I apologies if this was already covered but I could only find a thread on books, and it was geared towards someone having some basic skills already.

While I am far from useless, I never had a reason to learn much about home repair when I was around people to teach me. I recently relocated across the country, including buying a house, so now there's tons I want to do. Unfortunately I don't really know anyone here I could ask to help me learn, so I am basically left to learn everything via books and videos. I have been doing pretty good, as I am laying a paver patio and doing it correctly, fixed underground sprinklers, and a replaced a toilet (got help there since it was my first time). However I am now getting to the point where I want to do some basic wood work and I have really never touched a power saw till today to cut a sprinkler pipe.

I have a few books I bought however my lively hood it my hands on computers so this is something I really feel I should be watching to see how things are correctly done rather than read a book and guess off the pictures.

I am not expecting to knock out walls or replace windows by any means. To start I want to do some very basic projects like repairing my fence entrance (looks like I just replace 3 wood pieces), build a 20 gallon fish tank stand, and build a base for a shed I just ordered. These are extremely simple projects that if i mess up a bit, its not a big deal visually. Through them I hope to learn basic cuts, joins, and tool handling. With the tank stand I'm hoping to learn basic staining and painting so down the road I can build a nice 100 gallon tank stand. It just seems these are smart starter projects.

I'd eventually like to then build a nice work bench after i get the basics down, allowing me to build something a lot bigger where a bit of uneven cuts wont be life or death since it will just sit in my garage.

Can anyone suggest a video series or website that is geared at the very basics such as going over the different types of saws and tools you can use with what each are best for and how to use each correctly? I'd love something that covers the most common rookie mistakes so I can learn from others mistakes instead of making my own (sure I will make some, but better to learn the majors off others error). This especially includes something that teaches me all the key safety tips, which surely is important and something that can be hard to learn via pictures in a book.

I found tons of sites that outlines basic projects or go over specific tools but if I don't know what a miter saw is used for, I wouldn't know that I should be watching that video. So to start I would love just a intro 101 type video to get me introduced to all the tools and what not.

Again I am very sorry if this is to "general" for the forum. I am a common stack overflow user and this seemed like the best stack exchange site relating to my topic.

  • Do you have any community colleges or adult education programs in your area?
    – Tester101
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 11:34
  • 1
    YouTube. Seriously. You can learn most anything from YouTube these days. Also, Fine Hombuilding (and I'd assume their sister publication, Fine Woodworking) offers video series both on and ordered via their web site. I've been a big fan of Fine Homebuilding for a long time.
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 15:43
  • Tester: No clue of adult education programs as I just moved here but a community college is not even a ballpark chance. I work on a normal week 90+ hours between software engineering, meetings, and more. While I agree this is a great option I learn extremely fast and am very good at teaching myself. I just need a solid video that would outline what i need. (in college u will learn in 1 semester what u can teach yourself hands on in 24 hours.) This certainly would not fit in my schedule. I appreciate the suggestion, as its a good one, just not the best for my situtation. Commented May 1, 2012 at 3:49
  • DA01: As youtube goes, i have already watched a bunch. finding how tos for very specific stuff is super easy but a general instructional program for all the basics is not. I have browsed many sites, reading tons. I would love a nice course on tape (preferably online) if possible though. Sort of a wood work 101-201 on tape. As for the publications you mentioned I will for sure look into them. thank you Commented May 1, 2012 at 3:56

5 Answers 5


As far as books, I highly recommend The Complete Book of Woodworking: http://www.amazon.com/The-Complete-Book-Woodworking-Detailed/dp/1890621366/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335885982&sr=8-1. It's easy to follow even for the uninitiated. It goes over the major tools, what they are used for, and has excellent instructions on some starter and intermediate projects. There are even some workbench projects toward the end, one of which is made only from plywood and 2x4 lumber. I made it with a jigsaw and really uneven cuts, and it's held together well for about a year (it's usable for everything except hand planing). I'm also a software engineer by trade and learn well from books, so I spent a good few months obsessing over this book in my apartment before buying a house and really getting started.

