Sliding compound miter saw is a magic tool.
Now just wait until you get a MIG welder and a bandsaw, you'll be UNSTOPPABLE and the world will suddenly look a whole lot different!
Sidenote: I'm the program director at a nonprofit where I teach/create curriculum. One of the workshops that I love teaching is a week long where we teach the following skills to a group of 12 kids:
Welding: learn to run a mig welder well enough to make art, furniture etc. Welding is easier than you think!
Woodworking: learn how to use a miter saw, and make 2x4s into smaller pieces and then reassemble them into larger pieces of different shapes!
Arduino programming: make lights blink on and off in exactly the way you want them to, and learn some C++ and core programming concepts in the process.
Laser cutting: learn how to take things out of your imagination and create beautiful things on the laser. Lasers always blow peoples' minds at how cool the the things they can make are, and how easy it is to use them.
These specific skills mean that these teenagers leave with a totally shifted perspective on the world around them. The experience you had realizing that the railing you wanted to fix was actually something that you can interact with and modify is what we're doing for these kids, but doing it with: things made of bits (computing), things made of wood, things made of metal, and things made on a computer (CNC). I'm really passionate about it. If you know of a group of kids that would enjoy this type of workshop, please email me!
Unfortunately, an honors-level academic load meant there was no time in the schedule to take many of these classes.
Before freshman year, I had to sit down with my guidance councilor to select my electives. I chose Spanish and Drafting. She said both of those were a "bad fit for an honors student"; that I should take French and Art instead.
I acquiesced, not too happy about it but also trusting she knew what was better.
A few weeks later I got my schedule. Apparently French was booked up so I got Spanish. But still had to go to Art class.
I dropped that a week later and switched to drafting, which I did all four years of high school. The first two years were technical drawing and the next two were architectural drafting. This is when I convinced the teacher to let me fire up the 386s in the back of the room. They all had Generic CADD on them, which remains one of my favorite CAD programs of all time. Simple, but wicked fast with two-key commands for everything. (i.e. "ZB" for zoom to box, "C3" for a 3-point circle, etc.)
I didn't care so much for the 2D stuff, but over time I taught myself a lot about modeling stuff in 3D. I blew people away in drama club one year when I showed up with a rendering of the auditorium, stage, and lighting locations for one of the plays.
The shop teacher was so grateful that he finally had someone super-interested in more advanced topics that I got to do extra projects he'd had on his wish list for years. One of my favorite high school memories and experiences.
So if a school is mostly focused on college-bound students, it's kind of natural that these programs have fallen away.
I'm old enough that I did basic shop stuff in middle school -- soldering, bandsaw, even a table saw. No way that would fly today.
There are probably thousands of videos on youtube that will show you how to use it, but here's the thing: if you use it wrong, who cares? You really can trial and error your way to it.
Just be sure to watch some videos or read up on on how to do it safely.
I would also recommend people look at China Mart welders for hobbyist use and possibly a multi-function machine, you get a lot of bang for your buck and there are some decent ones I personally have an Avortec AV6X, the welder is designed in the US, manufactured in China, quality controlled in the US and warrantied by the US company. It is a multi-function welder that does, TIG/MIG/Stick/Plasma and runs a 100% duty cycle. A similar offering from Lincoln on Miller would be upwards of 8k, I paid 2K for my welder. That being said, it is overkill for a hobbyist, one can get a decent AC TIG for under $600 and a combo AC TIG/Stick/Plasma for about $750. DC TIG machines can be had for a little over $200 but you have to run helium to do aluminum and they will not do stainless steel, titanium or any other exotic alloys which pretty much relegates them to common mild steel, but that is pretty much the same as MIG unless you spring for a spool gun to do aluminum on a MIG. Stick can do a variety of metals but it is really only good for industrial in the field welding as weld quality is the poorest out of the three and aesthetics are certainly the worst. One is not going to show off their stick welds, that is for sure.
Also for those looking into it, Miller has an app and website:
It takes all the guess work out of the welding process, you put in the process, the metal, the thickness and the type of weld (butt, lap joint, etc) and it spits out:
rod, gas flow, power settings, electrode, Torch Cup Orifice Diameter for TIG.
Wire size, gas flow, power settings, spool rate for MIG
rod, power settings for Stick.
Honestly this is 80% of learning to weld and nowadays you don't even have to go look it up in a book, you just put in the parameters and it spits out the variables you need. Basically all you have to do is learn manual process of welding.
And another tip, for those of you that do look to get a machine if you are in the US don't buy a 120v welder, they will do the job for really thin metal but about the time you get the hang of welding you will say to your self I should have bought a 240v machine. You pretty much outgrow a 120v machine the moment you grasp the process. Don't get me wrong, they have their place like fixing panels on cars but they are very limiting on the thickness of metal you can weld.
If I recall, flux core is dirtier, and having a tank of argon on your cart isn't too expensive for a shielding gas. I lived in a studio and luckily my neighbors were cool with me running a chops saw.
I got a cheap stick welder and some plate and played around until I could kinda do it. Then I fixed my mailbox. It looks horrible, but it doesn't move anymore.
Most MIG machines can run flux-core wire without any problems. Gas-shielded welding (MIG/TIG) produces cleaner welds with less slag that needs to be cleaned off, but doesn't work outside with any wind.
