Newbie wood and first project question(s)

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Brand, spankin' newbie here. My experience is limited to running some scrap framing 2x4s through the TS and router just to make sure I actually knew how to turn the machines on and alter the wood.
My questions are on getting started.
1) I know the long-term rule would be to buy "unfinished" stock at a lumber yard and cut it down and joint and plane to my own dimensional needs. But as a beginner, would it be considered beneficial to use "finished" wood that is already planed and jointed and ready for use? I'm sure it is more expensive. But for starters, I was thinking I could become familiar with some of the basic tools and joinery before tackling unfinished stock (baby steps).
2) What wood would you recommend for a starter? The finished stock at the local Lowes is red oak, poplar, pine, and one other (can't remember right now).
3) What kind of project would you recommend for a starter project? A basic box, bookcase, ???
Thanks for any advice/recommendations.
Corey
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lumber
that
It is good to learn how to dimension and square undimensioned pieces. It is probably more important to just get started with a comfortable project. This would be a project that allows you to get acquainted with you shop and tools in a safe manner. Then work on to projects and techniques that get less comfortable. Without specific knowledge of you shop and equipment (mostly hand or power tools?), it is hard to say much more.

You said the LOWE's* word regarding lumber (Good company, great stock, obscene hardwood prices). As a newbie, you should first search out alternative sources for hardwoods. If you convert Lowe's or HD's linear foot prices to bd/ft some of their Oak is $7-8 a bd/ft. You can try http://www.woodfinder.com /, but it can be a little cranky at times. Search on '10 closest" to you zip for best results. Also look in your local yellow pages for hardwood dealers, mills, etc. for local merchants that either process local hardwoods or ship it in for resale. This dealer http://www.woodsworksqh.com/ , for example serves the south central kansas area and his prices are fairly representative of the area. However, by going 120 miles east (where he gets some of his stock) we can save up to $1 a bd ft on some grades of Oak, even more on Walnut. Bottom line - search around and build a supply base for materials. This homework will serve you well as your skill develops - It is part of the skill. Same goes for tools and equipment. The most popular woodworking sources are convenient but not necessarily the most cost effective.
As far as material, your budget will help guide you. Oak is reasonable and fairly easy to work with. Walnut is a very attractive wood that has pleasant machining properties, but expensive. There are a lot of projects that call for pine or less expensive wood (clear pine is not cheap). Build someting you need.
(*I think I am becoming know for my Lowe's attitude with this group. But it is a good stock.)

basic
What ever you need in your house that you feel comfortable doing. Some of my first 'serious' projects were simple bookcases. I look back at some of them now and say "who built THAT!" You will improve with practice. Just remember, stretch your comfort zone as you progress.
Ronb
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In wood working, "finished" normally referes to a protective finish added to the wood surface. The word you are looking for here is surfaced wood. Unless you have a jointer, a thickness planer, or plan to hand plane rough cut wood, you want to buy surfaced wood. Surfaced wood is commonly referred to as S4S, S3S, and S2S. S4S, "Surfaced 4 Sides", is lumber that is milled to specific thicknesses and widths. Commonly Lowe's carries S4S lumber and it is typically the most expensive. Try to find your lumber at a lumber supply or lumber yard. These businesses most often also offer S3S and S2S lumber. The S3S lumber has 1 straight side, and the top and bottoms are surfaced. This wood is normally considerably cheaper than S4S. S2S is typically a few cents cheaper than S3S per board foot. Where I live, S3S lumber is about 5% more expensive than rough cut lumber so I seldom buy rough cut if at all possible.

Something cheap until you are ready to spend the extra money.

Anything simple.
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Ron & Leon, as usual, have offered good answers.
I'm going to suggest that you find some local advisor(s) or mentors. Because there are limits to what your electronic friends can show you, and because we can't watch what you're doing, and how you're doing it, there is real value to finding a group of folks who can do those things. Typically, an adult education woodworking program, a community college, a woodworking club, or perhaps a woodworking store with classes offers these types of resources. Often, these are at reasonable cost, when they are available.
If none of those exist, ask folks in your community for a reference. I'd be surprised if you couldn't find someone to make some sawdust with, who would like to pass on some of what they've learned, possibly in some community service activity.
And if you live in total isolation, there are always some good books. But that's another thread...
Start simple. Build what's needed. If it doesn't work, build a better one. Enjoy yourself. If something seems dangerous, find a better way to do it.
Patriarch
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scrap
how
I'll go against the crowd and say this is a good idea. Buy S4S stock to start with. Yeah, you're learning on expensive wood, but I think you'll have more satisfaction in the end. Things will fit together better - and if they don't you know to refine your skills on the tools you have. You'll know it wasn't the stock.

