Woodworking for beginners: Learning, Materials, & Projects

There are many different ways that one can go about woodworking and one can learn woodworking. Many professional woodworkers either went to a university, trade school, and/or got many years of hands on experience. I will discuss if you need to go to school or if woodworking could be self taught.


  1. Can I teach myself woodworking?
  2. Self-taught woodworker
  3. School-taught woodworker
  4. How can I start learning woodworking

Can I teach myself woodworking?

Not every woodworker has taken formal classes. You can teach yourself how to woodwork, in fact, many woodworkers today are self taught.

What to expect

I will go over the pros and cons of being a self-taught woodworker and a school-taught woodwork. Afterwards, I explain if self-taught or school-taught woodworking is right for you. If you decide that self-taught woodworking is right for you, then you will learn how to teach yourself woodworking.

Self-Taught Woodworker


  • Can learn on your own schedule
  • Can learn at your own pace
  • Learn exactly what you want
  • Cheaper costs upfront
  • Learn from more people


  • May not be taught by true professionals
  • Harder to teach advanced skills
  • No feedback

School-taught woodworker


  • Taught by professionals
  • Taught more traditional skills
  • Taught more advanced skills
  • Exposure to more tools and machinery
  • Save money by not having to buy your own tools


  • Higher costs to get started
  • More commitment upfront
  • Rigid learning plan

Read on

Now we will explain all of the benefits and cons in detail and then we will help you decide if you should be a school-taught or self-taught learner.

Self-taught woodworker


  1. Learn on your own schedule
  2. Learn at your own pace
  3. Learn what you want
  4. Cheaper costs upfront
  5. Learn from more people


  1. May not be taught by true professionals
  2. Harder to teach advanced skills
  3. Little feedback


Learn on your own schedule

As a self-taught woodworker you can learn on your own schedule. A good woodworking school that provides all of the benefits listed above will have hands-on, in-person training.

If you are not able to attend in-person, scheduled training then learning on your own may be a viable option.

Learn at your own pace

As a self-taught woodworker, you can learn at the pace that suits your needs and is in line with your lifestyle. If you want to woodwork only once a week or once a month, you can.

Learn what you want

Woodwork schooling will have a curriculum that you will have to follow. Now the school may have different concentrations based off of the different types of woodworking, but even with that you will have to learn a set set of skills, techniques and theory.

If you only want to learn exactly what you are interested in and nothing more or less, then self-taught woodworking may be right for you

Cheaper costs upfront

Teaching yourself how to woodwork will be a lot more cheaper up-front in comparison to going to school. You can buy the basic materials and tools to get started at a much cheaper price than enrolling into school.

If you would like to know more about the tools to get started in woodworking, then you should check out my article “Which woodworking tools should you buy first: First 7 tools”.

Learn from more people

When you use the media and the internet to learn how to woodwork, you are being exposed to a lot more people than if you were learning from a group of teachers in your woodworking school.

You will be exposed to intermediate, advanced, and professionals from around the world. You will be able to learn different techniques and skills from different types of woodworking and many different cultures.

You can also learn more shortcuts or easier way to do things that individual people may have stumbled upon


May not be taught by true professionals

When you are just starting to learn how to woodwork, you may not truly know who is a professional and who is not. You may take advice from the wrong person which is a risk from learning online.

Harder to teach advanced skills

It is harder to learn advanced skills online because you will not get direct support and feedback. I found that learning advanced joinery and design methods to be easier from a woodworking book than from in a video.

A book that I recommend for learning advanced woodworking techniques is Collins Complete Woodworker’s Manual.

Purchase Collins Complete Woodworker’s Manual: Amazon link

I also find that learning skills that are above my skill level, advanced techniques that I am not proficient enough in woodworking to know, very difficult to teach online.

Little feedback

If you go to school to learn woodworking you will get instant feedback from your teachers. This will nip poor technique in the butt at the very beginning.

However, self-taught woodworker may be doing something incorrectly and never know. They may be doing it for years before finally getting feedback. Then, they will have to unlearn the habit that they already created

School-taught woodworker


  1. Taught by professionals
  2. Taught more traditional skills and advanced skills
  3. Exposure to tools and machinery


  1. Less flexibility
  2. Higher initial cost and more time commitment
  3. Smaller pool of teachers


Taught by professionals

Some woodworkers went to school for woodworking. Though schooling, they were taught theory and advanced skills and techniques. You will likely learn things in your woodworking school that is not taught online.

Taught more traditional skills and advanced skills

In woodworking school, you are also taught by professionals who were likely taught by professionals. Woodworking has been around for centuries and their knowledge has trickled down over the years. You will learn all of the skills and techniques that have worked for centuries.

While all schools are not the same, by choosing the right school you can learn from the best of the best.

Moreover, things are built differently now days. Houses are not as sturdy as they used to be, things are not fabricated with the same love and care, and we are in an “Ikea era” where cheap throwaway furniture is preferred.

A lot of woodworking is shifting more into that quick to build style. If you want to learn traditional methods of woodworking, then proper schooling will probably be your best bet

Exposure to tools and machinery

When woodworking at a shop or at a school, you will be exposed to a lot of different tools that you normally wouldn’t have access to. You will be able to learn other forms of woodworking like carving, turning, furniture building, pyrography/wood burning, and scroll sawing objects.


