So Evan was kind enough to ask me the following in a comment to a previous post and I thought I'd throw my answer up in a new post because I know it'll be too long for a comment:

So as a fella who wants to learn how to craft furniture, where do you get started? I find that type of carpentry fascinating but don't know where to begin.

*Please let me start with the usual caveat that what worked for me may not necessarily work for you.

Skip to tl;dr

What I Needed Initially

Basically I'd been interested in woodworking for a while and had amassed a small amount of tools but didn't know where to begin. In starting any kind of new venture I've found I need 2 things:

  1. Enough knowledge of the problem domain to feel comfortable that I'm not wasting my time on something
  2. An actual project

I took care of #1 by subscribing to Wood Magazine. It's one of probably 3 main woodworking publications in the US and is targeted at beginners (even though it may not seem it when you first start reading it). Wood Magazine is a great place to start learning the jargon, the steps involved in numerous projects and what kind of tools you may want to initially invest in.

#2 was taken care of when Wood published plans for an entire bedroom set and I suggested to Rebecca that I could build it for us as long as she didn't mind waiting an unknown number of years for the whole thing. (I guess I should add a #3 to the list above: A patient and understanding spouse)

So How Long Did It Take?

Now, it was probably a good 6-8 months of reading before I started tackling anything (but that's because I'm lazy) and luckily I was smart and chose as my first project the smallest part of the bedroom set (the valet). I think it took me that long to finally start because it was so new I felt I hadn't absorbed enough knowledge that I could pull the thing off. I was completely wrong of course because, as with anything, it's the process of doing that will show you how much you know, not the amount of time you've spent studying.

Now, while it took me longer than I thought it would, I did eventually build it - with my own two hands - and I've got to say it's an awesome thing to create something physical after spending so much time pushing bits around.

I learned from every mistake, of which there were lots and what that one completed project did was give me the confidence and the passion to do more.

Then What?

The next thing I did was subscribe to the other two major woodworking mags, Fine Woodworking and Popular Woodworking. If I were to give a quick summary I'd say they're aimed at intermediate and advanced levels respectively, and while initially you may be too intimidated to use what's in them, the skills you'll be shown will widen your perspective, even if you just want to stick with Wood's relatively easy projects.

Branching out and getting these two other magazines were a great idea because, while I'm still planning on building the bedroom set, I've decided to change Wood's plans and try some more advanced concepts I've learned from them.

Oh No, He's Going to Compare It To Programming Isn't He?

What's funny is that the above process is basically the same I use for any new foray into uncharted territory. When I want to learn a new programming language I find it near impossible if I don't have adequate documentation (or a good book) AND a good project. I've read and enjoyed both the ANTLR and Erlang books but have no idea how to really use either of them because I didn't have a project to apply them to. BUT I'm glad I did read them because they've opened my eyes to different ways of doing things that I'd never have been exposed to by just doing web programming.

And as I've read more and gotten to know the community I've found parallel after parallel with the tech industry. From religious wars (power tools vs. hand tools), to development practices (physical vs. virtual prototypes), to tooling (build your own vs. buying them), to yak-shaving (I need a new table saw but I don't have an outlet so rather than just rewire I'll redo the entire shop instead) the similarities are ripe for some good articles that I hope to write soon. Hell, there are woodworkers practicing what you could call Agile methods, they just don't know it!


As usual I've been incredibly long-winded. The tl;dr is: Pick up a Wood Magazine, give it a read and see if it's at all interesting. If so, get a subscription, find a project, get some tools and get started. From there you'll get an idea how serious you want to get and what kind of investment you'll need.

Online Resources

As an aside let me say there's a great online woodworking community that I haven't even scratched the surface of. So far I've found a number of guys who really "get" the online experience and social media (I hate that term). They've got blogs, have or participate in forums and twitter and have videos that not only showcase their projects but are meant to teach the dos (and don'ts) that they've found. Here's a list of the woodworkers I love watching:

I've got lots of others but those are the ones I've been following for a while and really enjoy. I'll probably follow up with some more posts in the future but if you've got any more questions, please let me know.