Red Oak, Poplar or Maple. I'd avoid pine. Again - this is going against the crowd - I'd start off by buying it at Lowes, Home Depot, Sutherlands, etc. Just bear in mind, they charge a premium for this S4S stock. Your first foot-stool, table, tool-holder is going to be pretty expensive. At least you get to amortize the cost of the tools... :)

basic
Yes - something square with 90* cuts. I had my hands full just learning how to get things consistent: accurate and precise. If you browse the Lowes or Minwax or some other wood-related sites, they'll often have free plans categorized by Novice, Intermediate...
But - what ever you do - just start.
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Regarding the price of wood, I know that I assumed I would pay a premium for stock from Lowes. And though my disposable income is not obscene, a few extra bucks isn't going to hurt me in the beginning. I'm a white collar guy that works with numbers and computers all day that has a yearning to create something tangible and real. So I'm looking at doing this as a hobby/interest. Compared to a $50 - $75 round of golf that only lasts 4-5 hours and frustrates the heck out of me, I figure woodworking can turn into a better and less expensive hobby.
I figure I need to cut my teeth before I graduate to an actual lumberyard. I actually visited one today. But I didn't know what was good, bad, or indifferent. I don't have planer or jointer yet. So that is why I was thinking of leaning towards starting with the S4S stuff to get comfortable using the table saw, router, making joints, sanding, finishing - a few of the real basics to slowly gain comfort.

scrap
how
lumber
that
basic
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But
with
(baby
the
right
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Hey Corey, as a former desk jockey, I can tell you that you will enjoy the change. Follow the advise you have gotten here from the old timers (not necessarily age but experience) and have fun. Be cautious with your power tools and don't rush. As a starter, you might want to take a look at the Wood Magazine site http://www.woodmagazine.com/wood/story.jhtml?storyid=/templatedata/wood/story/data/members.xml&catref=wd2 they are offering a free downloadable plan for a night stand. Haven't looked at the plan myself but the project looks easy enough. You could forget about the drawer and use the drawer opening as a shelf.

But
with
(baby
the
right
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Been half-way following the recent discussion about chisels. Not really very concerned because the ONE I use 90 percent of the time is an 'old' Stanley 1 inch Bench type. Got another 1/2 inch one on the basement 'tool peg board'. However, several years ago I did get a boxed-set of 'decent' chisels . . . and put them away in a chest.
Anyhow, doing a little computer 'housecleaning' I noted an old advert from one of my sources for a set of 'Two Cherries' at $142. This prompted me to go look at the ones in I'd put away . . . I faintly remembered a red logo. To make a long story short - they are Freud.
They look good to me. The two that I 'tuned' {way back when} feel good and worked well. My question is, just for curiosity . . . how do they compare to the 'TOP END' stuff {priced there, too}that every raves about.
Regards & Thanks, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop
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Ron Magen asks:

Durned if I know how they compare. I've got a set, of which I prepped three, which I like enough to use some battered old Stanley models in rough work. They hold an edge exceptionally well, and are also easy to sharpen, two things that don't always go together, as you know. I don't know what else chisels are meant to do. Do their work, do it cleanly, stay in shape to do that work for a reasonable length of time without upkeep.
Charlie Self "A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers." H. L. Mencken
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Charlie, That's how I feel . . . but what does a dumb-ass ex-GI know. I figured there had to be a *logical* reason why the top guys on this forum were all atwitter about getting a $100 chisel for $79 and calling it, 'a bargain'.
What I do remember is the astonishment, and then the joy, of using the old Stanley . . . AFTER I sharpened it. I don't remember where it came from, but it was probably never 'prepped' before. After that, I went and worked on *everything* in the house with an edge !!
Of course my favorite tool is still the tool box issue pocket knife I've been carrying for the last 30+ years.
Regards & Thanks, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop
SNIP I don't know what else chisels are meant to do. Do their work, do it cleanly, stay in shape to do that work for a reasonable length of time without upkeep.
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Ron Magen responds:

Probably as much as a former jarhead like me.

