Tips for Beginning Builders

Here are my top words of wisdom for when you start building your own furniture:

  • Follow the design! If you don’t believe me, read my earlier post about trying to reengineer one of HGTV’s designs. Learn from my mistakes! There are tons of plans out there. HGTV, Pinterest, Ana White. Take your pick; just stick to the plan.
  • Invest in good tools. Absolute essentials include: cordless power drill with driving and drilling bits, tape measure, square, power sander and a saw. You could use a hand saw, but you’ll be extremely limited in what pieces you can make. If you plan on building as a permanent hobby, get a miter saw.
  • Start with small projects and then progressively tackle more sophisticated, advanced designs.
  • Drill, cut, and build in a large, open area, ideally a garage. I was in a small apartment in Boston when I made my first piece (a desk). I literally threw up a shop literally in the middle of my living room (thank you drop clothes for protecting my carpet and couches). It worked, but things kind of came to a standstill while I was in the throes of building.
  • Ask for advice if you get stuck! Google your question, youtube a tutorial on how to predrill pilot holes, ask someone at Lowe’s or Home Depot, throw a comment up on the website you got the design from. Don’t be shy or you could have yourself a whole heap of wood and expensive tools and nothing to show for it.
  • Don’t be discouraged by tiny flaws in your projects. The second piece I ever attempted was a bench for my Master Bedroom. It turned out great – solid as a rock, beautiful shape and color. The only problem is some wood glue dried and I didn’t sand it properly (read: enough). So when I stained it, some discolored blotches are very evident. It bothered me for a while, but now I just love the fact that I built something totally customized for MY bedroom. PS – I don’t even notice the glue areas anymore.
  • Did I mention follow the design? Until you have a few pieces under your belt, don’t try and reengineer the plan. It’s just silly.
  • Always remember to have fun! You’re building your own furniture for crying out loud! That’s quite an accomplishment.

When you’re finished, you can take pride in the fact that a) it’s real wood b) you built it and c) you’ll have stories to share every time you throw a party.

Do you have any other tips for beginner or novice builders? This list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have other tips, post them in the comments section below!

So what’re you waiting for? Get out there and start building!


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