Edit: as an example from my own locale, the Denver (Colorado, USA) Tool Library typically has a beginner's welding class for $150: https://denvertoollibrary.org/upcoming/welding-101-fjbkt-k4g..., though they've suspended all in-person classes while the pandemic rages.
Our shop is indoors, and we have nice machines.
On top of that, designing good looking furniture takes much more skill and time. Sometimes ya just don't have the knack either.
That being said, it's still super satisfying to make furniture, even if it gets cracks from expansion, has all kinds of weird defects, or doesn't look all that great!
IKEA stuff may not last centuries, but it often lasts fine for its intended use. I have a number of cheap IKEA Kallax-style bookshelves around my house. They're made of cardboard, hopes, and dreams, but have held up to all the loads I've thrown at them for years and even survived a couple of apartment/house moves (admittedly, the big one would probably not survive another move). How many people ACTUALLY want to keep the same piece of furniture with the same dimensions and styling forever? How many people who want to actually manage to in the face of new residences, combining furniture with roommates/partners, etc.?
IKEA is only one example. The same arguments apply for other brands, including some "real" furniture. I'm in the middle of building a queen-sized Murphy Bed. All said and done, my material costs are approaching $2000 (without a mattress) and I've spent several weeks worth of evenings on it. It's been a challenging project, and I don't regret it, but economically it would ABSOLUTELY have been better to buy one.
This is not at all a common or majority opinion among the fine woodworking community. There certainly are advantages to engineered wood products, but the shortcomings of wood as an organic material (it moves with respect to humidity, regardless of what you coat it with) can be overcome through successful furniture design.
Also, IKEA is not the comparison for my DIY projects. I compare quite favorably in cost to Thomas Moser, West Elm, etc.
For things like the railing the original poster mentioned, that really falls under home improvement. For those things which are generally site built by a carpenter, you can absolutely save money even factoring in a few tools.
I'm a computer programmer but I expect that more and more of my hobby time is going to be making things by hand. It's really a job, after struggling with some stupid code, to just go design something on paper, make a few cuts, and see it work in reality.
You talk about the table saw as a complement. I thought it was a must have, legit question, how do you make precise long cuts without a table saw?
I'm in my early 40s now and had never done any woodworking a single day in my life and never even had really used any type power tool other than maybe a drill.
Early in the lockdown, my wife and I decided to completely redo our backyard, We were initially going to hire someone to do it, but after receiving bids for $20k+, we chose to tackle it on our own.
My first project for the new backyard were two simple cedar planter boxes. Fast forward five months and I've made more planter boxes, a deck, some steps, acoustic panels to hang in my studio, and a custom desk for my daughter.
I've found that while the end results are far from perfect, they're still pretty great. Even after figuring in purchasing a few power tools (including a sliding compound mitre saw like you mentioned) we still have spent way less money than had we hired someone to do the same work.
I'm really looking forward to my future projects. My only regret is not taking this up sooner!
(1) If you live in an area with very poor soil conditions, it may take years and lots of hard work to get your soil usable for the things you want to plant. Or you can grab planting soil that meets your requirements upfront and dump it into some planter boxes.
(2) They look nice, and some people are going for that look in their garden.
(3) Not needing to kneel so much, which can be a game changer for people with eg knee problems.
4) Not having to actually dig to plant. The work involved in buying soil and dumping in a planter box usually pales in comparison to digging a hole a couple-to-few feet deep, wide, and long.
I've never shied away from DIY projects but didn't truly feel comfortable that I'd do them well until I started building up my tool collection.
Equipped with the right tools and youtube as you mentioned, there's usually nothing complicated about it and it's a lot of fun to go from virtual to physical creation.
If any folks here are capable of doing this stuff, would you please share details of your journey, I feel inspired to learn some of this myself. Did you feel it was all worth it, what would you do differently if starting over again?
Start small, start bad, improve on each project... and give it time.
And nobody will notice but you, and maybe another woodworker. But generally they're nice enough not to say anything mean.
I like it because it keeps me humble. Just when I believe I have the largest amount of domain knowledge related to my job, and just when people are starting to view me as an expert. . . .
The god-damned half blind dovetails don't fit, and I know I made them right. I KNOW I DID.
Like, sanding. When you first start out you're very tempted to just give it a very cursory sand to get any splinters off the edges or whatever, but once you sand something butter-smooth once, you have the frustrating realization that you're going to have to keep investing that much time and effort on every project you make going forward.
For me, finishing is not as fun as joinery; but patience during the sanding and finishing is absolutely essential to a good result.
And there's no freaking undo button with wood.. it's mentally challenging to not freak out about every little mistake.
Over time I'm learning to get better about this, but it's rough.
I built my daughter a rocking horse- any woodworker or trades person looking at closely would chuck it in the bin as the joins are slightly off and the seat isnt symetrical but when i posted a photo of it on instagram or showed it to anyone- my friends where sharing it and people where commenting on it saying wow asking could i build one for them
Every time i look into wood related work, be it home repair or artsy stuff, everything is huge. I have a Prius. I'm not too thrilled at the idea of buying a 2nd car (truck), and i don't want to drive only a truck.. so how am i to get the supplies?
Sounds like a silly question, but yea - things are just big. And i always thought i can't bother if i don't have a truck. Especially with the ~$70 overhead on shipping i see from lowes, home depot, etc. And i'm not aware of any local (wood) places that deliver.
Am i missing anything obvious?
