Finding plans for projects can be hard, especially for novices that are just getting into the art of woodworking.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best free projects around for people of any skill level in order to help you find the exact project to match your skillset and get you started in this massively fun and rewarding hobby.
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First Things First
There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you begin woodworking. If you’re already experienced you may want to skip down to the plans below, but there’s a lot more to DIY carpentry than meets the eye at first. You can’t simply grab a box of nails and a hammer and start bashing away hoping to make something amazing after all.
So keep the following in mind if you’re new to the hobby.
Purchased Lumber vs. Reclaimed Wood
Whether you choose to purchase your lumber from a local warehouse or online or try and use reclaimed lumber depends largely on what you want your end product to be.
Reclaimed lumber is a part of the “upcycling” process, which is just a fancy way of saying that you’re re-using something else that someone might consider trash in order to make something new. It’s attractive for a few reasons:
- It’s generally cheap or free
- Aged wood has a look which cannot be matched by fresh cut lumber
- Pieces can often be found in uncommon dimensions if you have a unique source.
Of course, along with this there comes some disadvantages. You’ll need a good eye to make sure that the wood isn’t too damaged for your project, of course, but the main thing is that it often comes with rougher surfaces than you’ll find when you purchase wood.
This can mean a lot more work on your part if you intend to have a truly clean and polished final piece. Generally reclaimed lumber is usable, but you should do some research on how to tell the bad from the good.
Purchased lumber, on the other hand, comes with its own set of advantages:
- Standardized sizes are easy to find and readily available in almost every town.
- The lumber will generally be free of any unusual damage.
- You don’t have to scavenge for it.
Of course, you’ll also need to pay for it. This can get expensive with some of the more costly lumbers, but softer woods like pine and fir are generally not all that expensive. It’s also easier to find panels this way.
You still need to choose your pieces carefully, especially with cheaper woods. Check for warping and any knots or pieces taken off the side.
In general purchased lumber is better for beginners looking to make clean projects, while reclaimed wood is better for those with a bit of skill looking to make more advanced projects.
Types of Wood
For the beginner it can be tempting to immediately invest in a good looking type of wood, but you have a few things you my want to consider when choosing your woods.
Hardwoods tend to be harder than softwoods. They are produced from deciduous trees, which is their actual defining characteristic. These woods include some of the most attractive around, including oak, mahogany, and maple among their ranks.
There are some exceptions to the rule of them being harder, for instance balsa wood is technically a hardwood despite the fact that it can actually be marked with a fingernail in many cases.
Hardwoods are best for more advanced projects, especially considering the high cost if you purchase them from a store or online warehouse. You’ll need to make sure your tools are in good order as well, some cheaper tools will have a hard time with things like oak.
They are generally quite attractive, however, and this makes them ideal for more artistic projects.
Softwoods on the other hand come from evergreen trees like fir and pine. Not all of them are as soft as you’d think, some are actually rather hard. The most commonly found, and cheapest, are pine and spruce. They can often be found for rather low prices, which makes them great for a beginner.
They’re not quite as durable, or as good looking, as most hardwoods, but they’re perfect for both larger, structural projects and smaller projects due to the ease of working with them.
Engineered woods come in a wide variety of different types. For the most part you’ll be able to find plywood, fiberboard, and particle board readily.
We recommend staying from particle board for anything where aesthetics is a concern. While it can be used with a paneling overlay, it looks tacky in almost all situations and doesn’t have the structural integrity you’ll want for most projects.
Plywood is an easy to work with material that most people will find works quite well for a lot of applications. It’s also generally cheap and can be found in large sheets. It’s constructed by using thin panels of wood veneer laid at cross angles with the grain of the wood.
Medium density fiberboard, or MDF, is probably the best of the commonly available engineered woods. The main drawback is it tends to suck up wager readily which can cause swelling and warping when used in outdoor applications. Using a polyurethane or other waterproof clear coat is highly recommended if the piece you’re using is going to be kept outdoors.
Of course, as you work with wood more and more you’ll find your own preferences. For someone with no idea where to begin we would recommend purchasing pine or fur for structural purposes such as framing.
Use MDF for paneling for projects which will be kept indoors and plywood for things which will be kept outside as a guideline.
Honestly, you’re not going to be happy if you spend a lot of money on something like red oak and end up without the skills to utilize it to it’s full extent. Most woodworkers will eventually work with a very wide variety of woods, however, and everyone’s personal preferences will vary based on this.
When you’re setting up your workshop, there are some tools that are absolutely essential to making sure you can get a piece done without having to spend hours and hours of needless manual labor.
A table saw is likely to be the centerpiece of your workshop. Utilizing a table saw one can chop both framing and paneling materials with an amazing amount of ease, making them one of the most versatile pieces of your tool kit. A circular saw can be used in a similar manner, but they’re more for ease when you’re away from your workshop.
A power drill is another thing to make sure you have. They’ll make your life a lot easier when you’re working with wood. Driving a screw through a 2×4 by hand is frustrating and can make your hobby into a chore very quickly. An impact gun is nice to have as well, but a drill and the proper accessories will allow you to get by easily enough.
