starting from scratch

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    Hello world!

    Over the last few months, I’ve been absolutely inhaling woodworking videos – particularly Mr. Sellers’ channel on YouTube. I started with his 10 part series on building a workbench, and got hooked instantly.

    I have virtually no woodworking experience, limited space for a bench (let alone a shop), and of course budgetary restrictions. Where do I begin? What are the absolute most essential starting tools that I should invest in? What have I not even thought to consider?

    I see myself leaning more towards smaller projects at first (boxes, coasters, small shelves, etc.), but I’d also love to tackle larger things like sawhorses, trestles, a computer desk, and a fully functional workbench.


    Hey Brian

    I will offer you my opinion on how I would tackle your situation. I would say that probably the most essential tool you need is a workbench, without it everything you do will be awkward and hard to do. It is not impossible to work without a workbench, of course, but unless you are fairly experienced I think it will be mostly frustrating.

    Therefore, my primary goal would be to build myself a workbench, however before you can do that you probably need some trestles and in order to build those you need some tools.

    I would go to:
    log in with the same user name and password that you have here. Press “video library” and then go to the “Trestles” instructions. There you will find a video instruction on how to build them and a list of tools and wood you need.

    Now take that tool list and start by only getting those tools that you need for this task. Right here on this site you have an excellent guide for where you can buy the essential tools cheap. Along the tool guides you also have guides on how to set up, sharpen and use those tools.
    Alongside the task of getting tools, you also need to get the wood for the Trestles. it is probably easiest to just buy it at your local wood store, but if you are on a limited budget you can also look around for free wood. Sometimes you can find it on internet, perhaps free if you come and pick it up yourself. You can also look around close to construction sites, I am usually able to find a plank or two if I poke around, sometimes you are lucky and can get access to the container where you can find a lot of wood.

    Note: the wood that you find at such places will mostly be low quality, fast grown Fir or pine with lost of hard knots and perhaps shakes. This will not be the most fun wood to work with but it will get you started. If you can choose try to get as few knots as you can and straight grained peaces.

    When you have built Trestles you have something to work off, it is not ideal but it is more than nothing. Now it is time to tackle the workbench, go to
    again and in the video library find the workbench series. Look at the tool list and get the tools that you do not have.

    One you have a workbench, you can basically do anything you want because now you have a space to work comfortably at and you have basically all the tools you need, all from just building the bench.

    I understand that being on a budget and having limited space makes things a lot harder but you just have to work with what you have got. This might mean that you can only afford to buy 2 tools per month, if that is the case, then so be it, at least you have a lot of time too look for free wood then 🙂
    I think that the most important thing is to make sure that you are moving forward, even if it means that it will take you 6 months to get the tools you need to build a Trestle, it is still a few steps forward. Once you have passed over the hump of getting a workbench things will brighten up so much because now you basically do not need to buy more tools and can focus your efforts on becoming a good woodworker.

    If you get stuck on something or have questions, use the forum, ask specific questions and you will probably get specific answers.

    Good luck!


    I remember being in the same situation not all that long ago, totally overwhelmed about where and how to start, what to make, etc. The internet is both a goldmine (Paul Sellers posts a lot of videos on Youtube), but also a potential time sink with lots of terminology and conflicting information. Anyway, here’s my 2 cents, pence, pfennings, etc:

    As you don’t have a workbench yet, you’ll want to build something that doesn’t require a bench, but, once done, can act as a makeshift bench. The trestles (noted by the above poster) and the sawbenches (Paul Sellers has a couple of Youtube videos on building a sawbench) are both good places to start. You can then see what tools are needed, and start building your toolkit based on those projects. At the very least, you’ll want to invest in the following tools:

    – Saw. Either a vintage crosscut hand saw (easily found on auction sites, etc.). Or go your local hardware store and buy a basic carpentry saw. The techniques are still the same, and the hardware store saw can come in handy in other household tasks as well. Typically cost about $25 in US.

