5 Essential Woodworking Tips for Beginners

The best way to learn is to teach, and what better way to learn about woodworking than to do research, write up a summary, and share with other beginners?

We know nothing about woodworking, and being able to identify that is half the battle. Below is a 20-second animated plan for the first piece of furniture for Hugo the Skoolie – a dinette bench with storage underneath. Following the video is a summary of info we’ve gathered from a number of online resources that will hopefully answer a lot of your questions as you get started on custom furniture for your home (+/- on wheels).

Beginner Woodworking Tip #1. Types of (Inexpensive) Wood: 

  • Basswood – common
  • Beech – bends easily, easy to stain, difficult to use hand tools on
  • Pine – most basic and widely used in modern furniture
    • We will probably use this for our 2×2″ frames and our 3/4″ plywood over it.
      • We have access to reclaimed pine 2×2’s, which will help keep costs down. However, if we do find that these add too much weight to our skoolie, we may consider other materials for the framing, such as aluminum tubing per the suggestion of our friends at comfortablylost.com.
  • Poplar – moderately soft, stains well, lightweight, easy to use hand tools on
  • Pallet wood – usually strewn with nails; make sure all of them are removed before cutting!
    • Because of this, we’ve purchased a pin punch set for quick removal of pallet nails – product review to follow!
    • AVOID repurposing the pallet if you see MB (for methyl bromide) stamped
    • Avoid if there is no logo stamped on the pallet
    • DB for “debarked” is the safest pallet to use

For more info, check out HowStuffWorks.com’s article.

Beginner Woodworking Tip #2. Wood Properties

Wood is ANISOTROPIC – it has variable properties along different dimensions.

  • Wood is stronger when stressed along the grain (longitudinally).
    • Therefore, do not glue boards with the grain running perpendicular to each other to avoid splitting boards or broken joints.
  • Wood swells and shrinks in response to humidity, more so in radial and tangential directions than longitudinally.

For more, check out this Wikipedia article.

Beginner Woodworking Tip #3. Types of Cuts

5 essential woodworking tips for beginners and DIY amateurs

  • Flat sawn – rings at ends of board are parallel to face of board
    • most common, visually appealing
    • least stable, prone to warp and cup
    • used for floating panels and table tops
  • Rift sawn – rings at ends of board are 45 degrees to face of board
    • used for legs in furniture, stiles, and door rails
  • Quarter sawn – rings at ends of board are perpendicular to face of board
    • most stable cut
    • used in stiles and rails of frame, panel doors, case sides, drawer parts

TIP: Avoid boards cut from the center of the tree – unstable and susceptible to cracks.

TIP: When picking out lumbar, avoid pieces with cracks and large knots.

For more, check out this great Instructable.

Beginner Woodworking Tip #4. Types of Joints

  • Butt joint – screwing or nailing one end of wood to end of another5 essential woodworking tips for beginners and DIY amateurs
    • simple fast, effective, strong
    • heads of screws or nails exposed
      • can countersink and cover with putty or filler
  • Miter joint – corners cut at a 45 degree angle, attached with screws or nails
    • 5 essential woodworking tips for beginners and DIY amateursattached with nails or screws
    • strengthened if a spline is used
    • commonly used for trims
    • not recommended for load-bearing
  • End Lap joint – saw halfway through each piece of wood, then knocking out half of this area; pieces attache with screws, nails, etc
    • 5 essential woodworking tips for beginners and DIY amateursvery strong joint



  • 5 essential woodworking tips for beginners and DIY amateursBiscuits (left) and dowels plus wood glue can be used if being inconspicuous is a priority; not as structurally strong as a simple butt joint.
    • Probably won’t be using these methods as much for this first piece


For more on joints, check out this resource.

Beginner Woodworking Tip #5. Tools

  • Cutting
    • Hand saw – quick, imperfect cuts; material-specific
    • Jigsaws – small, cheap, easy to swap out blades for different materials, good for organic, curved cuts; not the best for straight cuts
      • We got this Black and Decker one for $19 and have seen it drop to that price one other time – definitely wait for another price drop if you can!
    • Circular saw – heavy duty, good for long straight cuts
      • We love our’s with the laser guide and straight-edge guide!
  • Sanding
    • Sandpaper grit – ranges from 20 to 1000, 20 being super coarse and 1000 being extremely fine
      • Use low or coarse grit for removing a lot of material, finish off with finer grit of 200 or so

For more, check out MakeUseOf’s article for beginners.

For additional information on getting started in woodworking, check out The Spruce here.

Basic DIY Wood Dinette with Storage Plan

We plan to use mostly butt joints for strength and simplicity, attached with countersunk wood screws and covered with wood putty. The frame will be fastened to the floor and wall studs before the 3/4″ plywood pieces are  fastened to the frame.

5 essential woodworking tips for beginners and DIY dinette plan
2×2″ pine frames
5 essential woodworking tips for beginners and DIY dinette plan
3/4″ plywood

What do you think of our plan? Feel free to leave feedback in the comments below!

As always, feel free to check us out on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest,  Twitter, and our  YouTube channel to stay tuned 🙂

Check out our latest YouTube video update on Hugo:

Peace out!

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