Be aware that nominal lengths are usually approximate. I busted a windshield in the Civic because I knew I could fit a ten footer. Turns out my ten foot board was 10' 2" and when I was wiggling it to get the back end in the trunk, I wiggled it into the windshield wrong :-(
I knew I had successfully put in a 10' piece of plastic conduit before. I tried it again, wiggled a little too hard, and crack. The 1" conduit is not as flexy as 1/2" and that was enough to cause a problem. I use a towel on the windshield end now.
If possible, I get the store to cut the stock down beforehand. Works for 4x8 sheets of ply, for example. To fit in my car, it kind of needs to be less than 36" wide and not much more than 8' long, but specifics vary.
If I need basically a full sheet (4'x8' or 5'x5'), I put a blanket on my car roof, put the wood up top, and use 2 moderate-duty ratcheting straps (less than $20) to hold it down. No problem.
If it's long stuff (for my car, ~10') then I either put it up top, or let it hang out the back with a red flag on it. You can optionally get an accessory for your car to hold the trunk lid partway open so it does not sway up and down throughout the trip home. Keep the driver's window down a bit so you don't pull exhaust into the car.
Another solution that I've used to avoid delays getting pieces cut down is to take a saw with me. A basic $25 Japanese-style pull saw will do a great job on mouldings (and is just a good tool in general), and a hacksaw works for thinner metal. Some people take a battery-powered circular saw -- again, not a bad tool to have anyway, especially if you're bought in to a given battery-powered system (e.g., Bosch, Makita).
I live in a city, and this means I often have to take surface streets on the way home. I favor closer lumberyards for that reason.
There's also the idea of making friends with someone who has a larger vehicle. Minivans work almost just as well and are more commonly available.
I haven't tried it yet, but I'm convinced with the right strapping and padding, and driving at low speeds on a non-windy day, you could also strap full 4x8 sheets on the roof.
You'd be surprised how many mom and pop places will deliver. And like others have said, for anything else, there's always the rental truck or a U-Haul.
We're not talking about apple crates here. Some people make some very nice boxes. You can start simple and get more complex, but even the simple projects require precision and care. You can involve all sorts of advanced woodworking techniques like inlay, homemade veneers, marquetry, hidden joints, it's an endless list. You can't really buy nice boxes like you can build, unlike furniture. And you end up with nice gifts, especially for people who appreciate fine craftsmanship.
But you cant really fit a 4x8 sheet into the back of the car, truck rentals might work out. But honestly if you have a buddy with a truck, just ask, and if they say yeah, fill up the tank for them when your done with it.
From what I've seen though, wood isn't cheap to have delivered. They can cut it for you in the store, but obviously a prius still isn't best to ship it in.
Maybe find a friend with a truck or light trailer that you can borrow every couple of months?
Also, I have fallen in love with the fold down rear seat on my Civic. You can fit surprisingly large objects in the car with the seat folded down.
The biggest things I put in my SUV are large plywood panels and long dimensional lumber. Those can be strapped to the roof if you have a top rack.
There is a great sense of self to be experienced by doing these fundamental "tasks".
It happens to my here and there.
Trial and Error is all you need. I've never formally trained myself in woodworking and I'm pretty good at it. I could definately replicate what this guy did if I had the time and money. My wife and I have a book collection that currently lives on eight 2.5 metre high by 1 metre wide Oak bookcases that fully line two walls of our living room (which we call the Library). Each unit has 8 shelves (so 64 metres-ish of book space). All built by my fair hand.
The trick is to plan, and to plan well. being able to mock things up in a basic CAD package is a must. I use an old copy of Sketchup (the offline version) and it does me.
After that it's tools. Bad tools make for a bad job. If you can, spend money on good tools, but only buy what you need for that job. After a few years, you'll have a workshop full of nice kit that enables you to tackle anything. Once you learn what your tools can do, you suddenly realise how many projects are now accessible. It's a bit like getting a 3D printer and realising how many things you can now build or fix!
Finally, measure twice and cut once. This is your mantra. Accuracy is everything. If you are not sure, cut the wood slightly too big and trim off until it fits - it's easy to make a bit of wood smaller, it's impossible to make it bigger.
I've also designed, built and fitted our kitchen (that's all Oak also), and the desk units in the study (where I'm typing this) plus numerous other projects to long to list.
If I could give up IT and do woodworking everyday, I would.
I feel like this every time I do some project around the house. After replacing my toilet a few years ago I realized that manual labor is bad for the knees but good for the soul. But knowing me I would probably end up writing a script to help whatever job I was doing, and then end up making that my focus.
Cut to five years later when your former-plumbing shop is now selling an inventory control PAAS to other plumbers and you're now trying to learn swift so you can port to the latest ipads.
I've had to amend that after a shameful disaster with a half-lap joint beam - "Measure twice, think once, cut once."
Blender and FreeCAD are both good open source options. You can also alternatively draw an SVG in Inkscape, import in to one or the other, then 3D extrude it.
Evidently order is important here. Measuring and cutting are not commutative operations.
Also, if you have two parts to join, the measuring on both sides doesn't cancel.
If only carpentry and woodworking were as easy as algebra.
Allows to make 2D drawing and assemblies etc, even animate joints. It's not open-source unfortunately though.
Perhaps you can but for anyone else reading, this is a big and complicated project. Far beyond the capabilities of an enthusiastic/studious beginner. Your mitre saw or cross cut jig/sled being just a few thousanths off will mess this project up. This guy did a really great job.