Easier to get going with it, maybe. Takes less time to flatten the back and finish off the sharpening. The metal is probably better, holds an edge longer, too. But you have to figure how much you want to (or can) spend to get that extra performance. I mean, I'd love to trade my Dodge Stratus for a Viper, but no can do! And where would the grandkids sit, anyway?

I need time. I want to finish the Freud's, I've got some old shall-remain-unnamed chisels from a former employer that are pretty good, two sets of Stanley's, and a half dozen Japanese chisels to finish up one of these days. Plus about 20 plane irons.

I wish I could say that. About 20 years ago, I had a really good, very small Boker Tree. Found it after it was lost for 18 of those years. It is so heavily rusted from mouse pee, I don't think I can save it. But I'm going to try.
Charlie Self "A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers." H. L. Mencken
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Charlie, Didn't you bring your bayonet home ?
You know, that can opener that fits on the end of your rifle . . .
Ron {PS - I've got a couple of old WWI British bayonets . . . "Now THAT's a KNIFE !!" }
SNIP

SNIP
small
heavily
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Ron Magen asks:

Nope. Not much of a pocket knife, anyway. The Boker Tree is better, or was better.
Charlie Self "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward." Franklin D. Roosevelt, radio address, Oct. 26, 1939
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On 02 Sep 2004 15:47:34 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) wrote:

I have Hirsch, the chisel Lee Valley sells that's made in the Two Cherries factory. I like them a lot. A coworker recently picked up a set of Lie Nielsens that he really likes.
I took an excellent hand cut dovetail class from a local pro cabinetmaker. His 20 year old personal chisels were Freud, and he still likes them.
I think once you get away from the cheapies, they all are capable of long , useful lives and beautiful work.
Barry
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Barry, Thanks for the comment.
I have always been a believer in the patience & ability of the workman, rather than the invoices of his tools.
Maybe it's overcompensation because I don't have a big shop, thousands of dollars worth of power tools, or a lot of PR.
Regards, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop
SNIP

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Hmm, you are new at this arent you? ;)

Great way to start. Minimal investment and you see results. Plenty of simple projects that can be done with a couple of pine boards from Lowes or HD or the corner lumber yard. Simple shelf, step stool, birdhouse, bird feeder, etc. I started by copying some doll furniture.
as you progress, by tools as you need them. Don't let lack of a tool stop you either. Most joints can be made a half dozen ways and still be perfectly functional. As you get comfortable and better skilled, try something new just to try it. Sure, you can use a simple butt joint, but make a rabbet instead.
Consider taking a basic class also. Some adult educations schools have them, Woodcraft stores have them, etc.
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Corey,
I went your route when I started woodworking a few years ago. First project was a small shelf unit for displaying my daughter's clay models in her bedroom. (Drive by follows) We worked together on it. Each shelf has it's own separate background scene to display the clay model in it's native environment (if you've ever watched Pokemon...) and we both still enjoy looking at now. It's not the greatest woodworking project I've ever did but it's something we did together and it's always a reminder to me of how great a kid I think she is.
You didn't say if you had kids or not but if you're looking for a project, they seem to have a lot of ideas.
Made it out of the poplar that Lowes sells. Fairly cheap to make and ruining a piece here and there wasn't a problem. Eventually I made it to a hardwood dealer. The dealer I go through was happy to surface the wood. They added a little to the bf price but it was still much cheaper than Lowes or HD. Eventually, if you get into woodworking, you may get a planer and joiner. I like buying rough stock and preparing it with power and hand tools.
Jo
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You play half rounds with no cart, I see? :)

Sure.............................................. Yeah............................................. Did the Mrs. buy that?
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My first great woodworking - golf epiphany came when I realized that I had spent more on a driver and fairway woods in the last 12 months than a new Unisaw would cost... And still couldn't tell you where the ball was going with better than 70% surety.
1 dozen Pro V1 = 10bf S3S hardwoods, more or less. Which will you keep longer? ;-)
Patriarch, who still plays 'business golf'
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