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How do I Get Started?

March 17, 2011 |
posted by Ana White
How do I Get Started?

So you want to build your own furniture?  And get exactly what you want?  Potentially saving tons of retail?

You can.  If I can do this, anyone can.
But you will need a little know-how and a few tools to get started. 
I try to keep the tools needed in project plans to a minimum, giving everyone an opportunity to build, but if you have advanced woodworking skills and tools, you can still alter many of the plans to fit your needs.

1. Do your homework.  First and foremost, I recommend just taking some time to build up some confidence and get yourself prepared for success.  And the more you know, the more likely you are to be successful on your first project.  
There is an amazing amount of information and resources available to you through this site. With over 60,000 Facebook Friends that are generous, helpful, smart, and many, just like you use our community to ask questions and find inspiration and answers. Visit our own Community and read through the threads. Read comments on the posts.  Go through our Bragging Board posts. 
In other words, I'm encouraging you to know what you are getting into.

And for those of you who have already been through this process, please add comments to this page to encourage others.  Any tips and tricks also greatly appreciated.

2. Your First Plan.   Once you've built up a little knowledge and some confidence to tackle a project, it's time to pick a plan.  I've created a special section of plans that are perfect for getting started.  Of course, there are hundreds of plans available online, and you can choose anything that you want, I'm just suggesting these plans because they are inexpensive, many people have had success with them, and they require the most basic tools and knowledge. 
Read through the entire plan at least twice, and all comments.  Check out brag post associated with the plan.  Be comfortable with the plan you have choosen to build as your first project.
3.  Go Shopping. The lumber aisle is huge, and everything might look the same.  I highly suggest working with pine or whitewood boards for a first project because these boards are cheap, easy to work with, and readily available.  Plan to paint your first project too, as you have to be more perfect with a stained finish.  Ask an associate to send you to the "whitewood or pine board section".  Also ask where the 1x2, 1x3 and 2x2 furring strips are located (as these boards are the exact same species as the whitewood boards but much much cheaper, but you will need to dig through to find good boards). If you are looking of 2x4s and 2x6s, ask where the studs are.

Choose your boards by pretending that the board is an arrow on a bow, and you are shooting the arrow.  Look down the length of the board to make sure it is straight.  Rotate the board to check all sides.  Inspect the board for cracks or other imperfections.  You may want a rustic finish, so some knots or rough patches are fine - it's the straightness and cracks that you need to discard.

About Boards

I like to use standard width boards, even when we use plywood, because it saves materials and it saves cuts.  Also, your scraps will be useful for other projects.  You'll notice this throughout all of my plans.  But here's the major problem with using dimensional boards . . . the widths can vary depending on where you live.  I live up in Alaska, and most of our lumber is milled in Canada.  Most of the 1x12s I get are 11 1/2" wide, but others say theirs are 11 1/4".  This does matter.  What you need to do is measure the widths of all of your boards and adjust the plans according to your boards (if necessary).  Here is a table of the sizes that I go off of.

  • 1x2 measures 3/4" x 1 1/2"
  • 1x3 measures 3/4" x 2 1/2"
  • 1x4 measures 3/4" x 3 1/2"
  • 1x6 measures 3/4" x 5 1/2"
  • 1x8 measures 3/4" x 7 1/2" or 7 1/4" (noted in plan)
  • 1x10 measures 3/4" x 9 1/2" or 9 1/4" (noted in plan)
  • 1x12 measures 3/4" x 11 1/2" or 11 1/4" (noted in plan)
  • 1x16 measures 3/4" x 15 1/2" - can vary - noted in plan
  • 1x24 measures 3/4" x 23 1/2" - can vary  - noted in plan

For the 1x12, 1x16, and 1x24, I give these measurements because you can rip a standard 48" wide sheet of plywood into 4 1x12s conserving the most material.  You can also get 3 - 1x16s or 2 - 1x24s. As a builder on a budget myself, I get the need to minimize waste and maximize material.

Ask an associate if the store does complimentary cuts.  Take advantage of this for a first project if you don't have access to a saw at home.  If not, you gotta get a saw.

4.  Cutting Boards. Depending on the project, you are going to need a saw.  Instead of splurging on an expensive compound miter saw (start saving, you will want this saw) for the first project, purchase either a jigsaw or a round or circular saw.

Jigsaw.  This is a jigsaw, and it's primarily used for cutting shapes out of wood.  But it could be used to cut straight lines too.  However, a jigsaw is difficult to get precise cuts with.  Jigsaws start at $25. I think a jigsaw is less intimidating than the circular saw.