I will not claim to be a good woodworker, I recently made https://preview.redd.it/oyg8onja3ll51.jpg?width=4608&format=... which I'm quite happy with. Some rough edges.
I do not consider myself particularly handy, but just get started. And watch a bunch YouTube videos for tips.
Tools used: cordless drill, saw, tape measure, 90 deg angle thingy, some clamps, 45deg angle cutting template block. I had the wood panels sawed at the DIY store, so no need for a table saw.
I think all the tools used can be had for a few hundred euros.
EDIT: I think the hardest part of this is imagining how to put everything together, do the accurate measurements or design things in a way that you can tolerate less accuracy.
I learned a ton making this, would do it differently next time, but both had fun doing it and now have a nice pillow box. People tell me "I didn't know you were so handy". Well, me neither.
Woodworking is a lesson and exercise in planning and preparation, more than anything else. The actual skills used are fairly basic hand-eye coordination. But the planning. Oh the planning. You absolutely have to see the steps laid out to completion, one at a time, when you start. Otherwise you cannot even begin the project with hopes of finishing.
I'm fairly certain there's a metaphor in there somewhere, but it's early in the day.
Expense wise, you need quite a few tools and obviously materials. Doors I always went with solid core doors (vs hollow) and double pane windows. We used fiber glass insulation and drywall was appropriate to the room (water proof drywall in the kitchen / bathroom, regular in the rooms) always at least a half inch.
Demolition was fun if not exhausting (plaster and lath walls). Neighbors took the original doors to match existing builds.
Took time to get good at mudding the joints to get them smooth. I did the electrical; sub contracted out for plumbing. I don't mind electrocuting myself lol, but a leak in plumbing and you can throw all of your work out.
Dad (who has experience) helped and I learned a lot from him (especially on cutting trim and tile). Otherwise watching a ton of home improvement shows; youtube videos; etc...
All of it is totally doable; just need to take your time, measure 20 times, cut once, etc...
My favorite work was masonry - I built a brick pizza oven 1 year; then a concrete block planting wall with a fireplace in it the following year.
Can't say I want to do it again; took all 8 years before we divorced and she kept it to get everything but 1 bedroom done; but if I have to when I buy my next house, I know I can and how.
The tool and connectors are relatively expensive, but it is super simple to do your own plumbing reliably. I have done a few odd home plumbing jobs, and it doesn’t take a lot of skill to do something as reliably as a plumber would do. I’m not sure I would trust the similar push-on connector systems.
I think the search keywords is “pex fittings”, but just go to your hardware store and see what they stock.
Feeling emboldened, I ordered a shower kit off of Amazon. Ye gods... the 4 head unit came with a tin template and a 'good luck'. Ended up putting together a 4 head double loop with pressure equalization.... after many, many attempts.
After those projects, I'm reasonably OK with it. Will be using coper piping when the zen 3 threadrippers finally hit the store.
People act really shocked at the level of DIY I get up to, but really the main secret is having a go.
You can definitely get as close to as good a finish as a pro, it just takes longer and is more fun for you!
The current project is a home office from scratch; which basically meant learning how to build a wood frame building. YouTube is a wonderful resource! (First fit is done, plastering next)
Ceilings are the hardest part :( So much reaching :( Eventually I got good at corners but that took effort.
I did some external plastering with cement once and it was horrible! So I'm steeling myself to have a go :)
I can attest that drywall work and mudding is definitely an acquired skill. No matter how many youtube videos you watch it takes practice.
A good place to get started is construction lumber -- just 2x4s. They're not bad once you clean them up with a sander and potentially planer and finish them, and they have a certain industrial aesthetic raw. They're cheap enough that if you mess up or change your mind, you can throw them away and try again. And if you want to redo a piece of furniture, you can do that too. If you want to make a custom mount for something, just drill a hole.
Homes look surprisingly good when all the furniture is custom -- floor-to-ceiling wall-to-wall bookcases, desks designed for what's on them, etc. -- even if it's just cheap construction wood.
From there, you can move upscale. You can go quite far with Home Depot plywood sheets. Done well, they look great.
I have a mix of fine woodworking pieces (which take a month or two to do), to things which take a couple hours to throw together. And it feels awesome once most of the furniture in your home is handmade. And it's a much better use of space.
Get a few 2x4s, a pair of cordless drills, some nice screws, a circular saw, a carpenter's square, a tape measure, and safety glasses and you're good to go to get started.
If you want to step it up a notch, get a random orbital sander, proper guides, (GOOD) clamps, a router, and a jigsaw. If you can at all afford it, buy NICE tools. Better beats more. I'd rather have a good Bosch cordless circular saw and drill than a full kit of Walmart toolkit. And they'll cost less in the long run, with less damaged work pieces, and fewer broken tools.
Also, Youtube videos are great. So are online woodworking forums. Classes are nice if you can afford them, but hardly necessary.
1. 2x4 are not 2" x 4" and when you start, you make a lot of assumptions that land you in hot water.
2. A beginner will not know what does "green" vs. "klin" mean and will have a hard time getting anything to be straight.
3. Construction lumber is made for construction and not interior use because of many different factors.
I would highly recommend choosing poplar 1x8 boards (they will neither be perfectly 1 inch in thickness nor 8 inches in width but close). They are easy to work with because poplar is soft, even though it called a "hardwood". And the wood takes paint and stain very well.
