Hobby ideas: How to get started with woodworking

If you’re already looking for hobby ideas (for men, women or couples) you’ll know that a hobby is great for relieving stress – hobbies connect you with new people, make you more interesting and they help keep you young by giving your brain a workout – so let’s crack on and explore working with wood, a hobby that is currently enjoying something of a renaissance.

There are hobbies that are pure, time wasting fun, hobbies that make money and hobbies that save you money. Working with wood, making furniture, ornaments and other useful items kills two birds with one stone because it's a hobby that can make you money and also save you money.

Another bonus is that, unlike in the primitive not-so-distant past, working with wood is both men and women. In fact, a browse of YouTube will uncover a multitude of woodworking channels hosted by highly skilled women.

Trends like palette furniture (especially when you consider how pricey wood is in New Zealand) and pocket hole joinery make working with wood an increasingly attractive option for many and, as the School Manager at the Centre for Fine Woodworking Trust in Nelson, Helen Gerry says, “The satisfaction and sense of fulfilment you feel when creating something with your own hands is priceless".

So where do you start?

"Some colleges and schools offer community night classes which have a woodworking courses. They’re a great way to work on your project under the supervision of a teacher, but sometimes the frustration of that is that you spend a lot of time waiting to move onto the next stage or waiting for a free machine."

"You might want to get in touch with your local Guild of Woodworkers and see if you can use their communal workshop, pick their brains and listen to their recommendations. Not everyone is in a position to set up their home workshop or has the knowledge to know what tools and equipment they need. Guilds may also have good contacts for buying good second-hand machinery, timber and hand tools," says Helen.

To begin with, look at setting yourself up with some nice hand tools:

  • A plane;
  • A set of chisels;
  • A saw; and
  • A sharp pencil.

"Timber can be purchased already machined and ready to use, so at this early stage you don't necessarily need to buy any new machinery – although DIY stores now sell all sorts of gadgets and machinery for the home woodworker – pre-loved vintage hand tools are the ones to look out for."

"Good quality, new hand tools are expensive and tend to come from the USA and Canada. Make sure you want to pursue woodworking as a hobby before you spend at least $15,000 on setting up a good home workshop," says Helen.

YouTube offers hundreds of ‘how to’ videos, but there is nothing to compare to having someone show you face-to-face how to hold a hand plane, how to measure properly – not with a thick blunt pencil but with a fine marking knife or pencil, giving you a lesser margin of error.

"Take it slowly. Measure twice, cut once and work with your hands to create something to the best of your ability. Enjoy yourself," says Helen.

The Centre for Fine Woodworking is an independent school of woodworking based in Nelson runs a popular two-week Introduction to Fine Woodworking course, which teaches all the foundation skills for future woodworking projects.

Things you need to know

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