    • Circular Saw. This is a circular saw.  It is used for making long straight cuts.  It can also be used for making short straight cuts with more precision than a jigsaw.  Circular saws start at $50.  Purchase this saw if you intend to make a lot of plywood cuts.

    • Carpenter's Square. These start at around $5.  Use a square to mark a straight line on your boards so you know where to cut your board.

    • Clamps.  These are awesome if you are working alone.  You can clamp your board to a table, mark the board with the square and then cut it.  They start at around $10.

    • Measuring Tape. Your gonna need a measuring tape.
    • Safety.  Don't forget to purchase safety glasses and hearing protection too.

    Okay, so here's how to cut. Clamp your board down.  Use your square to make sure that the end of the board is square (you'd be surprised at how many boards don't come straight).  If the end is not square, mark it with the square (I like to use mechanical pencils, but any real carpenter will tell you to get a carpenter's pencil  :) ).  Then cut it square, taking great care to cut on one side of the line.  Cut slow.  Respect the saw.  There is no hurry.  Measure the length of your board and make another cut.  One board down!

    5.  Building. So once you've got all of your boards cut, it's time to actually build the piece. Before you begin building, make sure you are working on a clean level surface.  Vacuum any sawdust.  You will be surprised at what the tiniest bit of sawdust can do to your projects.  Make all efforts to keep edges flush.  Be careful.  Go slow.

    There are a couple of different options to joining boards the easy way, but let's start with the absolute most basic and inexpensive - countersinking screws.  You can go here to see me demonstrate how easy this is to do.

    • Drill. You are going to need a drill.  I highly recommend splurging on a good drill - you'll use it for everything from hanging pictures to hanging closet doors, fixing toys to build sheds.  You can save money on a good drill by purchasing a refurbished one (often refurbished drills are brand new and were just part of a kit where another tool had issues) or purchasing a corded drill.

    • Countersink bit. The top part of the bit drills a hole for the screw shaft, the black part drills a hole for the screw head so your screw is hidden under the surface of the wood.  Choose a countersink bit that matches your wood screws.

    • Screws.  Most of the plans will call for 1 1/4" and 2" wood screws.  I like the gold screws for limited budgets, but if you can afford them, self tapping wood screws can eliminate the need for countersinking screws.  You will also need to purchase a drill bit that fits the screw head (expect these to be under $1)
    • How to attach with Screws. So you got your drill, bits, and screws.  Practice drilling a hole with the countersink bit.  Apply pressure and you will notice that the bit drills a small hole for the screw shaft, followed by a larger hole for the screw head.  With a countersink bit, take great care to keep the drill positioned at the same angle - busting a countersink bit is easy to do.

    • Pocket Holes. Okay, so you are also going to read about pocket holes on this site, most often referred to the Kreg Jig.  The image above is a Kreg Jig, starting price of $20.  You can use the Kreg Jig to build just about everything, and I highly recommend using it as your preferred joining technique.  However, if you can afford it, I highly recommend spending $100 for the full size Kreg Jig.  That's why I'm recommending for the very first project, you just stick with a countersink bit, and then when you find out you love building stuff, you can buy the Kreg Jig.  You will still use your inexpensive countersink bits here and there, so your investment in them is not lost.
    • Building 101. Mark out the joints on both sides of the joint on the board.  Predrill your holes with the countersink bit.  You most likely will only need to predrill in the first board, and your screws will not split the second board, but do some practicing to make sure.  Some boards are drier than others, thus splitting easier.  Insert the screw into the predrilled hole, apple glue, and line up the two boards to join.  Don't worry about getting the entire joint precise, you can rotate the board after you get the first screw in.  Screw it together!

    • Nails. Some of the plans might call for finish nails.  If you don't have a nailer, a hammer and individual nails as shown above will do the trick.  Just make sure your hammer has a smooth head.  Most plans call for 1 1/4" and 2" finish nails.  Always use glue with nails.

    • Nail Punch.  This one is $3.  It's a good idea to use this to get the nail to go below the surface of the wood.  That way you can fill the hole with wood filler and you will never know there is a nail in there.
    • Hammer.  Don't forget your hammer.  The start at around $6.
    • Needle Nosed Pliers. It's good to have these around just in case a nail goes the wrong way and you can't get it out with the hammer.  Don't try and cut the end off, you will never get it close enough to the wood.  You can try backing the nail out with the hammer.  If that doesn't work, grap the very tip of the nail (the sharp point) and wiggle the nail in all directions.  The nail should break off flush with the wood.  Hopefully, you won't encounter this on a first project, but for $3, it's good to have a pair of needle nosed pliers around.

