Woodworking is a rewarding hobby that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Good projects for beginners will allow you to practice essential basic skills, use common tools that every woodworker needs, and will result in projects you are happy to use or give as gifts. The three projects below range from the very simple to the slightly more complex.
A cutting board is one of the most simple woodworking projects, yet it provides you with a valuable kitchen tool. To make a cutting board, choose a piece of tightly grained wood, such as maple, beech or birch. This is the time to splurge a little on a beautiful piece of wood, if necessary. Cut the board to the desired size and shape. A "juice groove" comes in handy when cutting meat: use a router to create grooves near the inside edges of the cutting board. If you would like to be able to hang the finished board, create a hanging groove on the back of the board. To finish the board, wipe it with a damp cloth to raise the grain, and allow it to dry for 24 hours. Sand until smooth. Finish the board with food grade mineral oil; do not use vegetable oils or other cooking oil. Apply the oil liberally and allow it to sink into the wood for several hours, then wipe away the excess. For best results oil the board daily for 7 days, then once a week for four additional weeks, and then monthly thereafter. Your handmade cutting board will last for years.
A potting tray is used when you do not have a dedicated potting table. It can protect a picnic table or other outdoor surface used during potting. It is a good beginning woodworking project because it requires minimal tools and only simple construction. A potting tray begins with a base that is 24 inches by 16.5 inches by 1 inch. You can construct this from a single piece of wood, or by joining pieces. Cedar is an excellent wood for outdoor projects. For the back, you will need a piece of wood that is 24 inches by 6 inches by 1 inch. For the side pieces, you will need two boards that are 15.75 inches by 6 inches by 1 inch. Into these side pieces, you will cut handles. The handle should be centered on the side boards, .75 inch down from the top, 1.25 inches deep and at least 4 inches wide. Carefully sand all of the pieces of wood. Attach the back to the base using glue and 1.5 by 8 flat-head wood screws. Next, attach the side pieces, again using glue and wood screws. Finish as desired. You now have a potting tray, closed on the back, handles on either side, and open on the front for ease of use. The same construction method could be used to make a smaller closed tray to carry food and supplies outdoors for grilling or picnics.
A picnic table is surprisingly easy to construct, although you will be working with much larger pieces of wood. You will gain experience working with mitered pieces of wood when you build a picnic table. The materials you will need to construct a picnic table include 22 meters of 90-inch by 35-inch treated pine, eight 10 mm galvanized coach bolts that are 90mm long and include nuts and washers, and about 500 grams of 75mm galvanized nails. The picnic table, when viewed from the side, will have the shape of a flattened letter A: the flattened top represents the top of the table, the sloping sides represent the angled supports for the top of the table, and the horizontal bar represents the seats. Complete instructions for building the picnic table are available at the BuildEazy website; see References.