Humans have forever crafted tools and objects from wood. From simple spears sharpened with rocks to the intricate wood crafts we see today, people are fascinated by wood. At craft shows around the world, wood is a visible and accessible material for many crafters.
Wood crafts today range from simple wood model kits at dollar stores to intricate scrollwork creating beautiful art. No matter what your skill level is, you can quickly begin crafting beautiful toys and doing fun projects with wood.
Tools of the Trade
Knowing a bit about the tools used for wood crafts is an excellent place to begin. If you intend to limit yourself to wood project kits, you may only need carpenter’s glue. But if you want to create more intricate woodworking projects, you will eventually need real tools. The old woodworker’s credo of “Measure twice, cut once” is an excellent concept to keep in mind. Buy a good tape measure and use it.
Basic hand tools
The most common hammer used in wood projects is a standard claw hammer. They have a flat, circular face for bangy-bangy and a clawed back to remove nails. They are relatively inexpensive and available in different weights. It is best to select one that allows you to make a comfortable swing with your hand near the base of the handle.
For small wood projects, a coping saw is a handy tool have. It has a thin blade mounted on a bow, with a handle. The design allows you to make angled and even circular cuts in wood. Other types of hand saws are known as cross-cut saws. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The number of teeth per inch on saw blades determine the fineness of the cut. More teeth per inch will provide a more delicate cut and require less finish sanding. Fewer teeth per inch will make a rougher cut and require additional sanding.
You’ll also want a good, sharp knife, or a razor knife. These often have replaceable blades, allowing you to start each project with a beautiful, sharp blade. Screwdrivers, both Phillips head and slotted, should be in your toolbox, although most basic projects use small finishing nails rather than screws.
As you develop your skills as a wood crafter, your need for different hand tools will broaden. You might invest in a good set of wood chisels, wood files or hasps, hand planers and joiners, or other devices to complete more specific tasks.
Basic power tools
Most craft kits do not require power tools. If you have advanced beyond the basic project kits into cutting and assembling projects from raw wood, you’ll want to add some essential electric or battery-powered tools to your toolbox. These include power saws, sanders, routers, planers, drills, and even some specialty tools like band saws, scroll saws, and table saws.
A start-up toolbox would include a jigsaw, or saber saw, with interchangeable blades for different projects. A saber saw can create straight cuts, angled cuts, or intricate circular cuts.
Another handy saw is the standard circular saw. Although used mostly for straight or angled cuts, an experienced user can craft circular cuts. Because of the blade size, this type of saw is not as versatile as the jigsaw for more intricate cutting. The blade can be angled to create beveled cuts. The blade depth deck has an adjustment allowing for different thicknesses of wood.
A power drill should be added to your toolbox when you move beyond small project kits. Many advanced projects are assembled using pre-drilled holes and screws. Proper construction creates a longer-lasting end product. Having a decent drill will allow you to pre-drill screw holes to keep from splitting wood pieces and having to start over.
The types of power tools you need will depend on the projects you select. As your talent for wood crafts increases, so will your desire for bigger and better power tools. Prepare your spouse now and start setting aside money on a budget line-item for new “toys.”
Wood Crafts Supplies
Required supplies when working with wood are items like sandpaper and crafter’s or carpenter’s glue. These items are relatively inexpensive and are available in many craft stores, hardware or home supply outlets, and department stores.
Sandpaper, rated by the coarseness of the sand used in its construction. Each texture has a specific purpose. Coarse sandpaper is used to remove a lot of the roughness from unfinished projects. It will leave a grooved surface. Finer-grained sandpapers prepare wood surfaces to a state of perfection.
Painter’s rags, or old t-shirts, are handy on any project table, but you should make sure they are lint-free. They can be used to wipe surfaces after sanding, clean up excess glue, or to apply stain to a finished project.
Beginning with necessary supplies, you will soon find yourself immersed in a room full of tools and supplies for your craft. Don’t neglect adequate storage facilities such as drawers and shelves to keep yourself organized.
Types of wood best for crafting
The kind of wood you use for specific projects will vary from project to project. Some plans are well suited to inexpensive plywood or Pine, but others may only feel “right” when done in a more expensive hardwood such as Oak or Maple.
