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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2022

    Default New woodworker - where to start?

    G'day all,

    I'm wanting to have a crack at woodworking and need a few pointers in the right direction as I've been overwhelmed with the amount of information available. I'm wanting to start off with a workbench so I can muck around doing other bits and pieces, but I'm also a bit of a perfectionist and get a bit stuck on which joints to use when and why, as in my mind there should be one 'best' choice but obviously that's not the case with this sort of thing - but then also I don't know what 'features' I should be forward planning for so that I can add to it further down the line.

    I've picked up a bunch of sleepers and pallet wood off a bloke recently, and it's a decent enough pile that I'm sure I can do something with it, but I guess I don't know where to start - so this is a very roundabout way of asking what are some things I should know/think about before starting? Are there any recommended starting resources to work my way through rather than stabbing randomly at youtube videos and trying my luck?

    Thanks all

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006


    You will need some way to break up sleepers. Are they used or new?
    Used ones are problematic (excrement, lime Pee, rocks spikes) but either are not easy to break up without substantial machinery.
    Then you will need some dust control - expensive - what's your budget?

    Pallets are a PITA to get apart without breaking them and then the wood is rarely of much use for something like a bench.

    Suggest you maybe leave the sleepers aside for the moment and concentrate on making a simple bench from and tackle the sleepers once you have the gear.

    In terms of work bench design you might find diving straight into nice joinery etc for a bench a bit daunting.

    This is a simple bolt together design I have used several times quite successfully/
    Small bench

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Rockhampton QLD


    Welcome to the forum.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2021
    Sunshine Coast, QLD


    You will need to think about holding your materials in place while you work on them, a vice and some hold down clamps would be good, are you going to buy DAR timber and then use hand tools or do you have any machines? I guess it all depends on what you are planning to make.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2018


    Welcome to the forum.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Sth Gippsland Vic


    Quote Originally Posted by Trevs View Post
    G'day all,

    I'm wanting to have a crack at woodworking and need a few pointers in the right direction
    Thanks all
    Hi Trevs.

    There's Plenty of good books, this is one of them .
    Woodwork in Theory and Practice by John A. Walton 3rd Edition 1962 HC/DJ | eBay

    Here's the rest to compare for price.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Geelong, Victoria


    Woodworking is such a wide field, there are many paths to get started. Most of us start with an idea or interest as to what sort of projects we want to do and that guides what tools (including bench design) to choose. You can literally start with a kitchen table and handfull of tools. The projects will be limited by the facilities, but that is OK.
    I have changed direction many times over my lifetime. In my latest move I am adapting to a much smaller workspace and this is causing yet another change in project selection. You might want to have a think about what sort of woodworking you want to aim for - at least in the beginning. Hand tools? power tools? machines? This can be a philosophical choice. What sort of projects do you want to make? Trinkets? Art pieces? Furniture? Home improvements and DIY?
    A bench is a good place to start, but if you are a raw beginner, the easiest joinery is probably bolts! If you continue with woodworking, you will build many more benches. There will always be another feature to add - or a change in direction to cater for.
    Since I retired I have rediscovered working with hand tools and I now follow English woodworker Paul Sellers. He has some good books and videos on a range of projects that build skills from very simple things like wooden spoons, through to much more complex things like fine furniture. It includes a workbench with strong joinery. I take my own path and choose my own projects, but I like his philosophy of minimal tools and multiple ways of doing things. I am also into woodturning in a ig way, although with my smaller work space at home, depend on the lathes at my Men's Shed.
    Good luck with it. Just have a go!

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2017


    Hand planes are likely going to be the tools in which to get your feet off the ground,
    and will properly introduce you into good woodworking.
    Many folks I see jump into getting machinery for flattening stock, and miss this step
    should precision be of importance, then you would do yourself a disservice by not learning how to use the tools well.

    Many folk on youtube, just be aware that most guru's or popular youtubers in the field, have financial interests...
    Whether that be a drip feed system, i.e

    Pretending and not giving you the full picture, so you fail and have to come back for more, which I despise the most personally.

    Tailoring the style of work to make you think you need this or that... which is just comedy as far as I'm concerned,
    mostly pushed by companies making aluminium stuff.

    Or trying to convince you why this tool works better and you're wasting your time otherwise, which is fine as long as you are aware of what's goin on, and with some practice, one can learn to skip these "ads"

    As long as the work is accurate and honest, I don't mind paying, as in... with my time watching youtube, and nothing to do with buying anything.

    If I was to mention just two folks for an absolute beginner, it would be Cosman and Charlesworth.
    Cosman often mentions that he's never coughed up a shaving,
    i.e to get away from sanding and focus on skills instead.

    Regarding those sleepers, this might be an idea to get a bench fast, if long enough then they could butt against a wall or whatever, so can be sat loosely on some trestles, could stick an f clamp down if you liked, most underrated and versatile hold down fixture IMO.

    Note no vise on the bench, or maybe more importantly... note no cuts into the bench top, rendering the surface into just a
    spoiled elevation and workholding apparatus, rather than it being a trustworthy tool in itself,
    which if intending to learn how to hand plane well, would make planing easy and self explanatory, rather than never really understanding why the tools work, and make do with carp results to get her done,
    don't check it whatever ya do kinda thing!

    Pair of sawhorses, or what have you, the thick sleepers would provide mass, and against a wall at one end would be solid.
    Hopefully those are longer than what you intend to plane, so you don't smack the toe of your plane into the wall/pillar etc.
    A planing stop can be as simple as a batton/cleat clamped onto the end of the bench,
    or should you be bracing the ends of those sleepers against the wall, then a short wide length of timber will do that well also.

    Andrew Hunter's bench to show how simple this can be, possibly the most versatile thing you could have IMO.

    Shop Tour: Andrew Hunter - YouTube

    All the best


  10. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    When I started, Trevs, I bought a pair of B&D Workmates and still use them. Fifty year old one are better designed and much better made than the current iteration.

    After a while I found I needed a larger working surface, a work bench, so I bought a flush panel solid core door and laid it on the Workmates. Voila, a workbench. If I needed a stop or a jig, I just screwed a batten or two to the bench with self-tappers. When the bench got daggy, I just turned it over and used the other side. Retailers, on asking, generally have damaged doors available for about $10 - dented corner from dropping, lock mortises and hinge mortices on same side, etc.

    Then I found I also wanted to use my Workmates, so I made a pair of tressles to sit the door/bench on.

    Then I decided that I needed every type of electrical tool ever conceived. This was a big mistake. Now, my current priorities are probably:
    1. Small battery drill,
    2. 150mm random orbital sander (or 125mm),
    3. Track saw,
    4. Router,
    5. Jig saw. That's all!

    Next I bought a pile of crap hand tools. Buy well, buy once. This forum is a great resource on what to buy, but remember everyone is prejudiced - some are bottom feeders, some always equate price as quality, and some give balanced opinions.

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