Don’t neglect the basics either. Some hand tools are pretty much essential, try to make sure you have the following on hand:
- Claw Hammer
- Rubber Mallet
- Handsaw and Miter Box
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Rasps and files
- At least one wood vice
As long as you have all of the above, you’re unlikely to need anything else for a truly basic project. We’ve built rabbit hutches and functional work benches with less than that.
Some other tools you’ll want to consider as you begin to get more advanced with your woodworking skills are chop saws and routers. Both of these tools allow you some extra capabilities in your workshop.
A wood router is pretty much essential for making designs that are more than functional without having to buy preformed trim and molding. They’re also quite useful for utilitarian purposes.
Jig saws are probably the best way to make sure that you can get rounded curves in your wood as well, just be careful with blade selection as some can be a bit rough at the end of the day.
For the most advanced woodworking, such as producing your own fine furniture, you’re going to have to invest some serious money. Tools like wood lathes can cost thousands of dollars, take up a large amount of room in your workshop, and really aren’t something that most people are going to want to invest in.
All-in-all, your tool choices and purchases are mostly going to be affected by what you plan on doing at the end of the day, so keep that in mind. For the most part, as long as you have the basics, you’ll be able to make some great looking projects however.
Of course, you’re here for the free woodworking plans. We’ve taken the liberty of gathering together an extensive collection of some of the best plans from around the web in order to bring them right to you. We’ve separated the projects by the skill level required for each, so there’s bound to be something here for everyone from the novice to the advanced craftsman looking to expand upon their knowledge and experience.
The following plans are for the true beginner. If you just want to get started as soon as possible with a minimal amount of difficulty, we’ve gathered these together for you. Those with some experience may find many of them simplistic, but there are some truly unique ideas mixed in with the rest.
Yes, boxes can be a bit boring. The cool thing about building them, however, is that not only do you end up with some new, homemade storage, you can also use them to advance your skill levels by building them at different sizes and with different joinery.
This particular guide shows seven different types of boxes, ranging from extremely simple to fairly complex. The best part is that the author goes into some depth about each type of box in order to teach you exactly how to do it.
Yup, another box. This is the last one, we promise. The important thing that you’ll learn through the construction of this box is a type of mildly complex joinery known as box jointing. You’ll need a few more tools than the above, but learning box joints is a good first step towards learning the holy grail of joinery: dovetails.
If you’ve got a router, you should definitely give this one a shot.
While these might look like a more advanced project, they’re actually quite easy to make and can give you something to carry around to show off your newfound skills. Again you’ll need a little bit more than just the basic tools, but it also allows for a little bit of artistry and they can certainly be useful depending on your line of work.
Now we’re talking. Bookcases are one of the most useful pieces of furniture in the home, and the simple step-by-step video included in these plans makes it easier than ever to make your own. You don’t necessarily have to use oak, but it’s a simple project for even a complete novice and will leave you with an attractive piece of furniture all your own.
This amazingly simple piece of work will allow you to free up some counter space by removing your knife block. Simple, quick, and easy to make it can add a modern look to your kitchen that you can point at and go “I did that” rather than having to purchase one. You can get creative with this one, since you won’t have to worry about tearing up expensive woods since it will only take a few cuts.
If you find the above projects to be too simple, we’ve gone out and found a couple of creative ideas for you to get you started on advancing your skills even more. These will generally require a few more tools and a bit more expertise, but shouldn’t be too challenging if you’ve got a little bit of experience under your belt.
If you have a lot of shot glasses, or miniatures for that matter, this attractive display case is actually much simpler than it looks to construct. There is one caveat, however, you’re going to be cutting a lot of dado joinery in order to make this display piece.
It’ll be a good bit of work, but there’s no better way to learn than to throw yourself headfirst at a new skill.
The above plan is for a larger table using reclaimed lumber in order to create an attractive and sturdy table. It’ll require some time, some sourcing, and a little bit of ingenuity but it’s a great way to step things up a bit if you’re looking to advance your skills.
Not all projects have to be utilitarian. This cool looking little piece of work can be made with a moderate level of woodworking skills and help you to hone your work with the finer details required for truly amazing pieces. Download the PDF and give it a shot, you might surprise yourself with what you can do.
For those of you who have some truly amazing skills, you’ve probably got your own ideas on just what can be done. If you’re short on ideas, however, we’ve made sure to include the plans for some true masterpieces which you can assemble in your own home.
This DIY wooden lamp will test your ability to cut angles to the absolute limit. It also makes an exciting accent to almost any room. It’ll be a test for all but master craftsmen to assemble correctly, but with the included PDF in the link you might have found the perfect way to spice up any room in the home.
If you’re tired of your dog tipping over bowls, then this slightly elevated and attractive cabinet might be just what you’re looking to build. Despite the simple design, this is an advanced piece of craftsmanship that serves both an aesthetic and utilitarian function. Give it a shot, and you might find yourself with a lot more time not mopping up your dog’s spilled water bowl… again.
This is far from an exhaustive list of the free woodworking plans available on the internet, but we think that we’ve given you a good showing when it comes to taking your skills from building simple boxes to advanced, attractive, and functional furniture within your own home.
Woodworking is rewarding, if hard work, just remember that the journey is as important as the destination. Now get out there with your saw and start enjoying yourself!