Also, with poplar, your list of beginner tools will be spot on. You wouldn't even need much more and I'm confident that I can put together a good enough kit for under $250 by using only corded tools and an extension cord.
2. That's okay! If it's not quite straight or square, it's really fine for most pieces. Unless you've really s-ed up, you won't be able to tell.
3. I have plenty of pieces of furniture made from construction wood, especially in the kids' room, and they do just fine. Kids grow fast, and an elementary school table won't be what we want in middle school. Heck, we might want something different if and when hobbies change.
The point is to make a bunch of pieces quickly, and to develop the technique to be able to:
* Make a (roughly) perpendicular screw hole without having the wood splinter on the opposite side, and perhaps with a proper countersink hole
* (roughly) cut a piece of wood to length, with a (roughly) square edge
* Get intuition for the order to measure/cut/assemble pieces so everything fits
* ... and so on.
There's a bunch of mechanical skills (like making a square cut) and spatial reasoning skills to develop. The best way to do this is to do it over, and over, and over many times. Once past that stage, poplar is ideal. Starting out, make as much stuff as you can as quickly and cheaply as you can.
Even now, I'll sometimes cut a piece of wood to the wrong length, and I've been doing this a long time. The first few pieces? Forgetaboutit.
Any advice on what to look for or what brands you might recommend?
I bought a couple furniture clamps a few years ago and they are complete garbage.
You want a good pair of parallel clamps or pipe clamps too, for when gluing stuff, which can hold something precisely for a long time with a lot of pressure, but most of the time, you want something fast.
I also recommend a few clutch-style bar clamps, since a lot of time, you're reaching over something.
If I got pipe clamps would I need to have a whole range of pipes just to handle standard work?
Pipe clamps are comparatively cheaper with the bonus that if you need longer clamps, you can go to the plumbing supply for a longer bit of pipe. They aren't as nice as parallel clamps for gluing up thin panels though.
For handscrews, I highly recommend Miro Moose. The Besseys are surprisingly subpar. Lie-Nielsen makes them as well for a reasonable price, but they galvanize the screws, and I don't like the action as much.
Not a chance. Perhaps if you live in the Pacific Northwest, but outside of certain regions wood can be very very expensive.
One could build a desk from even better materials than the $1000 desk; maple, walnut, mahogany, stainless steel, brass, whatever. But it wont be <$1000 for materials then, let alone <$100.
I'm in favour of DIY and think it's admirable that you would build your son's desk yourself rather than buy, but I think it's important to be realistic about the costs and materials. These costs were a surprise to me at least, after getting into woodwork/metalwork.
Compared to commercial, what he's got is:
1. Lighter (2x4s are light)
2. More robust (2x4s are tough)
3. Looks better (An off-the-shelf product would look better in a showroom, but this one fits his room exactly, and fits his equipment exactly; that makes a much bigger difference).
I'll mention: That's true for most of the crude furniture I make. I have fine woodworking, and I have not-so-fine woodworking. The fine woodworking pieces tend to be generic (e.g. a bookcase). The not-so-fine-ones tend to be special-purpose. Right now, I have custom stuff built up for remote work, for example, with cameras/cables/etc. properly routed.
I'm currently planning a studio desk right now, funny enough. I could buy one for maybe €500, but just the heavy duty shelf sliders I need will be €70 for a pair. A pre-bought one will also have a light aluminium frame, whereas mine is going to weigh a ton with steel tubing.
Like you say though, if I make one it will fit the space perfectly etc. All in all it's worth it for me even if I personally don't save money
They're rated for loads up to 100lbs, and they're plenty tough enough to hold up a full-sized MIDI controller. They're stiff enough too.
If you're worried, though, you can double them up (two on each side). Now, you're at $30. Typically, when you double up, the load-baring capacity more than doubles.
I have a planer, but I didn't use it at all in this project.
Might be regional. US has a ton of land and resources, so maybe wood is cheaper here. You're pricing in Euros, and Europe is a bit more densely populated.
* Bosch drill/driver kit: $100
* Circular saw: $100
* Tape measure: $20
* Square: $10 x2 (one big, one small)
Total: $240. That's 1/10th of what you quoted.
"Step it up a notch" kit as next step:
* Random orbital sander: $70
* Router: $170
* Planer: $120
* Guides: $20
* Clamps: $100
And we're up another $500. Still a good ways short of $2500. And that's at current Lowes prices. If you wait a few months, you can find complete 5-tool kits on sale sometimes.
I don't think $250 is unreasonable to spend on a hobby starting out. If OP is at FAANG salaries, then dropping $750 isn't unreasonable either. And if OP is a student, use a university woodworking shop, or buy used. These things go for a song on Craigslist sometimes.
Planer (or belt sander) saves money in the long run. You can recycle (free) old wood, use cheap S1S2E wood, and similar. For the most part, you just want to build a lot of stuff. Given the random orbital recommendation, I thought of the two, a planer was more versatile. It has unanticipated beginner uses too. E.g. If you mess up and make something 1/16th of an inch too small, you can trim a bit, and it will fit. Or if you can't do layout/cuts precisely and well, you can leave a bit of margin, and keep trimming a piece of wood until it fits.
I saved up and bought a cheap, underpowered Craftsmen jigsaw and my production output increased. Then my parents bought an old farmhouse and had it renovated. I shadowed some of the carpenters and learned a lot.