    – Plane. Paul suggests a vintage Stanley #4, which would be a great start. A #5 could work as well. Shouldn’t cost very much either way.

    – A couple of chisels. 1/2″ and 1″ vintage chisels are good place to start. Lots of vintage chisels out there. Just about any bevel edge chisel will work initially. And you’ll need some sort of mallet or hammer for the chisels.

    – 12″ combination square. Absolutely vital. You may want to buy a decent one at your hardware store to start, as used ones can be in rough shape, exhibit lots of play, or simply be out of square.

    – Tape measure, pencils, and some sort of knife (simple pocket knife will work). And some clamps. Maybe more clamps.

    You’ll also need to invest in a sharpening system for the planes and chisels initially. This is another potential rabbit hole in itself. It’s also one area where if I had to do it over, I would. Buy the 3 diamond plates, a piece of leather for a strop, and the green compound. The DMT diamond plates are pricey, but they are a one time investment that will last you a very long time.

    There is also a time investment needed to get used to using the above; you’re first project will not look anything like Paul’s results. But that’s OK.

    Once you have the trestles or sawbenches, you can use them as makeshift benches to either make your own workbench or to do some simple starter projects. As for the workbench, it’s not that difficult to build one. However, it will be time consuming. Lots of planing, chopping, sawing, more planing, more chopping. Good luck, and keep us posted on your progress.

    Andrew Smith

    Hi Brian.

    I hope you have managed to make a good start with your woodworking.

    I too have a very limited space, and my budget isn’t much better.

    The main space I have for working is the 6×8 shed in my back garden. After a lot of planning, I managed to come up with a bench design that incorporated many designs I found on the internet. The design allows me to have longer pieces of wood going through the shed door, whilst still having the support of the bench to mark out and cut the wood to length. I also find that a well built pair of trestles is vital, as this allows me to utilise the garden when the weather permits.

    With regards to the tools, I have purchased a few from ebay, but the majority I have have been from local car boot sales. The tools are often in a very rough condition, but very cheap because of this. There is an endless supply of information out there on restoration, and the satisfaction of restoring a rusty unloved tool is great.

    Once you have a few tools, I would suggest practising joints until you have the confidence to start tackling a few projects.

    Good luck,



    Hi all,

    Apologies for the lack of reply, but thanks so much for the thoughtful responses! I’ve been busy with a big life move, but I’m on the tail end of moving in now, with woodworking constantly on my mind. I’ve since bought Mr. Sellers’ book, Essential Woodworking Hand Tools, and I just won an eBay auction for a rusty Stanley Bailey No.4 plane, so I’m certainly taking steps to start constructing a little shop area.

    I’m going to start by building trestles. I don’t think I have the space or permanence to build Mr. Sellers’ full sized workbench, so I’m going to brainstorm more modular options. I was thinking of building a bench top with recesses that could utilize the trestles as legs, and then building a smaller workbench with attached vise that could be clamped to that surface. I’ll be trading the rigidity of a full scale workbench for the ability to easily dismantle and transport my ‘shop’.

    Thanks again, tips and help are always welcome, and I’ll be sure to come back to the forums more frequently, hopefully with project updates!

    Trey Caron

    Brian –

    I know I’m jumping in late on your post. I’m in relatively the same situation as yourself. I would agree with the workbench. I have a work table I got from a big box store. It’s far from perfect and I have to brace it when I try to plane large pieces, but it will do for now. Currently, I’m in the process of collecting enough scraps to to build a small bench. One thing I’ve found very useful to start building a “scrap pile” is putting a request out on a neighborhood social media app called “Nextdoor”. In the last 24hrs, I’ve been gifted 4×4, 2×4, plywood, and uncut Maple from a tree that was felled by a recent storm. I live in a condo community with a community garage. I’m having to get creative to conceal my wood hoarding until I find a better solution for keeping my wood pile dry.

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