A bewildering variety of tools, clever marketing copy, and lack of knowledge can lead even the most determined new woodworker to make many unnecessary purchases, causing frustration or retreat. Written for true beginners, Your First Shop offers inspiration and encouragement, guiding readers toward smart tool choices by providing realistic, reliable information. Best-selling author Aimé Ontario Fraser started working with wood in high school, and has taught extensively in workshops and classes since. Your First Shop brings that experience to readers. Woodworkers of every taste can find a shop style that works for them in one of the book’s four sections: The Essential Shop, The Basic Shop, The Efficient Shop, and The Well-Rounded Shop. Topics include how each tool is used and what it is used for. The book also offers extensive advice on choosing a location for the shop, maximizing available space, and planning for future expansion.
The good news is that you don’t need a lot of shelf space to house a comprehensive collection of basic woodworking knowledge. Get started with Understanding Wood. In this comprehensive bible, professor Bruce Hoadley delves into the nature of wood and how its structure affects strength, workability, and other characteristics. He then shines a light on fundamentals like drying, machining, bending, joining, sanding, gluing, often accompanied by stunning macro photographs that zoom you in to the meat of the matter.
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To corral shelf-dwelling books or DVDs that like to wander, cut 3/4-in.-thick hardwood pieces into 6-in. x 6-in. squares. Use a band saw or jigsaw to cut a slot along one edge (with the grain) that’s a smidgen wider than the shelf thickness. Stop the notch 3/4 in. from the other edge. Finish the bookend and slide it on the shelf. Want to build the shelves, too? We’ve got complete plans for great-looking shelves here.

If you opt for a bench with drawers or cabinets built into its base, don’t forget the toe spaces: Leave a space roughly three inches deep and four inches wide at floor level for your toes, just like kitchen cabinets. The absence of a toe space means you’ll be forever kicking the face or sides of the cabinets which is irksome and, with tools in hand, potentially dangerous. And you’ll have to lean over farther to reach the back of the benchtop.
You are absolutely right on your advise. When I was agonizing over how to build a workbench my good friend turned me on to your book on workbenches. I was planning on having an overhang until I read your advise about building a workbench and not a table. So the entire front and rear surfaces; top, legs and bottom shelf are all in the same plane to clamp my work to. The addition of a sliding dead man was also something that I would have never thought of on my own. Thanks again for your advise.
If you’re more interested in working with wood rather than machining it, you will be relieved to learn that expensive powered machinery isn’t required to build furniture. You can also forget the dust masks, face shields and hearing protection since many of the safety concerns related to woodworking—the use of power tools—are eliminated. In this book, you’ll learn to set up a hand-tool woodworking shop, then discover the toolset, practice the skillset, and understand the mindset—effectively completing a comprehensive course in hand-tool woodworking.
I ended up making a number of practice cuts. The first revealed that I hadn't tightened the screws on the edge guide enough. The second revealed that the design of the edge guide provided very little support at the end of a board, because of the cut-out for the router bit. In the "Getting Started in Woodworking" video, they had screwed a piece of hardwood to the edge-guide, to provide a continuous -- and longer -- bearing surface. I may do that myself, some day, but I didn't have the materials at hand, so I clamped some 2x4 scrap to the end of each board, to provide a continuous bearing surface past the ends. The two grooves in the long stretchers and the side groove in the short stretchers have identical layout. I made practice cuts in scrap until I had the edge guide set correctly, then I cut them all with that one setting. The bottom groove of the short stretchers uses a different setup, so it was back to the scrap, before cutting them.
If you decide upon construction lumber, you want kiln dry lumber. Green lumber will warp on you as it drys. Dig through the stacks and pick out the straightest, cleanest pieces. Generally, the boards that are sitting loose on the stack are those that other people left behind, as they sorted through looking for better. Be prepared to move them out of the way, and to dig down to the better stock. Be nice, though, and put everything back when you're done.
All-in-all, the Windsor Design workbench is a nice companion, especially if your budget is limited. It is not as deeply designed and perfected as the other two benches, as there is only one vice, the bench dog holes are drilled through the surface (allowing debris to fall to the top drawers) and the drawers can be a little flimsy if you are not using glue for assembling it, but for the price they offer, there are plenty of perks.
Workbenches have flat tops, though sometimes at the rear there is a cavity called a tool well that contains tools and components (and prevents them from falling off). One advantage of having the well set into the top of the bench is that, even with a variety of objects in the well, a large sheet of material can still be laid flat over the entire surface of the bench; the contents of the tool well offer no interference.
Geometric shapes are made from straight or curved lines such as circles, squares and triangles. Their easy-to-recognize and often symmetrical patterns offer a sense of order, efficiency, strength, formality, but to some may be seen as uninteresting. Squares and rectangles are the predominant geometric shapes seen around us, not only in furniture, but in all areas of life. A circle has no beginning or ending, making it complete and inspiring thoughts of nature, perfection, unity, initiation and inclusion.
In the "Getting Started with Woodworking" video, the holes through the 4x4's were drilled from the back. That is, they start on the side opposite the precisely-positioned mark, and drill through to hit it. If they can do this, more power to them, but I can't drill through 3-1/2" of wood to emerge at a precise mark without a drill press - and not always then.
Olympia Tools is a bit of a lesser known manufacturer. While they offer a wide range of products for a variety of construction fields, they are definitely more of a budget option. That said, Olympia Tools is one of the few brands that manages to produce a reasonable quality at a low price which makes them a solid choice for customers looking to get the best bang for the fewest bucks.
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