    • Wood Glue.  You will need to use glue for all nail joints.  For unfinished wood, I love Elmer's glue.  If your wood has been treated or painted, you will need to use a different type of glue for treated surfaces.  Something like Gorilla glue.  Oh, and be careful when applying glue on stained projects - areas that have glue dried to it won't take stain!
    • Nailing. We most commonly nail pieces that are low use or parts of pieces that are low use.  I like to build the box with screws, then nail the trim boards on.  Screws are more difficult to disguise but stronger than nails.

    Finishing.  Finishing is likely the par that you are already good at and don't need a ton of help.  The most important part of finishing is preparation.

    • Wood Filler. The thing about wood filler is you can't let it dry out, so DO NOT leave the lid open.  And also, it may say stainable, but in my experience, it doesn't stain the exact color.  You are better off going with wood filler color matched to your stain (available in the stain aisle).  Overfill all holes with wood filler because it tends to shrink when dry.  I like to apply two coats of wood filler.  I use a putty knife (less than $1 for a plastic one) but for years, just used my fingers.

    • Sanding.  A hand sander is a good workout and can be effective.  This one is less than $5.  I use 120 grit sandpaper and sand only in the direction of the wood.  Sand all joints so that the wood filler disappears.  Sand any rough patches or differences in joints.  After you finish sanding, vacuum the project and the entire work area.  Wipe the project clean with a damp cloth - if you have sanding residue, the paint won't stick to these places.
    • Primer.  Primer is the bridge between paint and wood.  It seals the wood, preventing your piece from "yellowing" (if it's white) and also makes the paint "stick" to the wood.  I like to use spray on primer.
    • Paint.  I <3 Flat Paint.  I know you are going to read everywhere to use high gloss enamel cabinet paint, but here's what I've discovered in my years of painting furniture.  It's better to layer paint.  That way a scratch doesn't peel off a huge section.  And flat paint dries well.  And it's thin, so it will allow some of your wood grain to show through.  Just put enough layers on until you are satisfied with the color.  You can mix different colors for added depth.  Also, with flat paint, I find you don't need to sand as much between coats, but it's never a bad idea to sand between coats.  TIP: Buy some ooops paint for a few bucks to save on your first project.  The paint counter might even be kind enough to retint it for you  :)  Brush in the direction of the wood.  Oh, spray paint is marvelous too!
    • Easy Distressed Finish. For an easy distressed finish, sand edges of the piece with your hand sander.  You can then apply a stain or glaze over the paint to stain any exposed wood.
    • Top Coat. If you used flat paint, you will need to add a top coat to seal the deal.  I like to use spray on top coat.  Top coats are just clear paint.
    • Note About Board Widths - Measure you board widths first, board widths can vary up to half an inch.  I use the widest possible widths - 1/2 less than the name.  For example, a 1x6 would be 5 1/2" wide.

    Good luck with your first project!

    I needed a more lightweight drill too

    In order to be able to control better and feel more comfortable with my tools, I bought a 12v impact driver and drill. It's way smaller to handle than our 18v dewalt. Got a Makita special buy package from HD for 150$, with a nice case, charger, two batteries, both drills/drivers and a case of all my basic bits and such I will need for my kind of projects. No more rummaging through my husband's toolboxes :) I made the restaurant high chair last night for my youngest daughter and it was a cinch! Best part too is that the impact driver has that function where you just pull the chuck forwards, drop your bit in (as long as it has a groove in it), let go of the chuck and your ready to go!! WAY easier than my hubby's dewalt which often gets stuck in the lock position or if I didn't tighten enough it would come loose very easily. Next time you go to the big box store I would recommend checking out those smaller drills, as a woman, I think they are fantastic! :)

    posted by Milca (not verified) | on Mon, 2012-04-16 19:59
    claydowling's picture

    Drill alternative

    When driving screws with a drill I tend to use both hands, one to align it and pull the trigger, the other on the back end of the drill to hold it down. I don't particularly like a drill for driving screws though.

    What works better for me, with less stripping and less effort on my part, is a brace and bit. You can buy a driver for it that accepts hex head bits. I almost never strip a screw and I've got a lot more torque to get the screw into the wood. A brace is a bit expensive to buy new, but they cost about $10 used. Just picked one up at an estate sale yesterday for $5.

