafts you love: you know, browsing the stacks at the bookstore.
For inspiration and information on a wide variety of woodworking topics, I recommend the following:
“Wood Craft” by Ben Johns and Greg Christiansen
“The Woodwright” by Patrick Fleming
“Practical Woodworking” by Bill Reiter
Stainless steel extrusions
Metal finishing machines
Ceramic dosing systems
Tools for cutting slabs
In summary, woodwork is a craft. I recommend taking a look at a lot of the information I listed here. Then start small, like some simple wooden picture frames for your children or your parents.