When I was 17 I asked to work for a local furniture shop that made reproduction furniture. I told the owner that I would do anything, sweep the floors, clean the windows as long as I got to be in proximity to the equipment and expertise in the shop. Eventually I graduated from sweeping the floors to milling lumber, sanding case pieces, gluing up panels and then making full pieces of furniture. I was going to go to a technical school for fine woodworking but decided computer science would be a better career. I still miss having a shop.
I don’t think I regret leaving wood working as a career, but I do wonder sometimes. I actually enjoyed it. Except in winter - the shop was always freezing cold, haha. We’d sticker lumber for the kiln in the rain for days or weeks sometimes.
Something I was really into before leaving was the CNC machine. I think I could have enjoyed getting to know and using that thing.
All the tools I had back then were a cordless drill, two hand saws, some chisels and a sander. You don't need much and you should only buy new equipment if the project requires it. Also I did not "design" anything, just did some sketches on paper then improvised on the spot.
Woodworking instantly became my hobby and after watching some Youtube videos - including ALL of Paul Sellers videos - I made a decision to go the unplugged route.
If I were to start over I'd read a book about the basic principles of woodworking and joinery, especially how the wood behaves and how to apprloach it. I sort of got all of this by intuition, however an introductory book would be a better start. Also I should have mastered sharpening way earlier in my journey.
Unless you're able to get wood already S4S, unplugged is a helluva lot of work.
However if I were to have machines in my shop I'd get a bandsaw first, then a jointer/planer. I'm mostly limited by physical space, not self-imposed constraints, although it is very fulfilling to build something without electricity.
I'm nowhere near a master and make a lot of stupid mistakes. But my relatives think I'm worrying to much about those, nobody notices, nobody cares besides me. But next time I do the same thing again, I know. If it really counts or is entirely botched I just redo the piece.
Wood is similar to clay. You just try by sawing pieces in two smaller pieces, start to grind them, then come different sawing tools and techniques, then finishing (oil, laquer, etc.), then routing...
Obviously you start with smaller, simpler things.
And in contrast to what others said: Don't be afraid of mistakes. A dent is just a dent, the piece is supposed to "live" anyway. Your kids will put their teeth in soon. And a piece of wood can be replaced cheaply (don't start with ridiculously expensive hard woods obviously). You can always cut a new one.
It took nearly a month to get all the oak that I needed ordered and delivered (who knew there was huge demand for oak from artisanal whiskey distillers), so in that time I just spent hours watching YouTube videos, sketching things out, getting tools I needed, etc. The process wasn’t much different than when I’m building a software system, it’s just a different medium.
After the bookshelves I felt comfortable redoing my entire kitchen, including doing the plumbing. Just be fine with things taking you an entire afternoon that might take a person with experience an hour.
I’d say just play around with it, realize there will be many frustrating unanticipated things that come up as a beginner, and get curious about solving the problems that crop up!
Apart from the safety issues of tools - or the potential waste of materials if you make a wrong cut -- it's really a very satisfying hobby for anyone who enjoys solving problems, working with their hands, and seeing something progressively come together.
As someone with absolutely no skills in woodworking, metalworking, or anything of the sort, it is completely awesome (in the traditional sense of the word) and seemingly so far out of my potential.
The difference between a novice and professional is efficiency. Good tools will aid in efficiency but not always necessary.
A simple box will take a beginner several days, an intermediary a day, and a craftsperson a few hours.
Substitute your lack of knowledge and tools by spending more time on quadruple checking everything, making good marks, and always doubting yourself.
While I don’t have space for a shop so not a woodworker, I think I could do many of those projects. I’ve done more carpentry, first volunteering with Habitat for Humanity decades back, then helping friends restore their old homes, picking up skills and eventually building a small timberframe after taking a class.
The first time you do anything, it will come out badly but like anything it’s just practice, reading books, watching experts.
For woodworking, it really is important to read about woods and finishes up front. So many people buy all the equipment and make projects but don’t know how to assess wood or just slap on whatever finish from the corner store. Beautiful work, looks like crap. There are countless restoration channels on YT with a wealth of experience that you would not ever learn on your own.
First project I ever did was a workbench. It's a great first project as you can use it for all of your future projects. Have fun.
I build furniture, which has surprisingly little overlap with carpentry, which TFA is much closer to. To be clear, I'm not saying one is better or worse, but they are different.
I got started down that path taking a basic hand tools class, which in turn started not with "here's a bit of wood", but "here's a grinder and some sharpening stones". After getting our planes acceptably sharp, then we learned how to take a piece of rough lumber and turn it into a board with two flat, parallel faces, two edges parallel and square to the faces, and two ends square to the faces and edges. We (eventually) progressed to joinery from there.
It was sort of the Learn Python the Hard Way of woodworking: if you don't learn the basic steps and skip right to something cool, you're forever dependent on somebody else doing the basic stuff for you and accepting what you can get (milling the lumber, in this case). Or you have to go back and learn it anyway. To quote Raney Nelson: "If you cannot already do the machine's job by hand, the machine will outwit you."
I try to avoid milling lumber by hand because it would be a surefire way to lose money hand over fist on most projects, but it's a good skill to have when your boards are bigger than your jointer.
If you don't want to spend money on a class, there are infinite youtube videos. What you lose learning that way is somebody watching what you're doing and telling you why you aren't getting what you want done.