    The downside is that there are some confined spaces where you can't use a brace to drive screws, so you'll have to stick with your drill. But often enough you'll be able to use the brace and bit, and that will reduce the wear and tear on your body.

    posted by claydowling | on Mon, 2011-08-08 07:00

    dress-up carousel

    I would love to see a plan to build a dress-up carousel like this one:


    I love that it rotates and has a mirror. I would change it to add more hooks and less shelving, since shoes and other accessories can be stored in other ways. I have no idea to make the turning part at the bottom. Is it hard? Thanks!

    posted by Diana (not verified) | on Thu, 2011-08-18 11:05
    biz_kid1's picture

    Project Suggestions in the Community Forum

    You can suggest ideas here: http://ana-white.com/community/designing-and-using-plans/project-suggest...

    But there is one already out there that is similar here: http://ana-white.com/2011/03/rotating-teen-storage-unit
    Just make the base circular and make your shelves circular!

    posted by biz_kid1 | on Thu, 2011-08-18 11:11


    I cannot seem to find your how-to section and would love the extra help. Where can I find that?

    Thank you!

    posted by Emilio (not verified) | on Thu, 2011-08-25 15:56
    claydowling's picture

    Front Page

    There's a brown box in the center column labeled How To. Myself, I'd prefer it in the menu at the top of the page, but it's Ana's site and she knows a lot more about running a big site than I do.

    posted by claydowling | on Fri, 2011-08-26 07:42

    I like your style

    I like what you have going here. with 41 yrs experience in all phases of building I would like be of service with answers to questions and problems your readers might have. Looking to be of service since I've retired.

    Herbert Brown Skype: herbert.brown60

    Learn Carpentry and wood working

    posted by herbie47 | on Fri, 2011-08-26 16:17

    How do I get started

    Herbie, I'm sure you could also be a lot of help on Ana's Facebook page. There are lots of questions there. Thanks for offering to help!

    posted by Dolores (not verified) | on Fri, 2011-08-26 19:31
    luis cano's picture

    i had no idea

    i had no idea that squares were only $5... dang! such a useful tool!

    posted by luis cano | on Tue, 2011-08-30 18:53


    Me and my husband is planning to build our own house, painting it on our own without asking help from others. This could be very useful for us and i'm going to share this to my husband since we don't have any idea on how to start building our house.

    posted by Male Waxing (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-09-19 20:32

    Very interesting tool that

    Very interesting tool that everyone should have at home. Basically, those tools are needed in repairing some minor house problems. I will be going to note this one and buy it on hardware.

    short term housing

    posted by Edward Huffman (not verified) | on Wed, 2011-09-21 04:37

    Kreg Jig

    Hey all,

    So glad that I found this site. There are so many great ideas and resources here! I am just starting out in regards to furniture building and stumbled across the site while looking for plans for a craft table that I intend to build for my wife for Christmas. I had a couple questions regarding tools.

    Question #1: I see that several of the plans call for pocket hole joinery with the Kreg Jig system. I had trouble finding this locally and will have to buy this online. I was just wanted to know if I should purchase the K4 master system or just the K4 pocket hole jig. The master system is about $50 more...will it be a worthwhile investment? Or, should I skip the pocket holes all together and use an alternative way to join the pieces together? I do plan on doing some custom shelves and other small projects in the future...

    Question #2: I already have a really good Makita circular saw. Do you think that I could make due with just this for most of the projects on the site? Of course I would love to have a table saw, mitre saw, etc...however, I don't currently have the room to keep all these tools. My major fear of just using the circular saw is that my cuts won't be the straightest (especially when doing plywood rips). Just looking for some advice before I head out and spend more money!!! :)

    Thanks in advance for any advice given. I look forward to spending more time on the site!

    posted by Cory B (not verified) | on Tue, 2011-11-15 12:45
    claydowling's picture

    Tools to buy

    The circular saw will be fine. A table saw to handle full sheets of plywood is really large and really expensive. You can make a circular saw cutting jig (google is your friend) that will help make cuts much easier. I also just built a track saw jig for my circular saw. A little more advanced, but worth the trouble.

    As to the kreg jig, I wouldn't buy the really big set. A two-hole version with the kreg clamp will probably get you through. Not that the big set isn't nice, but minimize your outlay at the start to see if this is something you're going to stick with.

