There are plenty of ways that you can learn woodworking, whether you’re a beginner or you want to expand and refine your expertise after participating in the hobby for years. Learn how to find a local class that teaches woodworking, which online resources provide the most helpful woodworking tutorials, and which books can help you learn a variety of woodworking skills. Beginner woodworking classes up to near expert-level classes are out there.
What Type of Woodworking Do You Want to Learn?
There are many different types of woodworking. Maybe you are already drawn to a particular area, or perhaps you would like to take a basic beginner course to explore the various branches of woodworking before you pick one to be your focus. We detail the various types of woodworking below so that you can check with your instructor to see if the course matches your interests before you enroll in a particular class.
Many people want to learn woodworking so that they can create their own custom furniture, from the most basic, functional pieces to complex, artistic works. Furniture making allows the creator to have a hand in every step of the process, from design and wood choice to building and finishing the piece of furniture. For many hobbyists, furniture making is a perfect combination of creative vision and woodworking skills.
Cabinetry is similar to furniture making in that it also has a technical and an artistic side; however, it also has the additional component of precision. Since cabinets are essentially furniture mounted in place, accurate measurements are imperative for custom cabinetry. The finished work should be technically sound, and beautiful too.
While furniture makers and cabinet makers focus on smaller pieces, carpenters specialize in much larger projects, such as framing a house, building a gazebo, or constructing a boat. This is a skilled trade that is focused on function and safety more than design.
Wood Carving (Whittling)
Wood carving involves working wood using a knife, chisel, file, or other tool to create intricate designs. Whittling is generally seen as the simplified form of wood carving, favoring the use of a knife over more advanced tools. Both are essentially decorative in nature.
In contrast to other types of woodworking, woodturning is unique in that it uses a stationary tool to cut wood that is being continuously rotated against the tool by a mechanism called a lathe. This produces cylindrical, symmetrical forms, such as candlesticks, chess pieces, knobs, and baseball bats. Designs can be elaborate and artistic or simplistic and functional.
Pyrography (Wood Burning)
Pyrography, informally known as wood burning or poker-work, is the art of decorating wood with controlled, superficial burns. A heated implement is applied to the surface of the wood to create intricate designs. Pyrography is strictly decorative, not functional.
This type of woodworking uses an electric or pedal-operated scroll saw with a thin blade to cut intricate shapes into thin pieces of wood, especially scroll decorations. Works can remain flat or be assembled into a 3-D structure. This freehand technique requires creativity and skill, making it a popular hobby for woodworkers.
This form of woodworking includes marquetry, a craft in which pieces of veneer are cut into shapes before being laminated to another surface; parquetry, which is similar but includes veneer cut into geometric shapes; and intarsia, a technique used to make mosaics by cutting out shapes in one material to fill them in with another type of wood. These are all decorative arts requiring extensive knowledge of various types of wood material.
Which Wood Working Classes and Resources Suit Your Needs?
When choosing the woodworking course that is right for you, there are a variety of factors to take into consideration, including your schedule, your interests, and your budget. We have broken down the pros and cons of various class formats to aid you in choosing the best option.
Learning Through Local Classes
Pros: The biggest benefit to a local class is the professional help you will receive from your instructor. They can provide you with supervision and feedback, which could be essential to someone just starting out in woodworking. Another pro is that you can save money upfront by using the provided tools when working at the instructor’s shop. You might also meet new people with similar interests and hobbies.
Cons: Instructor-led classes can be more expensive than other options. Mixed level classes might be intimidating for new students, and some women may find male-dominated classes frustrating. Students are required to conform to the group class schedule and pace. Options for specific subjects might be limited in your area, so you will have to factor in travel time. Transporting projects (especially large ones) could also be complicated.
Learning Through Online Resources
Pros: Online classes allow you the freedom to learn at your own pace and according to your own schedule. You do not have to feel intimidated by the prospect of keeping pace with more advanced learners. There is a huge amount of information available online, covering essentially any subject you could want to master. Prices vary, but generally online courses are inexpensive, and there are even free resources available. Many instructors also offer high quality photos and videos, which can be extremely helpful.
Cons: A strictly online program could prove to be too challenging for true beginners, as there would be no one to guide you through any mistakes or hangups. It would be up to you to research important safety precautions, and it could be expensive to purchase all your own tools before you can begin your first project.
Learning Through Books
Pros: Books are a terrific option for many beginning woodworkers because you can find something published on nearly every technique and aspect of woodworking imaginable. A well-designed instructional book will allow you to learn at your own pace and on your own schedule. Books are generally inexpensive compared to classes. Another benefit to a paper book is that you can bring it to your workshop without worrying about internet connection or getting your laptop dirty!