For video instruction, The Wood Whisperer is one of my favorites; he gets into what tools are used for, how to set them up and tune them, and has some videos dedicated to safety. He's also very technical and comes from a science background, so the engineer in me relates well with him. He doesn't leave out many details. Fine Woodworking is also very good and for $5 a month you can get access to a ton of video content.



SawmillCreek and WoodworkingTalk are nice forums to search through for tips and discussions about what tools are best used for what projects.



Most of these will discuss fine woodworking, furniture making, and detailed joinery, which you may or may not be interested in. All of them, however, will give you information you want about tool usage. It may be more detail than what you're interested in for the projects you describe, but if anything you'll be over-prepared.

  • thanks man I will def look into all of this. Basically spending all my spare time learning as much as I can before I jump into it so that is def helpful. Thanks again Commented May 2, 2012 at 4:27
  • finewoodworking.com seems to be just what i was looking for. thanks! Commented May 3, 2012 at 9:07

I learned a lot from watching "This Old House", back in the day when the home owners did a lot more of the work (now get off of my lawn). I also learned a lot by watching the "New Yankee Workshop". However I didn't watch these to learn anything specific, I just watched them because I enjoyed them. I'm not certain how they might suit your needs.

  • I will look into them both. Thank you for the suggestion. Commented May 1, 2012 at 3:58
  • New Yankee Workshop is great, but Norm has all the toys. Watching that show can put you into serious budgetary problems. Commented May 1, 2012 at 14:39
  • yeh I am only doing basic stuff right now. Went and picked up some books on the tools so i can setup a decent work station. For learning I def dont want to spent over a grand, which I believe is very reasonable off what i already looked into. Without help some higher end tools will surely help, but i def won't be making money off this so I don't need a professional shop in my garage. Commented May 2, 2012 at 4:25

There's a video series that fine homebuilding put out on Youtube called Framing (Floors and Stairs, Walls, and a Roof) with Larry Haun (there are three). This is from 1992 but the information holds up! As always, the code probably has changed since then but I found the videos very informative.

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know the details of contributing here. Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 20:52
  • I know this is a comment on a really old Q, but for anyone finding this… Larry Haun is great, but he’s a pro and swings a wormdrive saw like a pro. Beginners want to spend a little more time marking/measuring, and setting up for safety. Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 19:07

Youtube is a surprisingly good teaching tool, and any book on the subject will probably be worth reading but if you're serious the best and safest way to learn is to work with somebody that already knows what they're doing. The master/apprentice relationship helps you learn in three ways, 1. Direct Communication: "do it this way". 2. Critical Communication: "don't do it that way!" A good teacher will see you doing something wrong and point it out to you. 3. Osmosis: "so that's how you do it!" A good student will see a teacher doing something (something they might not even be consciously aware of) and learn from it. As Sam Maloof once said "an apprentice must eyes in the back of his head."

Videos,books, and the internet will only give you a dime-store education, but working with an expert will give you the deeper understanding necessary to work safely and efficiently. Now as to how to secure such an arrangement...? Find a working carpenter and bribe them? Stalk a cabinet maker and ingratiate yourself to them? Craigslist personal ad? That could be interesting.


What you described contains both carpentry work (building a fence) and wood work (building workbench etc) so depending on what you ultimately want, the resources could be a bit different. Here are some good recommendation that I find beginner-friendly.

  • General home improvement: HomeDepot/Lowes has youtube channel and DIY tutorials in their website that cover a wide range of home improvement tasks from fixing a leaky faucet to installing an outlet
  • HouseImprovements and See Jane Drill. They cover a lot of common home improvement tips and tricks which I find super helpful. It's fun to just watch their videos and learn.
  • Woodworking. Steve Ramsey's channel is focusing on "get started" with basic tools and building basic projects. Very beginner friendly. There are also a few channels that tend to build things without using super expensive tools so they are also quite beginner friendly, search for "Fix this build that", "3x3 custom", "April Wilkerson", "Fisher's shop", "Jon Peters" in youtube.
  • Finally, if you want a more structured and systematic training. There should be local woodshops near you in which you can take classes from personal tutors; or if you want to take it more seriously, you can take courses in local colleges.

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