Home Improvement

Do-It-Yourself Carpentry for the Amateur

Fundamental carpentry skills are relatively easy to master. It is simply a matter of having the correct tools, a little bit of knowledge and practice. You don’t need to start out with a whole hardware store of implements, and the basic tools are usually quite inexpensive.

What To Buy First

Start with a good set of hand tools. You do not need the most expensive models, but buying a cheap tool can be dangerous. Poorly made, inexpensive tools are likely to break when in use. Using inferior tools puts yourself and those around you at risk.

Hand Tools

Tape Measure

Your tape measure is one of your most important tools. Get comfortable reading it and learn to observe closely. A majority of carpentry mistakes are a result of improper measuring, reading the tape incorrectly and mismarking the wood.


Select a curved claw hammer that has enough weight to give you a powerful strike, but do not choose one that is so heavy that it is hard to control as you use it.


Often screws are used to attach wood pieces. You need a selection of Philips and Flathead screwdrivers to accommodate different sizes of screws. Using the improper size screwdriver can ruin the heads of the screws, rendering them useless.

Carpenter’s level

A four-foot aluminum or hardwood carpenter’s level is a good choice for durability. They allow you to make sure projects are level and plumb.


A carpenter’s square allows you to make perfect 45-degree and 90-degree cuts and marks. This is important for almost all the work you will do.

Utility Knife

A retractable utility knife is an indispensable tool that should be in everyone’s tool bag. Change blades often as a safety precaution. Dull knives are often responsible for injuries in the home and on the worksite.

Power Tools

Circular Saw

A handheld circular saw is a versatile tool that can be used for many purposes. Use a clamp-on straight edge to use the circular saw much like a table saw.


A jigsaw allows you to cut curved and circular shapes in wood. A versatile choice is an orbital-action, corded jigsaw. Choose one that has a comfortable grip and has blades that are easy to change.

Power Drill

A cordless drill is certainly more portable than a corded drill, but you have far more power and versatility with the less-expensive corded drill. There are some choices to consider when choosing a corded power drill. Some features include; a 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch chuck, keyed or keyless chuck, straight drill or hammer drill. Research the options before deciding on the best one for your needs.

The vast assortment of tools available is a great temptation. Get comfortable with your basic tools and learn how much you can do with them before adding more advanced and possibly expensive items.

Pick A Project

There are countless plans and diagrams of simple carpentry projects for the beginning carpenter. Pick an item that sounds fun and is something you can use. Build a birdhouse, open storage shelves or a workbench. If you don’t own sawhorses, build a pair for your new workshop.

Many plans are designed for beginners and come with complete instructions and materials list. Read and understand your project plans before making your first cut. Get comfortable using the tools with practice on scrap lumber.

When you have completed your assembly, it’s time to finish your project. Sanding is very important to the overall appearance of your item. Spend time sanding all surfaces. You can seal the natural wood with urethane, or stain the wood before applying the final finish. Stain and polyurethane give the wood a finished appearance, and the sealer brings out the grain of the wood.

Practice makes perfect. After you’re done admiring your project, start thinking about what you want to build nest. Your skills will increase as you create new projects.