Plywoods are a composite material assembled for strength and durability. It is constructed by layering very thinly sliced wood alternated with pressed wood pulp and using a strong adhesive to bind it together. Plywoods are available with unfinished, unsanded surfaces, and also with finished hardwood surfaces. Unfinished plywoods are excellent for practice. They can be sanded and finished, or painted using spray paints or acrylic-based craft paints
If you are cutting pieces and making simple birdhouse kits for 20 cub scouts, unfinished plywood would be suitable to your purpose. If you are constructing a built-in bookcase for that space between your mantle and the wall, you will want to use plywood with a finished surface and molding or trim on the edges to dress it up.
Pine, cedars, and softwoods
Softwoods are designated “soft” because of their density. They are generally evergreen conifer trees; They are easier to work with than hardwoods and generally more forgiving for a novice wood crafter.
Pine is probably the most common wood used for craft projects. It is available in a variety of lengths and widths from local home supply warehouses and lumber supply retail stores. Pine is classified as a soft wood and is very easy to use.
Cedar lends itself to intricate woodworking projects but must be worked with “wet” and kept oiled on completion to keep it from drying out and cracking. This Cross with intertwined ivy vine, crafted by the author, uses hand-milled ¼” thick Alaskan Yellow Cedar from deadfall harvested in the Tongass Rainforest. The pattern was created and sold by Scroller, Ltd. The piece was made using a Dremel 16” scroll saw with a zero tolerance deck and size 00 pinless blades. Using the stack cutting method means that there are two of these identical pieces in existence.
Oak, Maple, and hardwoods
Hardwoods are denser and more challenging to use. A drawback in using hardwoods such as Oak, Maple, and Ash is that they are more expensive than softwoods.
Hardwoods make lovely material for furniture projects and items that may just become family heirlooms.
You can buy wood by the linear foot, which is a straight line measurement based on the length of the board. Pricing per lineal foot will differ based on the lumber’s width.
Paints, stains, and other finishing products
Whether a project is painted, stained, or left natural will depend on your personal preferences. We won’t have time to cover more than the basics. Many patterns arrive with suggested methods for finishing or painting the project.
Paints — wood is very porous, which means it will absorb paint easily. Unless you are using a basecoat sealer, expect to apply at least two coats of craft paint to your project. Many types of paints are available and suitable for wood crafts.
Stains — Stains are used to bring out the color in wood grains while allowing the beauty of the grain to shine through. But a stain will run and bleed if not adequately protected.
Weather-proofing and finishing a project — If a project is intended for more durable use a weather-proof surface agent should be applied. There are many available, and you should make your choice depending on your intended use of the finished project. For instance, a birdhouse or feeder needs something non-toxic to birds.
Among the most straightforward projects to complete are birdhouses and bird feeders. Many different styles are available as raw project kits, some as inexpensive as a dollar. These kits have adequate instructions, are simple to construct, and typically require only wood glue and a hammer. If you are looking for an afternoon project to complete with your child, these can be perfect.
Once assembled, you can paint them, stain them, or just leave them natural.
Wood model kits requiring basic tools
Local craft stores such as Michael’s, JoAnn’s, and Hobby Lobby generally have a wide variety of wooden project kits. These kits include pre-cut pieces, nails, and usually a small glue tube or packet. You supply the time and the opposable thumbs to assemble them.
The range of different project styles goes from small boats and cars to elaborate jewelry or knick-knack boxes. If you are beginning to work with wood model kits, start with the simple sets and work up to the more complex projects.
Finding wood project patterns is easy. An internet search or a woodcraft magazine from your local supermarket will fill your idea file.
Designs are generally rated based on their complexity. Beginner projects would be suitable for a crafter just starting out. Intermediate patterns are mid-level projects for people with a bit of experience. Advanced and Expert projects should be left until you are proficient with power tools, attention to detail, and have mastered the basics.
You can use wood to construct everything including toys, tools, and furniture. As your skill level increases, your thirst for more extensive and intricate projects will grow.
If you can dream it, you can build it.
Outdoor furniture/complex projects
Adirondack chairs are a favorite on porches and backyards across the entire United States. Drive down any back road through rural America, and you are sure to see them in every color. The Adirondack is so popular because it is easy to make. They also lend themselves to creative genius as seen in this clever adaptation of the basic chair pattern.
The basic hand tools used in wood projects include a hammer, coping saw, wood chisels, planes (for shaving edges and surfaces). Before you start having fun with bangy-bangy and choppy-choppy, it is usually best to practice on some scrap material.
Start with small wooden project kits. If you enjoy working with your hands and building things from wood, it is a natural progression to more intricate projects. While purchasing tools can stress-test your budget at the more advanced levels, wood crafts is a relatively inexpensive hobby to begin.
Featured image from Oriental Trading