    You might also consider checking out some books on hand tool usage. I got a lot of value out of Hand Tool Essentials, and I'm currently enjoying The Anarchist's Toolchest. The reason to look at hand tools is that they cost less and take up less space. There are also a number of operations which are easier using hand tools than power tools.

    posted by claydowling | on Tue, 2011-11-15 13:36

    Tools to Buy


    Thanks very much for the advice. You brought up some good points to think about. I have decided to take it slow and only buy the smaller Kreg kit to start. I can always add more tools later. I am severely limited with space right now anyway (I only have a small 8x10 storage shed) so it wouldn't make sense to go out and buy a bunch of tools right away anyway. I think with my circular saw, drill, and measuring tools I have plenty to get started. I will just add things as I need them (like the kreg jig). I did some research on how to make a track saw jig for my circular saw and was surprised at how simple it is to make. That is exactly what I needed! Thanks!

    Also, thanks very much for the book advice. I have put them on my Christmas list and they will be great stocking stuffers for myself! :)

    Thanks again.

    posted by Cory B (not verified) | on Tue, 2011-11-15 17:43


    Thank you for creating this interesting website! I've decided to renovate my house and I can't afford to pay a remodeling company so I've decided to do it by myself and your furniture projects are perfect for me. I've already painted the walls and did some furniture pieces for my bedroom. I have a friend who works for the rubbish removal worcester ma and he helped me to get rid of trash. I still have to do a lot of things but I am very enthusiastic and confident that I can do a great job.

    posted by crazysony | on Tue, 2011-11-22 11:40

    Work table

    What's your recommendation for a beginnrr work table?

    posted by Nikhiltaparia | on Tue, 2011-11-22 23:46
    claydowling's picture

    Starter table/workbench

    Your first time, it's probably sufficient to use an old door over some saw horses. I built a nice bathroom vanity using just a door on saw horses.

    If you're going to stick with this, there are other options you might want to consider. There are a lot of good and simple workbench plans out there. If you look at Fine Woodworking and Startwoodworking.com, they have some very nice and simple plans. Popular Woodworking has some really beautiful plans, but theirs are more serious plans for somebody really going into woodworking in a big way.

    If you want something very sturdy and cheap to build, try searching for something called a Torsion Box workbench. They are very stiff, don't take a lot of skill or time to build, and are usually quite cheap. If I ever decide to replace my bench, there's a good chance it will be a torsion box.

    posted by claydowling | on Mon, 2011-12-05 13:40

    Thank u. Very helpful

    Thank u. Very helpful

    posted by Guest (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-12-05 21:07
    charmed1felicia's picture

    love this site!

    Gathering my necessaries!!! Cant wait to get started !Kids bench first I think!


    posted by charmed1felicia | on Mon, 2011-12-05 13:15

    I am just getting started,

    I am just getting started, and unsure about which saw to purchase? Can you tell me the difference between a circular saw and a miter saw? And what the limitations are of each. Thanks you so much for you help...I just love this site!!

    posted by Guest (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-01-05 15:34
    WhimSea.nSb's picture

    Making the cut? Any suggestions??


    I'm new to Ana's blog and there is a lot of information here! Great and inspiring information, but a LOT of it.
    It looks like the community is very involved here and I am really hoping one of you can point me in the right direction!

    Is there a specific blog entry to show the best way to cut the boards with a circular saw? Also, the "pre-saw" materials and the correct way to use them, such as where to place the clamps when cutting a long piece of wood?

    I'm really excited to get started moving from just refinishing furniture to actually building the pieces from scratch. Just need a bit of education.

    Any advice is much appreciated!

    posted by WhimSea.nSb | on Sun, 2012-01-15 03:02
    claydowling's picture

    Youtube is your friend

    Youtube is full of good videos on woodworking. Additionally, a PBS show called The Woodwright Shop has lots of good informational videos for anything to do with hand tools, and all of their episodes are online. While hand tool work might seem antiquated, the truth is that most of what you're going to do with power tools uses techniques very similar to hand tools. Everything hand tool users do to increase accuracy applies to power tools as well.

    posted by claydowling | on Sun, 2012-01-15 08:12
    deltaechobravo's picture

    Observation on Drills

    Howdy folks,
    Something I've just run into but hadn't thought all the way through is that my corded Dewalt is a Drill. It was a lower end model with variable speed and a keyless chuck, I got it in sale, and it has been great for many years. And now I'm looking into actually building stuff. The problem is that it is really for drilling only...not driving. While giving my shiny new Kreg jig a whirl I stripped right through the pine base into which I was screwing. I knew it was a possibility when I started, because I noticed that mine didn't have a clutch, but it was really easy to strip it out.

    This post is meant only as a word of warning. If you are buying a new drill with the intention of driving screws in addition to drilling holes, I recommend making sure it has a clutch that will disengage the drill once the set resistance is met.