Getting into the tools is something you can do pretty incrementally and inexpensively if you are willing to put some time into it. There are plenty of excellent old Stanley planes out there for $40 to $70. Buy pre-war. The quality dropped off afterwards as power tools got cheap. If you take the time to learn how to tune one up, you'll know your tool better than if you spend a couple hundred bucks on a Lie-Nielsen or a Veritas (which are both excellent tools, let me be clear) or ~$170 on a new import (Wood River, Bench Dog, whatever. No experience, no opinion).
The US-made Buck Brothers chisels at Home Depot are decent steel and a steal at the price of ~$15 a piece. The modern Stanley Sweethearts are a good middle of the road choice (I own a set; I'll upgrade them piecemeal as I need to). You can spend as much or as little on saws as you want to. I have a $15 Husky from Home Depot I use occasionally, and a Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw I spent an order of magnitude more on. They both cut, but the LN is worth sharpening when it gets dull.
The layout and sharpening tools are worth spending money on. You can get a decent combination square for $40 (anything that's $15 at your local hardware store is crap. A $100 Mitutoyo or Starrett is worth the investment if you're in it for the long haul), a decent marking gauge for a similar price, and a decent marking knife for under $40. Figure $120 for the basics. Another roughly $40 for a Shinwa sliding bevel (again, hardware store stuff is crap) for angled work, and you're pretty well covered for the basics.
For sharpening, a craigslist grinder will probably cover your needs for $50 or under. You certainly don't need a Baldor, and you don't need slow speed. Any 7" or 8" grinder will do. And then spend what you want to on oil stones, water stones, or a piece of glass and some sandpaper/emery paper. They all do the same thing, and a discussion of the tradeoffs is outside the scope of this thread.
My first "workbench" at home was a stupidly cheap IKEA table. I screwed 1/4" MDF into the legs to keep it from racking, and a use a couple clamps in lieu of a vise. It sucked, and it was slow, but you can get work done on it if you want to.
Starting with an inexpensive set of tools, you can get a lot done. Build a couple things from the canon of absolute beginner projects: A bird house, a tool box, etc. Build them slowly and intentionally, focusing on precision. Get a copy of The Anarchist's Design Book and pick a project out of there (the staked furniture projects will require a few additional tools), any of the excellent books on Shaker furniture, or a subscription to Fine Woodworking or Popular Woodworking. Pick a project or two from there and build it.
The joinery that holds wood together hasn't fundamentally changed in literally thousands of years. I don't mean to be flippant about this, but Jesus was a carpenter, and while he had a lot of firsts, working in wood wasn't one of them.
So yeah, we're talking maybe $600-$800 all-in on tools to get started. That's more than an iPhone SE, but less than a Mac Mini. The tools will last several lifetimes: my newest Stanley plane was built during WWII. Is that expensive? It depends on how you look at it, I guess.
Was it worth it for me? I mean, I do it for money now instead of writing code. The pay is a lot worse, but I'm fortunate to be married to somebody who is better paid, we leave cheaply, and I love what I do.
It's a fantastic hobby.
I've built a few simple things with a $20 power drill and a cheap hand saw.
Wood is pretty forgiving, especially soft woods like pine/spruce/cedar.
It's mostly just finding plans and ideas online and YouTube. Then taking your time. Like anything else, you have to enjoy it. I personally like how different it is from programming.
Definitely worth it for me, higher_quality_furniture++
I left childhood with a decent understanding of how to build things. After moving out I started to miss it and took a job working an entry level job at a joinery. We made cabinetry, some furniture, doors, windows - even made flooring and custom trim in the mill. It was fun, and I learned a lot that I hadn’t as a kid.
I taught myself to program while working there and took a job doing that instead after a few years.
I missed it again and began buying tools around 8 years ago. At first I used hand tools only and build small projects. I’d focus on learning techniques at first, and tried to really nail down my understanding of the fundamentals. I learned to select not only the right wood for assorted projects, but how to do so based on factors like species and moisture content.
Eventually I had too many kids to have time to be productive with hand tools. I enjoyed the activity, but actually getting projects done became too hard. Since I make things my family uses, I decided to grab a table saw, planer, and jointer.
These are sort of the trifecta of woodworking productivity. You can machine milled lumber to spec very quickly and easily. Make a cut list, machine it, cut to length, and start building.
My most recent project was a bed frame. Even with nice lumber and quite a bit of it, the project came in around $1800 - at least half of what we were looking at if we ordered it.
Other recent projects have been bunk beds, a bench for our home entrance, shoe racks, a toy chest, and a kitchen island.
If I was starting over again I’d learn the fundamentals first and then not hesitate to invest in power tools after. Buy used and learn about basic maintenance. I had a sort of purist bent for a while which really just kept me from making stuff me and my family loved. Hand tools are fun, but so hard to work with quickly if you aren’t very skilled with them.
I highly recommend the hobby if you’re interested. It’s been a lifelong thing for me. Holding your own work in your hands is very grounding. Solving and working with physical problems is extremely engaging. For me, wood working and gardening are two productive activities that (not joking) really make me feel alive and connected to something. Programming is great, but it doesn’t do that.
My next project is a speargun to replace the one I currently dive with. I’m very excited to build it.
Like most things if you expect the first thing you make to be any good it'll be a hard road.
- Hand tools are a great place to start, they are cheap they don't take up much room, they don't make too much noise and dust. Working with hand tools can be pretty relaxing, and can also be a good workout (which could be a bonus or a negative). I do have a decent collection of power tools now but still not everything. The power tools I use the most are drill, miter saw, circular saw, and sander.
