Three Simple woodworking projects for beginners

1st Project: The Cutting Board

Is a great place for beginner woodworkers to start as it is essentially just a square? A cutting board enables you to get to grips with woodworking, as well as giving newcomers something to quickly show for their skills.

Design: While you might want to try the traditional square if you fancy chancing your arm – feel free to add on a point, or an indentation or two. Simply draw your final design on to the raw wood with a pencil (ideally a carpentry pencil) – but make sure you use a ruler.

While it might be tempting, the typical beginner’s toolset probably won’t be able to cope with curves, so stick to straight lines for now.

The first cut is the deepest: Before making your first cut, be sure to scan your saw’s manual and pay close attention to the safety information within. Woodworking’s a lot of fun, but you could injure yourself so be very careful and think safety first!

Cutting: Once you are happy with the guidelines you’ve sketched in pencil, start cutting out your shape. Smooth the rough edges with some medium-grit sandpaper.

Finisher: Now you’ve sanded everything down, it’s time to prepare your project for its day job. First things first, wipe off any excess wood dust, dirt or grease. Ensure to do this in the direction of the grain to save yourself some hard work. You should be good to go once you’ve applied around 3 or 4 coats.

Maintenance: To get the most from your board, do not put it in your dishwasher. Only wash by hand and give it a fresh coat of finish every three to six months to keep it in tip-top shape.

2nd Project: A Picture Frame

Well done! You’ve now graduated from a single square to several! A picture frame is a next step for a beginner woodworker and you’ll put all the techniques you learnt with your cutting board to great effect.

Prep: Think about where you might put the finished product in your home before you get started. This will determine what size it needs to be and whether or not you need to use a certain type of material so that it blends in with the existing decoration.

Design: As before, we’ll sketch our dimensions directly on to the timber with a carpentry pencil. However long you want it to be – bear in mind that the inside (or short side) of each board should be around an inch smaller than the width or height of the print that’ll sit in it.

Cutting: If you want to be extra fancy, at this stage you can ‘mitre’ the corners by setting your (specialised) saw at around 45 degrees relative to the corners.

Screw or glue? When it comes to putting the frame together, you’ve got a couple of options. Either use a wood glue with an appropriate joiner or use a metal brace and screw in the pieces you want to attach.

If you’ve opted to screw it together, things should be pretty self-explanatory. If you’ve opted to glue, ensure you use enough. Use plenty of it and ram the pieces you want to join as close as possible. You might need some clamps to hold them in place while you hammer the joiners in place.

Weigh the frame down on a flat floor to make sure it sets correctly and let it dry for several hours.

Finishing touches: At this stage, you might want to try staining the wood. Before staining, you will need to make sure it’s nice and clean, and well-sanded down.

What look you’re going for will determine what level of grit you should use, with rougher wood absorbing more stain. If you’ve got any leftover pieces from the cutting stage – use them to test stains out.

If you’ve used a softwood, you might want to also use some wood conditioner to ensure an even spread. If you’re using hardwood – crack on without it, although you might need to do several coats.

3rdProject: A Window Box

Now that you are a master of the basics, it’s time to take things 3D. Window boxes are a great project to undertake, as well as being a brilliant place to keep plants for those without much room to spare.

You will, however, need the following:-

  • Tape Measure

  • Timber boards around a quarter of an inch thick

  • An electric drill

  • Paint Primer

  • Wood screws and a screwdriver

  • Hammer and Nails

  • Wood paint

Prep: Firstly, work out how big your box will need to be. Measure your window and consider how deep it will be in the end.

Materials: If you’re installing the box outside, you’ll want timber that’s suited to withstand the harsh British weather lol, but since you’ll be priming it and painting it – you’ll have a lot of leeway in your selection. If you’re putting it inside, what you choose is pretty much down to your tastes.

Supports: If you’re putting your box outside and are dubious about the strength of your windowsill – it’s a good idea to put in some supports. You can knock these up yourself (although we’d recommend pressure-treated wood), or simply buy a set. These are drilled into your exterior wall and affixed with either concrete or wood screws, but be sure to use a spirit level to avoid a lop-sided fitting.

The build: Firstly, cut the boards that’ll make up the front and rear of your box. Once you’ve got these, cut out the base plank and line up the front panel. Ensure you mark out and drill your pilot holes then use wood screws to secure the two pieces, before repeating the process for the rear piece.

Now we can move on to the side panels. Measure these, but leave a little overhang on the back if you’re using supports. Then, simply screw them in using the method you used for the front and back panels.

The finish: Hey presto the build of your window box is nearly complete, fill in the screw holes with wood filler and once dried, smooth down all your surfaces using sandpaper. If the box is going outside, you’ll want to prime the wood (which primer you’ll use depends on your colour scheme) and leave to dry before painting the box. Again – if you’re installing it outside, we would recommend using exterior paint to ensure the box can stand up to our harsh weather!

Once you’re happy with the box, you can drill it on to your supports, or simply place it wherever you like. The pros recommend drilling a couple of drainage holes and putting a layer of gravel at the bottom. Then you simply add your compost, stick in some plants and job done!

And remember for all your timber supplies speak to the experts at Wood Lane Timber Merchants on 0115 964 0888 or email

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