    In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

    posted by deltaechobravo | on Mon, 2012-01-16 21:01


    I JUST found your website. I was admiring a set of pottery barn twin over full size bunk beds and searched google. Holy cow, you are an inspiration! I am looking forward to trying your projects with the hope of building the bunk beds for my sons' large bedroom. Hoooray!

    posted by sayuri (not verified) | on Sun, 2012-02-19 13:04


    Thanks Ana

    posted by shyrozi | on Tue, 2012-02-21 03:41

    Circular Saws

    I have a question about saws.. I am back where Ana started out, with a serious fear of power tools! I have never used a saw of any sort, my dad always had all of them, circular, table, jig..(he built our home himself) but I have never used one.

    If I were to go out and purchase a circular saw like the one that was suggested, am I able to learn to use it myself? Or should I be finding someone to give me a crash course?

    This is the only thing stopping me from getting started! I don't want to go spend $50 on a saw only to be afraid of it and never make any progress! :(

    posted by JulieBuilds (not verified) | on Fri, 2012-02-24 05:20
    claydowling's picture

    Saw selection

    The first question to ask is do you have a use for a circular saw? They're essential if you're going to work with plywood or MDF, but there's no particular reason you need to use either of those materials. If you pick up a basic text on woodworking with hand tools, you can easily build large panels out of solid wood and never burn a single electron.

    I built Ariel's Coffee Table, which includes a two foot wide top of solid wood, using hand tools.

    My current favorite text is The Essential Woodworker. Fair warning that you shouldn't look for this title on Amazon: they sell one, but it's expensive and out of print, and all known copies of that edition are reputed to smell bad.

    posted by claydowling | on Fri, 2012-02-24 07:49

    Circular Saws..

    Yes, I think I will need to use one. Most of the projects that I'm looking to do are the patio furniture and indoor tables and I can't see myself sawing everything by hand.

    So, the question is - can I learn to use this saw myself, or should I have someone physically teach me?

    posted by JulieBuilds (not verified) | on Mon, 2012-02-27 09:30
    claydowling's picture

    Learning to use the saws

    I had somebody show me the first time how to use the circular saw. You could probably work it out on your own, but for optimal finger count, having somebody show you is better.

    Speaking from experience, you'll find using hand saws less tiring than the circular saw. Circular saws are heavy. Hand saws are not. A sharp hand saw also works quickly and doesn't take a lot of effort (honestly, you're not pushing down on the saw). Cutting with a relatively fine saw in hard maple, I advance about 1/2" inch with each stroke. That's about seven strokes to get through a 2x4. The saw you'd buy at Lowes has courser teeth, and you'll be sawing softer wood.

    posted by claydowling | on Mon, 2012-02-27 09:51

    Circular Saw

    Thanks Clay!

    posted by JulieBuilds (not verified) | on Mon, 2012-02-27 10:02
    solomonson's picture

    claydowling, you are my

    claydowling, you are my hero!
    Question, if anyone ever sees this: For the Farmhouse Table plans (http://ana-white.com/2009/12/plans-farmhouse-table-knock-off-of.html), Ana says "Notch out boards A, the Outside Legs, as shown above. If you do not know how to notch out boards, watch me notch the boards out for my table in my HOW-TO section."

    Can anyone point me to this video?


    posted by solomonson | on Tue, 2012-03-27 22:35

    Shopping List

    Thanks for this post! I know we have a few of these items hanging out at home (either mine or the housemate's), but it's so much nicer to have a list I can use to mark things off. You've inspired me to prowl Cragislist for power tools. :D


    posted by Roxxy G. (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-02-29 16:51

    I just bought the Kreg jig

    I just bought the Kreg jig jr..I'm so excited

    posted by Christina Hall Hasemann (not verified) | on Sat, 2012-03-10 21:54

    Just a heads up, I go to

    Just a heads up, I go to school and learn about this everyday but I was taught if you have a nail or staple stuck in the wood you are supposed to use End Nips (because of the leverage) or Vice Grips. Needle Nose Pliers are meant for reaching into narrow spaces. Anyway sorry if that was mean and I love your site!

    posted by Guest (not verified) | on Tue, 2012-03-20 19:37
    WannaBeCrafty's picture

    Bench Clamps

    Hi, I am interested in purchasing a bench clamp but I'm not sure what size or model to go with or even what the difference is between a swivel vise vs. a cross slide vise. I don't know if I'm correct in my thinking here but I imagine that a swivel vise would be more versatile than a cross slide vise. As for the size, I'm not sure which would be the most practical for the projects I'd like to take up. Would it be practical to go with a 6" just to be sure that it will be able to hold everything I could possibly want it for?

    posted by WannaBeCrafty | on Mon, 2012-04-02 23:49
    claydowling's picture

    Vise choices

    If you're looking at vices, I'm assuming that you've built a bench already? If you haven't, start there. You can probably find a good book on the subject at your library, and if not, you can definitely find them at a book store on online. There are a wide variety of benches you can build, and the type of bench, as well as the kind of work you do, will influence the kind of bench you want.

