Beginner Questions

Hello all, I’m reaching out to the internet as I can’t find my answers elsewhere.

I have just started woodworking after doing spoon carving for a couple of years and really wanted to make some simple household items and kids toys, before progressing upwards.

I have got one weekend woodworker project book and a kids toy book, but am struggling to translate the cutting list into real life timber supplies. Especially converting imperial to metric.

The wood I’m finding from DIY chains/timber yards is way too thick or not thick enough, the widths aren’t very good and if you can get them custom cut it’s prohibitively expensive.
How do people go about sourcing the right size timber?

I know that I will have to shave it down to final finish but if say I need a oak plank 20mm thick and 200mm wide, I can only find 20mm or 30mm, that seems either no room for play or a lot of wastage.
Also I can’t get the widths over 150mm, and I may need to joint the wood but I can’t afford a table saw or planer thicknesser.

I am probably overthinking all this, but I don’t know where to start and some pointers would be great.
I have watched endless YouTube videos and all the advice is conflicting and I have no clue where to start. It’s frustrating me.

I just want to hide in my shed and make some stuff.

Thank you in advance. I know this is a lot, but I can’t wait to make some beautiful things by hand.
Hope someone can help.

If money is tight, commercial timber suppliers of hardwoods are probably going to be too expensive. Happily there’s enormous amounts of good wood wasted everyday in all sorts of places, particularly building sites of various kinds. I’ve had tons (literally) from such places over the years, including many exotics such as teak, old cherry, afromosia and even rosewood.

This stuff comes in many forms, such as old stairs, bar-tops, skirting & floor boards, chemistry bench tops and even lift shaft linings. Cultivate the friendship of people working in the building trades, especially those who do refurbishing. I’ve not had to pay for wood in 20 years - except with a thank-you piece now and then to those who scavenge on my behalf, as they work.

Tools too are expensive if you go the machine route. But it is possible to do everything with hand tools (humans have done so for centuries before the industrial revolution - and after it). Good hand tools are not cheap but well below the cost of, say, a decent planer-thicknesser or tablesaw. Hand tool working will also teach you a lot more about the wood albeit the making of things is much slower at first.

Avoid TSOs (Tool Shaped Objects) that are dirt cheap but can’t be fettled so aren’t really tools at all. But you don’t have to buy Lie-Nielsen or Veritas either as there are less expensive good hand tools about that just need a bit of initial fettling to work very well indeed. The same applies to machine tools.

Woodworking is not a quick & easy pastime to learn. You need to do an awful lot of reading & watching if you’re not to flounder and be put off. Happily the internet is now chock a-block with free good advice and demos, tool-buying advice and much else. Try Paul Sellers videos for a start. He has various vids showing how to fettle inexpensive tools and how to make many basic yet well-formed things.

There are others outputting vids in a similar vein.


Hello. Thank you for your advice. It’s very helpful.

The Paul Sellers stuff is incredible and exactly what I’m looking for. His woodworking videos are mesmerising.
I’ve even gone eBay hunting for a decent Stanley plane thanks to him.

I’ve also found a reclaimed wood yard just 10minutes from home that is a woodworkers gold mine and I am going to spend many happy hours there.
They even have a bin of stuff for free that’s perfectly decent for small projects to practice on :heart_eyes:

Once again, thank you so much. This is exactly the pointer I needed to help me out. Can’t wait to get stuck in.


Personally I believe that any activity can be greatly improved, accelerated or otherwise made a happier experience if you supplement the essential experience of doing it with a good pre-understanding of what that doing involves. Good information, as with everything else, is key.

Elsewhere I recommend Fine Woodworking website as an exceptionally good source of information - tons and tons of it, organised into all sorts of categories and catering to all sorts of levels of ability or experience in woodworking.

They have a try-it-for-14-days offer, with the option to cancel, pay monthly at $9.99 or yearly for $99.99. This gives access to thousands of well-written articles, hundreds of well-made videos and a ton of other stuff, including digital reads of their magazines going back to the 70s. You can download thousands of well-written & illustrated PDF articles on every WW subject going but the digital magazine issues and videos are streamers - not downloadable.

It was my major source of learning cabinetmaking - albeit initially from only their paper magazine and their once great forum (now moribund) in “the olden days”. :slight_smile: It would be the best “tool” you could buy at this stage in your taking up woodworking; and it’s inexpensive.