Wood Crafts: The Joy of Creating Finished Projects with Wood

Humans have forever been crafting tools and objects from wood. People remain fascinated with wood, from simple spears sharpened with rocks to the intricate wood crafts we see today. At craft shows worldwide, wood is a visible and popular material for many crafters.

Wood crafts today range from simple wood model kits found at dollar stores to intricate scrollwork creating beautiful art. No matter your skill level, you can easily begin crafting wonderful toys and doing fun projects with wood.

Tools of the Trade

Knowing a bit about the tools used for wood crafts is a good place to begin. If you intend to limit yourself to wood project kits, you may only need carpenter’s glue. But if you intend to create more intricate woodworking projects, you will eventually need actual tools. The old woodworker’s credo of “Measure twice, cut once” is a good concept to keep in mind. Buy a good tape measure and use it. 

Basic Hand Tools


Image CC by 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons (Wood Crafts: Image shows a standard claw hammer with a rubberized handgrip.)

The most common hammer used in wood projects is a standard claw hammer. They have a flat, circular face for bangy-bangy and a clawed back to remove nails. They are relatively inexpensive and available in different weights. It is best to select one that allows you to make a comfortable swing with your hand near the base of the handle. 

For small wood projects, a coping saw is a handy tool. It has a thin blade mounted on a bow with a handle. The design allows you to make angled and even circular cuts in wood. Other types of hand saws are known as cross-cut saws. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Their use is generally determined by the number of teeth per inch on the blade. More teeth per inch will provide a finer cut and require less finish sanding. Fewer teeth per inch will make a rougher cut and require additional sanding.

You’ll also want a good, sharp knife or a razor knife. These often have replaceable blades, allowing you to start each project with a beautiful, sharp blade. Screwdrivers, Phillips heads, and slots should be in your toolbox, although most basic projects use small finishing nails rather than screws. 

As you develop your skills as a wood crafter, your need for different hand tools will broaden. You might invest in a good set of wood chisels, wood files or hasps, hand planers and joiners, or other tools to complete more specific tasks.

Basic Power Tools

Most craft kits do not require power tools. If you have advanced beyond the basic project kits into cutting and making projects from raw wood, you’ll want to add some basic electric or battery-powered tools to your toolbox. These include power saws, sanders, routers, planers, drills, and even specialty tools like band, scroll, and table saws.

A basic toolbox would include a jigsaw or saber saw with interchangeable blades for different projects. A jigsaw can create straight, angled, or intricate circular cuts.

Another handy saw is the standard circular saw. Although used mostly for straight or angled cuts, an experienced user can craft circular cuts. Because of the blade size, this type of saw is less versatile than the jigsaw for more intricate cutting. Blades are rated for different types of cutting. Rough ripping cuts call for a blade with fewer teeth, while more intricate cuts use a fine-toothed blade. The type of wood will also have a factor in the type of blade you will be using. 

When you move beyond small project kits, a power drill should be added to your toolbox. Many advanced projects are assembled using pre-drilled holes and screws. This creates a longer-lasting end product. Having a decent drill will allow you to pre-drill screw holes to keep from splitting wood pieces and having to start over.

The types of power tools you use will greatly determine the projects you select. As your talent increases, so will your desire for bigger and better power tools. Prepare your spouse now and start spending money on a budget line-item for new “toys.”

Woodcraft Supplies

Required basic supplies are sandpaper and crafter’s or carpenter’s glue. These items are relatively inexpensive and are available in many craft stores, hardware or home supply outlets, and department stores. 

Sandpaper is rated by the coarseness of the sand used in its construction, and each texture has a specific purpose. Coarse sandpaper removes a lot of the roughness from unfinished projects. It will leave a grooved surface. Using increasingly finer-grained sandpapers, the wood surface can be smoothed to perfection.

Painter’s rags, or old t-shirts, are handy on any project table, but they should be lint-free cloths. They can be used to wipe surfaces after sanding, clean up excess glue, or to apply stain to a finished project. 

As you continue to build your wood crafting talent and broaden the scope of your projects, your need for additional supplies will increase. Beginning with basic supplies, you will soon find yourself immersed in a room full of tools and supplies for your craft. Don’t neglect adequate storage facilities such as drawers and shelves to keep yourself organized.

Types of Wood Best for Crafting

The type of wood you use for specific projects will vary from project to project. Some projects do well using inexpensive plywood or Pine. Other projects may only feel “right” using a more expensive hardwood such as Oak or Maple. 

Plywoods

Plywoods are composite materials are useful for creating projects with strength and durability. They use layering with very thinly sliced wood between layers of pressed wood pulp. A strong adhesive binds it together. Plywoods are available with unfinished, unsanded surfaces and finished hardwood surfaces. Unfinished plywoods are excellent for practice. They can be sanded and finished or painted using spray paints or acrylic-based craft paints

If you are cutting pieces and making simple birdhouse kits for 20 cub scouts, unfinished plywood will suit your purpose. If you are constructing a built-in bookcase for that space between your mantle and the wall, you will want to use plywood with a finished surface and molding or trim on the edges to dress it up. To preserve the finished project, you should treat outdoor projects using plywood with a waterproofing or sealing agent.

Pine, Cedars, and Softwoods

Softwoods are designated “soft” because of their density. They are generally evergreen conifer trees and are easier to work with than hardwoods.

Pine is probably the most common wood in use for craft projects. It is available in various lengths and widths from local home supply warehouses and lumber supply retail stores. Pine can be cut easily using hand or power saws. It is versatile and available in various surface textures from rough-cut to furniture grade.

Cedar closets and chests use this aromatic wood, making them perfect for storing clothing. Cedar naturally repels bugs and other creepy-crawly things, which is a deterrent to moths and makes cedar perfect for this purpose. A built-in cedar closet adds resale value to any home and means you won’t need nasty-smelling mothballs. 