    Ana has carefully designed her pieces so you don't need a vise. Not that they aren't useful, but they aren't essential. I didn't want to spend big money for something I only used occasionally, so I built my own. Hopefully, this link will take you to the right place: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=192166037461757&set=a.1335347166...

    posted by claydowling | on Tue, 2012-04-03 04:35

    Captain's Bed

    WOW!!!! I have been tossing around ideas for both my son's rooms,(ages 13 and 14) because growing spurts are causing them to out grow their separated bunk beds. I googled "captain's bed ideas", clicked on your site and I was so impressed with your site, your talent and your story, I felt moved to let you know you have inspired me to want to learn how to use power tools and build things myself. I am thinking I could get the materials, take them to my dad's shop and the two of us could work together as he teaches me how to use his stuff. :+) My husband is not much of a carpenter. He is a veteran Lt. Firefighter and a part-time welder, thus preferring to work with metal, pipe and such. Soooo..... I will be getting back with you all to let you know how this venture progresses. Thanks so much for the inspiration!!!


    posted by cmhughes | on Wed, 2012-04-11 15:00

    Hi! :) I want to know what

    Hi! :)
    I want to know what kind of wood do you use for outside projects?

    posted by AlexE (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-05-09 10:27

    It's so expensive to get started :(

    I went to Lowes dot com and checked all the items listed above. I got a total cost of over $500! I know these items definitely pay for themselves with a few projects but is there any way I can pare this list down? I don't want to make such a hefty investment and realize it's not working for me.

    These are the prices I got:

    1. Cutting Board $50
    2. Jigsaw $35
    3. Circular Saw $40
    4. Carpenter Square $5
    5. Clamp $1
    6. Measuring Tape $10
    7. Safety Glasses $6
    8. Hearing Protection $20
    9. Drill $160
    10.Full size Kreg Jig $139

    12-18 $30 Nail Punch,Hammer,Needle Nosed Pliers,Wood Glue, Countersink Bit, Screws,Wood Filler

    Total =$556

    posted by Sidra (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-05-09 21:01

    While kreg jig is really

    While kreg jig is really nice to have, it is not necessary. It is convenient for sure. But if you have countersink bits you'll be fine. Conversely, I have a kreg jig (not the full size, btw) and have never purchased countersink bits.

    A drill doesn't need to be that expensive. Mine was around $70 I think. A Ryobi 18v cordless. Or you could by a corded one for probably less.

    And a jigsaw, while handy again, is only necessary if you're going to be cutting shapes out of your boards. Usually for decorative stuff. So let that one go for a while.

    Hearing protection? I use cheapo earplugs.

    Cutting board? Not sure what that is. Don't have one. Other than the one I chop vegetables on in my kitchen.

    I started out by spending $50-$100 on tools once a month. I would borrow tools from neighbors/friends/family. Every project I attempt I try to purchase a new tool. It is expensive to get everything all at once. But start small. And build your toolbox as you go. Borrow what you can. Save up for others. Start with simple projects that need few tools. Go slow. Then you'll discover if this is the hobby for you and you want invest more in it.

    posted by Maren (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-05-09 22:28

    $160 Drill?

    I agree with Maren.

    I just recently started out, and found that my cordless 19v Craftsman (I think I paid $80 a few years back) strained to drive screws into wood. My $40 Ryobi (corded) does the trick.

    And most importantly, I find that borrowing from my family works best. I cannot justify the purchase of a compound miter saw or a belt sander just yet with the few projects already completed. But borrowing those tools (or the non-electric version of the former) is helpful.

