Finding Good Woodworking Projects to Build Your Skills
Winter is a good time to improve your woodworking skills.
January means “think spring” – to me, it means I need to ask “What infrastructure needs to get built to increase this year’s harvest?”
The days are getting longer, so let’s get started on this roundup of where to find projects that will build your skills and help you improve your garden next year.
Building skills with woodworking projects
If you treat woodworking as a lifelong skill that you want to keep improving, you can learn just a little bit each time and then come back 6 months later and learn the next thing. Slowly increasing your skills.
Here’s one list of really basic skills from MakeUseOf.
- Drilling holes
- Using Screws
From there, you can get into the basics of real woodworking, like planing, joining, routing… You can get really good with just a simple first-year class. Or with years of trying stuff.
Introducing your kids to the safety and practices of building is a great way to help them gain confidence in being able to make things.
Work slowly and build skills. In our group co-op, we started with very simple projects.
But how can you find good projects to do next?
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Books are always a good resource for woodworking plans. The trick is finding ones you like – they have to have enough detail for whatever level you are at. Not too much detail, but enough to make the project successful.
The Vegetable Gardener’s Book of Building Projects: 39 Essentials to Increase the Bounty and Beauty of Your Garden. This is one of my all-time, favorite go-to for fun garden projects. Great for beginner projects, but it has some more involved projects also – a nice balance.
Whittling Twigs & Branches. Great if you just want to improve your knife skills. Costs very little to learn, other than a good whittling knife.
The Guide to Woodworking with Kids by Doug Stowe. The author is my favorite modern sloydist. Need I say more? This book has approach as well as projects, though it doesn’t focus on garden projects 🙂
Birdhouses You Can Build in a Day. Very comprehensive, and has lots of skill-building opportunities with these projects. I feel like I couldn’t make some of them in a day since it takes me a day to just buy wood, but you might be more focused! I liked the details of what type of birds like what feeders. This is great for your bird enthusiast who likes to build things. Also great for your garden to attract more birds.
2. Favorite Web sources and projects
Old World Garden Farms
Old World Garden Farms. I love these guys. They have so many practical tips and projects. I’m not an affiliate or anything – it’s just my opinion. They’ve recently moved all of their detailed plans over to their Etsy shop, but many of their projects you can just build without plans (if you are at that level of familiarity with woodworking).
Here are some of the projects I want to try or have tried making from them:
- The Seed Starting Shelf. I have a great setup – all the lights, heaters, shiny material to make more light, timers, and fans – but I’ve got it all on a makeshift 3-tiered shelf that needs the upgrade. Just bought the wood for it yesterday. Cutting happens today. Incidentally, did you know they now sell 2×4’s that are 3-1/2” shorter than 8’? Always read the fine print if you need 8’ long 2x4s. I’m working on the project just off of this article, without specific plans, because you can see the cut lengths and assembly order.
- The 5-gallon Bucket Planter. Looks like a good way to add more vegetables to the front yard. As long as I can put it in the irrigation area.
- Straw Bale Garden Planter built from Pallets. I tried to grow sweet potatoes 2 years ago, but I opted for soil and I got lots of leaves, but no sweet potatoes. Last year I tried gladiolas, and I got no flowers. Though my Jerusalem artichokes invaded and were happy.
- Pallet projects. They have great ideas for using wood pallets in the garden and how to use wood pallets in general. My guys have gotten very good at freeing up wood from pallets to use in various projects.
- Compost bin. I ended up using pallets for my compost bin, but it doesn’t look as good as theirs. It was only our 2nd pallet project.
Ana White. I’ve been following her since she began. Great assortment of projects and lots of confidence-building opportunities. Also great for inspiration if you are thinking about making your own plans. Here are a few of the plans that have inspired me:
- Chicken coop. She’s also got an A-Frame tractor that looks like it’s better than the one I built. And a cute one for just a couple of chickens.
- Greenhouse, although I think I want to build a below-ground greenhouse for the thermal properties. Still, this one is good for some construction ideas.
- Outdoor sofa. She has a few of these that look great. This is definitely a “someday-maybe” project for me.
3. Random Projects that look fun unrelated to gardening
If you’ve got an idea in mind, you can find someone who has plans out there, chances are. And you can work on these projects and learn something new – keep building those woodworking skills!
Here are some wildly random fun projects at a variety of levels of skill.
- Kid Play tent.
- Yard Jenga
- Build your own blocks
- Walking Blocks
- How to make circus stilts (we actually made these for use in the Open Air Circus when the kids were little.)
- Pet bed
- From Sawinery.com you can find a range of actually simple projects from shelves to pencil holders, wine racks to bird feeders – This is a fantastic list of 101 simple woodworking projects for beginners.
- From FixThisBuildThat, slightly more than beginner. My son made the pot cover rack for inside my cabinet. I love it.
Ready to build?
Go! Include a new project for this semester. Make it SLIGHTLY more than your skill level so you hone your woodworking skills. If you or your child picks a project is that too ambitious, see if you can identify the skills needed and work on something less that builds one skill on another.
- Learning woodworking
- What is Handicraft?
- Woodworking Skills: Seed Starting Shelf
- Wood Craft Ideas from the Guide to Woodworking with Kids