Carpentry Basics

A clamp holding two wood boards.

If you’re looking to get into the carpentry or woodworking fields as a hobby or for DIY projects around the house, you’re in luck! We’ve rounded up all the must-know information surrounding carpentry basics. Keep reading to find out what skills and tools you’ll need to get started!

Practice With Drilling

A drill bit in wood with dust around it.

The first skill you’ll need to have under your belt to master all things woodworking is drilling holes. This is something that will undoubtedly come up a lot as you work through projects. Granted, this is a pretty simple thing to do. However, you’ll want to get some practice in before you delve into in-depth projects; make sure you know how to drill effectively, catch stray dust, make holes that are the right depth, and so on. It goes without saying that to attain this skill, you’ll need a reliable drill. To start, stick with the basics with a straightforward handheld cordless or plug-in drill.

Choose the Right Screws

Three screws in wood.

Woodworking projects will require you to choose the correct screws to ensure that you’re building things the right way. This may sound like an easy feat, but there are hundreds of different types of screws out there, all in different styles and sizes and designed to work in specific types of wood and for different purposes. Be sure to review the most common types of screws to gain an understanding of which is best for different projects so that you know the ropes before you start working with wood.

Use an Easy Saw for Cutting

A jigsaw being used on a piece of wood.

Any woodworking project will require you to do some cutting. There are a few different ways you can effectively cut wood, so it’s important to understand which tools you need to do so and when to use which method. First, hand saws are a good basic option. They allow you to make quick cuts. Keep in mind that this option is non-powered, meaning it’ll take some strength on your part to make the cuts!

Next, jigsaws are a great versatile saw that can be used for a wide range of projects. They have the ability to make weirdly-shaped cuts while remaining reliable for (most) straight cuts and edges. The blades to these saws are small, cheap, and interchangeable—which makes it a great investment for a beginner!

Finally, circular saws are geared towards heavy-duty projects where perfectly long and straight cuts are needed. This option doesn’t allow for curves or differently shaped cuts like a jigsaw does, and may be a little advanced for the use of a beginner. With that being said, a hand saw or jigsaw are the best options for those delving into the woodworking craft.

Choose the Right Sandpaper Grit

Working with wood often creates the need to sand items to finish a given project. That means that you’ll need to brush up on your sanding skills as you delve into the world of carpentry. It’ll be pertinent to sand after cutting wood or drilling holes, or else you’ll be stuck with rough pieces that run the risk of giving you splinters. Sanding is easy to do, but there are seemingly endless choices when it comes to types and grits of sandpaper and the appropriate equipment. Here's some information to help break it down.

Hand sanders are the simplest option out there, and they’re also the most cost-effective. They typically work well for a range of small projects. These work by attaching pieces of sandpaper to the bottom of a plate with a handle. Definitely invest in one of these sanders before you start woodworking.

A hand sander.

The next commonly used type of sander is an orbital sander. This option uses sanding disks to provide enhanced control of the surface as well as the ability to get to small and tough-to-reach places. The final sander type we’ll discuss is a belt sander. This is a much more powerful and heavy option that drives a belt of sandpaper around, allowing the device to quickly work through an abundance of material. This variety is usually used by more advanced carpenters for large-scale projects.

A hand sander

Next, let’s talk about the different types of sandpaper to consider. Most varieties are made of aluminum oxide, available in different grits. In case you were wondering, a “grit” is defined as a measure of how fine the paper is. The thickness of your sandpaper will depend on what you’re using it for. Sandpaper grits typically range from 20 to 1,000, with 20 being a very coarse paper and 1,000 being very fine. The more material you need to remove while sanding, the lower the number grit you’ll want, or the more coarse the paper should be. As you sand and have less material to work through, you should move to a finer grit to finish the job. You should purchase a range of sandpapers in different grits before you get started on a carpentry project.