How to Build Wooden Furniture

By Tom King ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Floor Chalk
  • Drawing sheets and pencils
  • Tools and equipment specified
  • Furniture building plans
With the right tools most anyone can build beautiful heirloom furniture.

Building wooden furniture will require an adequately equipped workshop. Proper tools and workspaces are the key to successful woodworking. Acquiring woodworking skills is largely a matter of following plans and instructions once you have the tools you need. This article will focus on creating a basic furniture building shop that will facilitate learning the craft of making fine furniture.

Setting Up Shop

Draw plans for your workshop before doing anything else. Walk around and try to visualize how the space will be used, how materials will flow, how much room various tools will need, how much counter and storage space you will need and where everything should go to make it easiest for you to work.

Construct or raise ceilings to 10 to 12 feet tall at minimum. Include or add roll up doors so you can carry large things in and out and use the outside as supplemental workspace. Mark where everything goes with chalk lines on the floor. Clear everything from the shop before finishing the inside.

Create a wiring plan with your electrician. Add heavier wiring, plugs and breakers as needed. Put plugs at bench height rather than on the floor. Add separate lines on individual breakers for power-hungry tools. Finish wiring before building cabinets, workbenches and setting up power tools. Add ground fault electrical outlets in areas where water or solvents or cutting tools are present. Switchable bench outlets provide double-layered switch protection.

Build enough workbenches to hold all your bench tools. Allow plenty of workspace for gluing, assembling and finishing work. Benches level with table saws and routers can be placed to provide support for heavy plywood and long hardwood boards as they feed through the blades. Movable worktables allow you to adjust your workspace for individual projects.

Build more shelves than you think you’ll ever need. You’ll need them all. Build open, easy-to-access shelves with plenty of foot room around them. Rolling shelves can provide you with extra space in a pinch. Include separate expandable wood storage space. Building materials accumulate quickly. Scrap should bes stored elsewhere. Include pegboards for hand tools, shelves for toolboxes and drawers for furniture hardware and parts. Provide well-ventilated storage for solvents, paint, glue and freshly cleaned brushes.

Fluorescent shop lights backed by white ceilings provide excellent diffused light. Include supplemental lighting around work areas, particularly where cutting and grinding tools will be.

Acquire basic furniture making tools. These include a table or cabinet saw, bandsaw, planer, drill press, router table or shaper, radial arm or miter saw, lathe and grinder for tool sharpening. Hand tools include jig, scroll or saber saw, circular saw, reciprocating saw, orbital and belt sanders, hand drill and bits, socket wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, framing and t-square, chalk line, tape measure, air compressor with light nail gun and spray painting rig. You’ll also need a shop vacuum with filters for dust control and box fan for ventilation. Furniture clamps, bungee cords and table vise are essential for gluing and clamping parts. You’ll pick up other specialized tools as you build projects.

Tip

Find woodworking project plans and try one. Your projects may be disastrous at first, but you will learn and having the right tools and workspaces is the most important predictor of woodworking success.

Warning

Create special storage for dust masks, cartridge respirators, latex and leather gloves, aprons and work clothes. Filtered dust collectors and high volume ventilation systems will help keep the air breathable and safe when you are working inside. An exhaust fan keeps negative pressure inside the shop so dust and vapors are drawn outside the shop and don’t get into the house.

About the Author

Tom King published his first paid story in 1976. His book, "Going for the Green: An Insider's Guide to Raising Money With Charity Golf," was published in 2008. He received gold awards for screenwriting at the 1994 Worldfest Charleston and 1995 Worldfest Houston International Film Festivals. King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Southwestern Adventist College.