Higher initial cost and more time commitment

Going to school will have a higher initial cost than learning woodworking on your own. However, you will save money in the long run by being able to work with machinery that you normally don’t have access to.

If you take classes, you will need a lot of time commitment that a lot of people may not have to give.

Rigid learning plan

Self taught woodworker can learn what they want. However, woodworkers that go to school will have to follow a strict curriculum.

Smaller pool of teachers

When learning from a school, you will have a set number of teachers available to you.

Now, there is nothing stopping you from learning from online sources outside of your class time.

Typical Self-taught woodworker

You should be self-taught if you..

  • Want to learn at your own schedule and at your own pace
  • Only want to learn what you are interested in
  • Are internet proficient
  • Want to save money
  • Want to learn from as many people and cultures as possible

You should not be self-taught if you..

  • Only want to be taught by true professionals
  • Want to learn advanced, hard to teach, skills
  • Want exposure to as many tools as possible
  • Want consistent feedback

Typical school-taught woodworker

You should go to woodworking school if you..

  • Want to be a serious woodworker
  • Want to learn traditional woodworking skills
  • Want to learn advanced woodworking skills
  • Want exposure to a plethora of tools and machinery

You should not go to woodworking skill if you..

  • Are not sure that you really want to woodwork
  • Can not give the time commitment
  • Don’t want to follow a rigid learning plan
  • Don’t want to learn advanced skills and are just doing it as a fun hobby

How can I start learning woodworking

If you decided that you would like to take the school-taught woodworking route then your job is easy. You will just need to do some research to find a good school within your price range and that teaches the skills that you want to learn.

However, if you have decided that you would like to teach yourself how to woodwork, then you will need find a good learning method. The two general learning methods are the fill-in-the-gaps method and the learn-everything-it-covers method.

The fill in the gaps method is when you know exactly what you want to learn and then you learn those skills.

The learn-everything-it-covers methods is more like the school-taught method. You will learn everything within a course curriculum.

Fill-in-the-gaps method

If you choose to learn based on the fill-in-the-gaps method, you will need to identify exactly what you want to learn. After you know what you need to learn, then you will research YouTube videos, blogs, and online courses to learn those skills.

If you are unsure on what type of woodworker that you want to be, then you should check out my article here.

7 Steps to learn woodworking

  1. Workshop safety
  2. How wood works
  3. How to cut wood
  4. How to join wood
  5. How to glue and clamp wood
  6. Sanding
  7. How to make a box

However, there are some general skills that every woodworker should learn when starting out.

  1. Workshop safety
    • The very first thing that you should learn when woodworking is workshop safety.
    • Safety is essential regardless if you are working into a workshop or if you only have two tools in your garage.
    • Even if you are only working with a handsaw and a drill you will need to learn how to properly use those pieces of equipment and you will need the proper mask.
    • There are a lot of risks with woodworking, some that you may not have ever though of. If you would like to learn more about safety risks and PPE when woodworking, then you should check out my article “How to dress, safety concerns, and PPE for woodworking”.
  2. How wood works
    • The next step to woodworking is to learn how wood works. Wood will expand and contract, warp and bend, and you will need to take into account these characteristics.
    • Also, different types of wood behaves differently. Some may split easier, be harder to cut, and warp and bend more than other wood types.
    • You will also need to learn about end grain and cross grain and how it affects cutting and strength
  3. How to cut wood
    • The method that you go about cutting wood may be different based on the type of woodworking you want to do.
    • If you want to create furniture then you will need to use some form of electrical saw
    • If you want to learn joinery methods then you will likely need to use hand saws
    • You will need to learn carving methods to create specialty items like a guitar or sculpture
  4. How to join wood
    • In most woodworking projects, you will need to join wood in some way or form
    • You can learn traditional joining techniques like dado and mortise and tenon joints, pocket hole joints, and butt joints
  5. How to glue and clamp wood
    • You will need to learn gluing techniques and how it works with surface area and wood grain
    • Afterwards, you will need to learn how to clamp the wood together
  6. Sanding
    • Sanding your product will give it a nice, clean, and fresh look. However, the process of sanding may not be as straight forward as you think.
    • You will need to learn how to sand evenly to prevent dents and crevasses in the wood, go over curves, and which sandpaper to use.
  7. How to make a box
    • The basics of woodworking is knowing how to make a box.
    • You can skip this step if you are more into carving and sculpting.
    • However, if you are into furniture building and building of common objects like toys and bird houses, then you will need to start off mastering the box.

Learn-everything-it-covers method

To learn woodworking by following the learn-everything-it-covers method, you will first need to find out which type of woodworker that you want to be. Are you more into sculpting and wood carving, furniture making, pyrography or wood burning, or do you want make everyday objects like toys and clocks.

After you decide which type of woodwork that you want to be, then you will need to find a very good beginner class. You may find a beginner woodworking series on YouTube or a beginner class on Udemy or Coursera.


In this article we learned about the different ways to learning woodworking. We learned about the pros and cons of being a self-taught and school-taught woodworking along with learning the fill-in-the-gaps vs learn-everything it covers method

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!


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.

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