- Check craigslist often, both for cheap (sometimes free) wood and for cheap tools.
- You can make something really cool out of something else. I made a kitchen island out of some old wall cabinets and a butcher block I got off craigslist. I also made a pirate ship wheel out of old stair spindles and a garden hose reel. This allowed me to try out skills on a bigger project while using someone else's work to kind of start from. I didn't have to first learn how to make cabinets or learn to turn wood on a lathe.
- Youtube is your friend you can learn how to do almost anything. The maker channels are great but often times they do have a lot of specialized expensive power tools. The "This Old House" youtube channel  is pretty good and has a lot of good basics. Also "Woodworking for Mere Mortals"  as the name implies is also good at showing how you get things done without investing in super expensive specialized tools.
- You will always notice the mistakes you have made, but hardly anyone else will. And you will make mistakes, I have made plenty and there are still plenty in my "finished" products.
- Routers are super cool tools and with the different bits you can get you can make awesome professional looking patterns. I got my router and a set of bits off craigslist as well, but there are some cheap options out there.
Do the things you really want to, need to or should do. One day, it's going to be too late.
Basically means the unsettling feeling that opportunities will vanish as one ages
"Midlife-crisis-induced Torschlusspanik has driven quite a few middle-aged men into the arms of young women, wrecking countless marriages." 
A compendium of invented words written by John Koenig, that aims to fill holes in the language—to give a name to emotions we all feel but don't have a word for. The author's mission is to capture the aches, demons, vibes, joys and urges that roam the wilderness of the psychological interior. Each sorrow is bagged, tagged and tranquilized, then released gently back into the subconscious.
Having a visceral feeling for our mortality might be 'good' in a sense but so far I have really avoided meditating on it. I fear that it would be a really disconcerting experience.
Life is unfair, and life just happens, the best thing we can do is try to live the best we can.
Have to say, that really is a wonderful bookshelf, I just hope to see a picture when it is full of books.. I cannot even fathom how heart breaking it must be, every time you see the bookshelf, you remember your dead wife and her life wish she didn't get too see fulfilled.
This kind of stuff just hits you differently..
I have also always wanted to have a home library where I can hide away and just read books for hours on end, guess this could be a kind of wake up call to go for it sooner than later, since you never know when your end is coming...
Also, that kind of behaviour is extremely hard to curb. If moderators lay guidelines on what kind of talk is and isn't allowed, people attack the mods and the subreddit for taking away their freedom. If mods are lenient, this and much worse happens. I used to moderate a popular sub (top 100 subs on reddit), and I hate to say that these are mild by reddit standards and about what you should expect on a popular post (the key being "reddit standard"). I'm pretty sure mods are cracking down on these comments, but a mob of people can generate them much faster than a dozen or so volunteers can delete away
I never realized it so clearly, but this is definitely the case for me on HN and probably for more commenters on HN.
In the bigger view, that isn't really something to fix. In fact it might be a good thing - let people make mistakes, be downvoted, see what enlightened people commented and maybe learn.
Lots of comments talking about how it's too little too late and accusing OP of karma-whoring.
If anyone's interested: https://leonardteo.com/woodworking/
I picked up woodworking only a few years ago after buying this place. Watched YouTube videos, attended a workshop where they taught some of the tools and safety. Then did the rest on trial and error.
Truly, carpe diem.
But yes, fuck cancer.
He has lots of starter projects but for the first one he suggest building a box because every woodworking project is more or less a variation on the box.
I built a jewelry box for my wife. Made lots of mistakes but since it was small and simple I didn't feel stressed about wasting resources. (Wood isn't cheap)
- Mike Siemsen
- Rob Cosman
- Frank Klausz
- Shawn L. Graham, Worth The Effort
- Roy Underhill
- Joshua Farnsworth, Wood and Shop
- James Hamilton, aka Stumpy Nubs
- Matthew Cremona
- Jay Bates
- Shannon Rogers
- Simon James
I've seen this in California homes, including my own master bedroom. It really heats up during the day, presumably due to heat convection from the roof and attic.
Typically there isn't a lot of room between the ceiling and the outside roof and the insulation they use in that space doesn't provide enough protection from the heat and cold. This is an area that is ideal for Spray Foam which provides superior insulating properties.
Often looks nice but as you say in some climates you pay to heat or cool that space.
There's also serious censorship  and narratives that are pushed, especially messaging that's pro-CCP, mostly thanks to the recent $150M investment from Tencent
There are many in the thread of Jewish faith asking it to be taken down, feeling that it promotes Holocaust denial /minimisation. If you read the horrendously uncaring Moderator sticky post dripping with sarcasm you get a good feel for the state of Reddit in 2020.
It makes the default subreddits totally unusable imo. Sometimes I just want to see funny pictures, not be lectured to about why I'm a racist or how my unconscious biases blah blah blah.
Before reading the story, I feared the guy had always postponed it, only to start on it when it was too late...
It's still a good reminder to pull the trigger on those things that will impact your life. Don't wait for the perfect time, or when you'll have "more time" to do it right. It's cliché now, but Live Your Best Life; it's too short to put that off.
I've had mixed luck with LED strip, -- with some becoming glitchy after only a few months of operation.
If you undervolt them slightly, the chips will basically never fail.
I built large bookshelves last year (though not as cool as the posts) and didn't integrate lighting for this reason-- and it's really good that I didn't because it turned out the strip I was using at the time didn't last long.