Cedar lends itself to intricate woodworking projects but must be worked “wet” and kept oiled on completion to keep it from drying out and cracking.

Wood - Cross with intertwined ivy vine.

The wood cross (Celtic Cross with intertwined ivy vine) above uses hand-milled ¼” thick Alaskan Yellow Cedar from deadfall harvested in the Tongass Rainforest. Pattern created and sold by Scroller, Ltd. Piece was made using a Dremel 16” scroll saw with a zero-tolerance deck and size 00 pinless blades. Using the stack-cutting method, two identical pieces exist, although the wood grain varies.

Oak, Maple, and Hardwoods

Hardwoods are denser, more difficult to work with, and begin life as trees that flower, such as Oak, Maple, and Ash. These woods are also more expensive. Hardwoods grow slower than softwoods, so the supply is more limited.

Hardwoods make wonderful material for furniture projects and items that may become family heirlooms. 

As with the Pine, hardwoods are available in differing lengths and widths. Most lumber retail stores and local home supply warehouses carry a wide variety. Wood is sold by the linear foot, which is a straight-line measurement based on the length of the board. Pricing per lineal foot will differ based on the width of the piece of lumber. 

Paints, Stains, and Other Wood Finishing Products

How you finish a project will often depend on your personal tastes. Some projects need no finishing, and others will need a coat of paint, some wood stain, or even weather-proofing. We won’t have time to cover more than the basics, but you can easily research any finish types. Many patterns arrive with suggested methods for finishing or painting the project.

Paints — wood is very porous, which will absorb paints easily. Unless you are using a basecoat sealer, expect to apply at least two coats of craft paint to your project. Many types of paints are suitable for use on wood crafts. Spray paints generally work well if the piece is going to be all one color or if you apply the paint before assembly. Many crafters use acrylic paints available at almost all craft stores for detail painting.

Stains — Stains are useful to bring out the patterns in wood grain while allowing the beauty of the wood to shine through. 

Weather-proofing and finishing a project — You should apply a weather-proof surface agent if a project is for outside display. Many are available, and your choice should reflect the use. For instance, a birdhouse or feeder would need something non-toxic to birds. 

Simple Wood Projects

Among the easiest projects to complete are birdhouses and bird feeders. Many different styles are available as raw project kits, some as inexpensive as a dollar. These kits have adequate instructions, are simple to construct, and normally require only wood glue and a hammer. These can be perfect if you want an afternoon project to complete with your child.

Once the assembly is complete, you can paint or stain these or just leave them natural. 

Wood projects are available at Dollar Tree stores and are fun to complete.
Image from Dollar Tree website (Wood Crafts: Image depicts wooden project kits for a birdhouse and a bird feed available at Dollar Tree stores throughout the country.)

Wood Model Kits Requiring Basic Tools

Local craft stores such as Michael’s, JoAnn’s, and Hobby Lobby will normally have a wide variety of wooden project kits. These kits include precut pieces, nails, and a small glue tube or packet. You supply the time and the opposable thumbs to assemble them. 

Project styles range from small boats and cars to elaborate jewelry or knick-knack boxes. If you are just beginning to work with wood model kits, start with the simple kits and work up to the more complex projects. 

Once you become proficient with project kits, you will be ready to use patterns to create your own projects from raw wood.

Woodworking Projects

Finding wood project patterns is as easy as an internet search or a woodcraft magazine from your local supermarket. Several companies produce patterns and sell them inexpensively. Patterns are generally rated on complexity. Beginner projects would be suitable for a crafter just starting out. Intermediate patterns are mid-level projects for people with a bit of experience. Advanced and Expert projects should be left until you are proficient with power tools. Pay attention to detail, and master the basics.

You can make everything with wood — toys, tools, furniture — everything. As your skill level increases, your thirst for larger and more intricate projects will grow. 

If you can dream it, you can build it.

Wood Project Days for Kids

If you want a quick way to begin, visit your local home supply warehouse on one of their project days for kids. Take your own child, a neighbor kid, a niece, or a nephew. They require you to bring a child, but they supply everything else, including cookies and juice boxes. 

Home Depot and Lowe’s host monthly project days at many locations. They supply the project kit, glue, hammers, and screwdrivers. Your child supplies the labor while you supervise and assist as needed. 

The stores also host boy and girl scout troops and sometimes take their kits on the road to local festivals and street fairs. This is a fun, free way to build a project with your child and discover the joys of wood crafts. 

Outdoor Furniture/Complex Projects

Adirondack chairs are a favorite on porches and backyards across the United States. Drive down any back road through rural America, and you will see them in every color. The Adirondack is popular because it is easy to make. Most of the cuts are straight, and assembly instructions are easy to understand. They also lend themselves to creative genius, as seen in this clever adaptation of the basic chair pattern.

Wood: Adirondack Chair painted to resemble Darth Vader
Image from Facebook. Wood Crafts: Image of creative adaptation of Adirondack chair into a resemblance of Darth Vader from the popular Star Wars movies.

The basic hand tools used in wood projects include a hammer, coping saw, wood chisels, and planes (for shaving edges and surfaces). Before you start having fun with bangy-bangy and choppy-choppy, it is usually best to practice on some scrap material. Nails will sink easily into soft wood like Pine but will fold in half, trying to penetrate hardwoods such as Oak and Ash.

Start with small wooden project kits. If you enjoy working with your hands and building things from wood, it is an easy progression to more intricate projects. While purchasing tools can stress-test your budget at the more advanced levels, wood crafts is a relatively inexpensive hobby. 

As a veteran wood crafter, I can attest to the hours of enjoyment you are about to embark on. The simple joy of completing a project is a feeling not translatable to words.