11 essential skills for woodworking


In woodworking you will learn many technical skills like cutting, chiseling, and sanding. However I will discuss the personal skills that you will learn in woodworking. Additionally, you will learn why woodworking is an important skill

What skills does a woodworker need

Most woodworkers have these 13 skills that makes them good at their profession. While these skills or traits are not present in everyone, they are commonly seen in good woodworkers.

  1. Attention to detail
  2. Hand-eye coordination
  3. Patience and diligence
  4. Math skills
  5. Design skills
  6. Mechanical skills
  7. Stamina
  8. Strength
  9. Communication and listening skills
  10. Problem solving
  11. Improvisation

Each skill will be discussed below in detail. You will be able to see all of the components that play into each skill and if there are areas for improvement to enhance your craft.

Attention to detail

Being able to pay attention to detail is crucial in woodworking. It will keep you safe by monitoring your surroundings and reading all the fine print.

It will also allow for you to enhance your project by paying attention to the small things. Focusing on perfecting your joinery or creating details with the edges and curves on your project will enhance the overall look, functionality, and durability.

There is a big difference in furniture made of wood without rounded edges and those which slightly rounded ones.

In woodworking, you can easily make quick rounded edges but going over them slightly with a sander. While there are better methods to do it, this quick and easy method is better than nothing, and will transform your project.

Hand-eye coordination

Hand-eye coordination is essential in almost every woodworking project that you will do. You will need to cut the wood with accuracy, drill holes in the right locations, and screw nails effectively into the wood.

You will need to align the wood in the right position and effectively use tools to carry out other woodworking functions.

Having hand eye coordination is not the worst skill to not have, but it allows for an easier experience when woodworking.

If you do not have hand-eye coordination, then you will need to ensure that you have the following skill.

Patience and diligence

You can almost always tell the difference from a rushed job and a job where time was taken with a woodworker. You will need to take your time to learn the skills needed, perfect your craft, and create quality products.

Additionally, if you do not have good hand-eye coordination, you will need to take extra time to ensure the accuracy of your work.

Math skills

Now this is the skill that tends to scare people the most. The good news is that you do not have to know complex algorithms, calculus, or differential equations. However, the bad news is that you do need to know some math to be good at woodworking.

You will need to know the basics like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You will also work with fractions and decimals. You will need to learn how to work with angles, bevels, and maybe even circumferences and diameters

If you are worried if you know enough math, then you should check out my article on which math skills to learn for woodworking.

Design skills

Depending on the type of woodworking that you will be doing, you will need more or less design skills. If you plan on using a blueprint of an other artist or the company you work for, then you may not have to do much manual design.

If you want to make custom products to customer needs, then you will likely have to design to their requirements.

You will need to learn how to put the design and math together. First, you will need to draw your idea based on the user needs. Next, you will need to consider the joinery and structural components. After that, is when the math comes into play. You will then create the dimensions of your pieces.

Mechanical skills

Unless you will be doing all of your woodworking using hand tools, including cutting, then you will need basic mechanical skills. As a woodworker, you will need to operate machinery safely and effectively.

First you will read the instruction manual to learn about the piece of equipment you are using. You will learn how to use it and operate it safely.

It is always recommended to read the instruction manual first to prevent injury or damage to the equipment.

While helpful, it is not essential to learn how to fix a machine. You may want to learn the basics like how to get jammed bit out of a drill or a stuck blade out of a saw.

That is because hiring a professional to fix a problem that simple to fix would be a waste of money. Buying another tool would be a bigger waste of money

Stamina

The physical act of woodworking is not what I would call a walk in the park. A project can take from a couple of hours to a few weeks.

Sawing, carving, cutting, and drilling for 3 or more hours a day can be very draining. It is easy to underestimate the physical labor that goes into woodworking. It should definitely be considered before taking woodworking as a hobby.

Strength

Woodworking works out multiple parts of your body like your biceps, triceps, and lower and upper back. Woodworking in general will build up those areas and more depending on the type of work that you do.

Hand sawing and chiseling is more taxing on the body and will result in a greater physical workout than using machinery alone.

However, if you solely use machinery to do woodworking project, you will still get a workout from lifting, pushing, and drilling wood. The act of sanding and painting also works out certain muscle groups.

Communication and listening skills

If you are working with clients or on a team, then you will need to communicate effectively to work together and build a product. In addition to communication, you will also need to learn to listen to the clients needs and requests.

You will need good communication and listening skills. First you will listen to what the client is saying. Then you should think critically if what they are requesting will fit their needs. If not, then you should communicate effectively your suggestions and concerns.

Problem solving

When you are creating products for clients you are solving a problem. That is they want something that you are able to make.

Every project should solve a problem. Chairs allow people to sit, bird houses allow birds to easily find food, and the practice boxes that you made allowed you to perfect your craft.

I am also a software engineer and we have one main rule in engineering. Never create a product that is not useful to the user. While this may not apply with woodworking but if their ethics do not match yours then don’t take the deal. If you take the deal then you should create something that provides value to the user and is made according to their requirements.

On the grand scale, this involves problem solving. But it includes many of the skills listed above like communication and listening, math, and design skills.

Improvisation

Things will go wrong when woodworking. A lot of woodworking is learning how to effectively cover up your mistakes and imperfections.

For example, there are many ways to cover up unwanted holes. You can use the sawdust and glue method, use wood filler, or arrange the piece in a way that it is not visible.

If you read below, you will learn if math, the most dreaded skill, is essential for woodworkers. You will also find out why woodworking is an important skill

Do woodworkers have to be good at math?

Earlier in the article, under the “math skills” section, I discussed the needed math skills for woodworking. You do not have to be good at math. I will explain to you why, which skills you need to learn, and when do you need to learn higher level math concepts in woodworking.

Basic math

The actual math skills that you need are minimal. You really only need to know the basics like subtraction, addition, multiplication, and division. Moreover, it is essential to know how to work with fractions and maybe decimals.

The most difficult skill, in my opinion, is the design skill. You have to not only know how to design the project, but also put everything together with the correct dimensions. Additionally, you have to take into account the width of the wood and the blade.

All of this, mathematically, is just addition and subtraction. But for some reason, I have to check my work 4-5 times because I always have a flaw in my design that will throw off the whole project.

Geometry and trigonometry

While not necessary for beginner woodworkers, you will need some geometry and trigonometry skills to create more complex joinery and projects.

With some joinery types, you will need to work with angles. Moreover, with some projects, you may have to work with angles, bevels, and circumference and diameters depending on the project.

You can get by the basics without learning these more complex math skills. However, you will need to learn these skills to learn more complex woodworking techniques

Why is woodworking an important skill

Woodworking can be a very important skill to learn because it teaches you a lot of life skills/lessons. You will learn creativity, problem solving, patience, and resilience. On top of that, you will also learn that in life you will get out what you put in, practice makes perfect, the appreciation of things, and things are not made by magic.

You should check out my other article on the Top 13 Lessons to Learn from Woodworking If you are interested in learning more.

In addition, woodworking skills are important if you want to profit off your projects and potentially build a full time business from your work.

Rachel

My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

Recent Posts