    Having said all that, however, I'm a fan of the Kreg Jig and have found uses for it as soon as I took it out of the box. I did get the full version, but have found that the main jig and the included clamp seem to be the most important parts. I haven't yet used the pocket jig.

    posted by StNY (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-05-10 10:38

    kreg jig

    Do you recommend the mini kreg jig, kreg jig jr, or $100 kreg jig? I am just starting out building an end table, then hopefully moving up to a coffee table, etc. I can borrow most tools from family, but no one seems to have heard of a kreg jig. Trying to not spend too much on tools (I am also a college student, and live in an apartment, so do not need to have a bunch of tools laying around when I am doing DIYing). Going to try to follow clay dowlings advice and try to use a hand saw and such. It sounds like most people prefer using the kreg jig over countersinking. Thanks in advance!

    posted by jrob317 | on Wed, 2012-05-30 22:03

    Free Kreg Pocket-Hole Screw Kit with Kreg Jig Master Purchase

    Just wanted to share: Through June 30, 2012, get a free Kreg pocket-hole screw kit (currently $22.51 value) when you purchase a Kreg jig master system shipped and sold by Amazon.com. In order to receive the free item, simply click the check boxes next to both products and add them to your cart. The amount of the pocket-hole screw kit will automatically be deducted at checkout.


    posted by Kelly Gibson (not verified) | on Fri, 2012-06-29 08:07

    Can't wait to try your tips!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm a teacher, so people who are willing to freely dispense learning in a comprehensive way are so appreciated.

    posted by Christy Karnatz (not verified) | on Sun, 2012-07-22 16:39

    Table Top

    When building a table, how to you make sure you have a flat surface when the table is complete?

    posted by A_LOTA_NOTA (not verified) | on Sun, 2012-08-12 19:34

    newbie getting into trouble with drilling

    Dear Ana

    I really enjoy skimming/reading/getting inspired with tons of ideas
    in your site, and month ago decided to have my own kreg jig.

    it works as promised, but (with capital letters)....

    I found difficult to drive screws onto pocket holes.... I use cheap with no speed controller drill (corded drill), therefore successfully destroy the screw head (and my phillips head to).

    for that I'm craving for solutions...
    1. is it my drill? (do I have to invest top of line cordless dril/scredriver)
    2. do I have to consider "impact" function on the drill, does it will ease the job? since pushing screws onto "angled" pocket holes a bit tricky
    3. or is it just my techniques ?

    sure I need tons of practices (I'm not even start any of your DIY plan yet... hiks)


    posted by ronggo (not verified) | on Sun, 2012-09-09 03:41
    claydowling's picture

    Maybe drill

    A really cheap drill might not have any speed control, but most do, even the super-cheap drill I bought at Meijer (a regional grocery chain that looks like what a Super Walmart wants to be when it grows up). Most base speed on how far the trigger/switch is pulled. Might just want to work a little slower. The drill I bought at the grocery store twenty years ago as a starving college student still works, and because of it's light weight is still my go-to drill. I have two bigger and better drills, but that's the one I usually reach for. It is not substantially different from the drills my father purchased when he was the same age.

    Don't get an impact drill unless you'll be drilling into concrete. There's no advantage and quite a few disadvantages.

    What's probably happening is that your bits are slipping in the screw heads. More downward pressure and slower speeds will help that. I hate the amount of pressure I have to use though, and I still strip screw heads and destroy bits. That's why I use a $10 brace that I bought off e-bay, and the 1/4" hex driver from Lee Valley: http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=32300&cat=1,180,42337&ap=1 Now I don't strip screw heads and the screws go in a lot easier with a lot less pressure from me. Some of the best money I've spent on a tool, because I use it everywhere.

    posted by claydowling | on Sun, 2012-09-09 05:29

    Kreg Jig

    Hello! I'm new to your site, and I'm loving it. I am considering buying a Kreg Jig, and was wondering if you use it to make flat joints, for a table top for example (four or five boards joined on their short sides)... and if so, do you glue?


    posted by Dan H (not verified) | on Tue, 2012-10-02 16:05

    A thought on screws . . .

    I have switched to using "square drive" screws instead of Phillips screws. These are screws with a square hoe in the end instead of the cross. It does require a different "blade" but, since I use an electric drill to drive my screws, I us an adapter that lets me put hexagonal bits in it which means I can use a flat-blade, Phillips, square, or even a star shaped bit as needed. The thing is, the square drive screws don't strip out like the Phillips screws do.

    If you have a "home store" (e.g. Lowes, Home Depot) you can probably get a box of these in the size you need. Or you get a Rockler or Woodcraft catalog, you can order the square drive screws. Usually a box of them will come with the right bit, so all yu need is the adapter, which you can get with a set of sockets and/or other bits.

    Congratulations on your book. (Don't you just love the smell of freshly cut wood? ;-)

    posted by Ralph Wilson (not verified) | on Mon, 2012-10-08 04:58

    Glue with Nail

    What do you mean when you say, "always use glue with nails"? Am i missing something?

    posted by apriluhzta (not verified) | on Tue, 2012-10-23 11:29

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