Cons: Static pictures in a book can be confusing to learn new techniques, particularly if you’re just starting out. As with any independent course, you will need to buy your own tools before you can start making anything, and you will not have any professional guidance or supervision to help you master basic concepts and ensure that you’re working safely.
Where Can You Find Woodworking Classes Locally?
- Available classes: On the Woodcraft website, each location has a Classes page that lists the available courses for that particular store. Classes cover a wide variety of woodworking aspects.
- Locations: 34 states. Find a list of all Woodcraft locations here.
- Cost: Between $60 and $300
- Learn more about Woodcraft’s woodworking classes
The Home Depot
- Available classes: This national chain of home improvement stores offers a variety of workshops, including some woodworking workshops. Home Depot also offers specialized workshops for women called Do-It-Herself workshops.
- Locations: Nationwide. Find a local Home Depot store
- Cost: Free
- Learn more about Home Depot’s woodworking classes
Mike Siemsen’s School of Woodworking (Minnesota)
- Available classes: This school offers both private lessons and group classes covering a wide range of woodworking topics and techniques.
- Locations: Minnesota, about 35 miles north of Minneapolis/Saint Paul
- Cost: Private lessons are $60 per hour, and group classes run between $150 and $900 per course.
- Learn more about Mike Siemsen’s woodworking classes
- Available classes: Michaels stores offer seasonal craft classes that sometimes include very basic hobby woodworking classes for beginners.
- Locations: Nationwide. Find a local Michaels store
- Cost: Classes range from free to $45.
- Learn more about Michaels woodworking classes
The Artisan’s Asylum (Massachusetts)
- Available classes: This non-profit makerspace offers classes that focus on specific techniques, tools, or projects.
- Locations: Somerville, Massachusetts
- Cost: Between $100 and $200
- Learn more about Artisan’s Asylum woodworking classes
Note: Hobby Lobby offers many classes but no wood working classes.
What Are Other Options For Learning Woodworking?
If you don’t have anywhere offering classes nearby or if you simply prefer to learn outside of a traditional class setting, there are still plenty of ways that you can start building or improve on your woodworking skills. Take a look at our list below of online and text-based options to learn woodworking.
- Craftsy offers many types of online woodworking classes, many of which are under $20 per class and are streamed in HD. The website also has tips and tricks for beginners.
- Woodworking Online stopped producing new content in March 2010, but the site still has a large archive of free woodworking podcasts available for free.
- Fine Woodworking has both free content and paid member content. It currently costs $34.95 to sign up for an annual membership, which includes access to 1,900 articles, more than 900 on-demand videos, and access to the digital magazine.
- The Naked Woodworker is a 174-minute long video that can be streamed online. It shows beginner woodworkers how to start from scratch, acquire the tools they need, and build their first project. The video comes with a PDF download and is available for $27.
- Pro Woodworking Tips is a website offering free woodworking advice and plans. It also contains links to discounted woodworking tools and materials.
- Paul Sellers has a YouTube channel where he posts free videos offering tips, tricks, and tutorials for full woodworking projects. He also has a website where he publishes articles about woodworking. Finally, he offers membership options and master classes.
- The English Woodworker has a blog, a library of free woodworking videos, and paid premium video content.
- Woodworking Toolkit has free tips and project ideas for woodworkers of all levels.
How to Carve Wood by Richard Bütz addresses all types of carving, including whittling, letter carving, architectural carving, and relief carving. The pictures and diagrams make this book beginner-friendly. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Foolproof Wood Finishing by Teri Masaschi teaches woodworkers how to finish their projects by fixing defects, preparing the wood, and applying color evenly. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
The Woodwright’s Shop by Roy Underhill is a great guide to traditional woodworking that includes over 300 pictures. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Modern Woodworking by Brad Stadford is a complete guide for beginners that details the tools and techniques needed to create beautiful furniture. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Woodworking Basics by Peter Korn is a step-by-step introduction to both woodworking machinery and hand tools. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
The Fine Art of Marquetry by Craig Vandall Stevens allows even a beginner to learn the art of marquetry and to create beautiful wood veneers. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Whether you want beginner woodworking classes or more advanced classes, it’s good to know where to get them.
Learning woodworking as a hobby or a trade can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. It can allow you to use your hands and simple raw materials to create gorgeous furniture or decorative pieces. To choose the right learning method for you, it is important to consider the price of the class or material, your interests, your time constraints, and the format of the class. Once you find the perfect course, you will be carving, sawing, turning, planing, and finishing in no time!