My Top 7 Favorite Woodworking Projects
By Derek Carlson
When I first started to build out my woodworking shop, I did it with a very practical purpose in mind. We were in the middle of a kitchen remodel, and, rather than buy new cabinet doors, I wanted to make my own and use that as an excuse to buy my first big woodworking tool: a table saw. That trend continued over the years as I took on other large woodworking projects and used those as an excuse to buy more power tools.
Over time I added a woodworking router when building our dining room table, a bandsaw for items I sell in my Etsy shop, a lathe for woodturning projects, along with several other tools.
Having a fully functioning woodshop in the garage now means having a world of possibility at hand for taking on new woodworking projects. I have built dozens of items that we use around the house and run a small woodworking business as a side hustle.
My Favorite Woodworking Projects
Here are my seven favorite woodworking projects I have made over the years and the tools required to complete them. Some require the use of several expensive tools, while others require only hand tools or a miter saw and a drill.
Difficulty: Easy Shop Tools Required: Miter Saw or Jigsaw, Drill
Planter boxes are one of my favorite popular woodworking projects. They require a minimal amount of tools and can be completed in only a few hours. You can even have your wood cut for you at a home center store, so all you have to do is assemble the pieces when you get home.
There are many different styles to choose from with planter boxes and, while some require a bit more planning, almost all of them can still be completed using only a miter saw and drill.
I love the look of these metal-sided planter boxes. They have a very modern feel and can be easily adjusted in size to fit any backyard space.
Standing planter boxes are another great option for small backyards and patios. These counter height standing planters are great for keeping a patio garden with herbs, tomatoes, and other veggies.
You can finish off the garden and porch area with other outdoor woodworking projects like a garden bench, potting bench, Adirondack chair, picnic table, or plant stand.
Difficulty: Easy Shop Tools Required: Hand saw, Hammer, Drill
Making a birdhouse is a great wood project to make with your kids or if you’re brand new to woodworking yourself. You can make a lovely cedar birdhouse from start to finish using mostly basic, inexpensive hand tools.
The joinery can be completed with either nails or screws as the fasteners. The only need for a power tool is to drill out a hole in the front for the entry and add a small roosting dowel.
If you don’t have dedicated workspaces or a workbench, you can easily do this project in the backyard on a piece of plywood on top of a table or sawhorse.
Difficulty: Easy/Medium Shop Tools Required: Table Saw, Planer, Orbital Sander, Clamps
Making a cutting board is one of the quintessential DIY project ideas for woodworking beginners. It is for a good reason, though, as a quality hardwood cutting board is always helpful around the house, makes for a great gift, and sells well online or at craft shows.
I also love cutting board projects as they are a great way to use up wood scraps. Any wood I have laying around that is at least 3/4″ square and 18 inches long goes into a scrap wood bucket. Once there is enough wood collected, I’ll start planning how to arrange it to make an edge grain cutting board.
Types of Wood Cutting Boards
There are two types of cutting boards: edge grain and end grain.
With an edge grain cutting board, the grain of the wood is oriented along the length of the board. This style is easy to make as it only requires gluing a few boards together, planing them flat, and sanding the board until it’s smooth. This is typically the type of cutting board most beginner woodworkers start with.
End grain cutting boards are constructed by cutting a board into 1 1/2″ to 2″ lengths, standing all those lengths on end, so the end grain is facing up, then gluing them all together into your desired cutting board size. The board faces are then flattened using a belt sander or, if you’re really patient, by hand.
This process is a lot more time-consuming, so these cutting boards usually retail anywhere from 4x to 10x more than edge grain cutting boards. The result is amazing, though, as end grain cutting boards are a joy to cut on in the kitchen. The grain orientation means they are easier on knives and the knife marks tend to self-heal when the board is oiled.
You can add custom features to the boards like a juice groove or handle using a round bit on a router table.
Difficulty: Medium Shop Tools Required: Table Saw, Clamps
Making a picture frame is another one of those easy-to-complete projects that can go from start to finish in just a few hours. We have several pictures around the house in frames, both with and without glass, that I have built over the years.
The best tool for building picture frames is the table saw. You can cut the miters for the corners, cut the rabbets for holding the glass in place, and even add corner splines for a bit of extra strength and added flair.
If you want to make more than a frame or two, I highly recommend setting up a few jigs.
The first is a miter jig. This ensures you will have dialed miters at all your corners, so the frame fits together seamlessly.
The second is a spline jig. Splines add strength to mitered corners along with a decorative touch. You can use this jig for picture frames, boxes, or anything woodworking with a mitered corner.
You can pick up a piece of framing glass from almost any frame or craft store. Or even use a piece of plexiglass that can be purchased from a store like Home Depot. Glass retaining clips and hanging hardware are readily available on Amazon to complete the frame.
Difficulty: Medium Shop Tools Required: Table Saw, Clamps, Orbital Sander
One of my favorite woodworking books is 52 Boxes in 52 Weeks: Improve Your Design Skills One Box At A Time by Matt Kenney. The book follows along with the author as he builds a wooden box a week for a year. It serves as both a guide for building wooden boxes and discusses design principles applied to your woodworking projects in the future.
After reading the book, I started to appreciate “simple” woodworking projects like wooden boxes, as I now see their limitless potential in design and color. Beautiful pieces of wood can be highlighted in their natural state, or boring pieces can be brought to life with paints or fabric liners.
You can also play with joints like mitered corners, box joints, dovetails, rabbet, dado, etc. Each joint has its own beauty and purpose, and making wooden boxes allows you to explore these commonly used woodworking skills.
You can use these boxes to hold keepsakes, as a recipe box, toy box, etc. The beauty of them is you can easily scale the size up or down to meet the needs of your project.
Difficulty: Medium Shop Tools Required: Tablesaw, Miter Saw, Planer, Jointer, Orbital Sander, Drill, Clamps
If you’re looking for bigger woodworking projects that can start selling to them into a decent income stream, then these next two ideas fit the bill. There are certain items around the house that, when handmade, command a premium price while not requiring as much work as you may think.
Wooden beds are the first of these two projects. Beds can take on many designs, from modern platform style beds to the traditional headboard and four-post beds to whimsical house style beds for kids.
I recently made a pretty standard-style bed for my son. It was the typical four legs and a headboard style, and from start to finish, it only took a couple of partial days in the shop. Maybe 15 hours of work total, and that is probably overstating it, for a bed that could be sold for anywhere between $1,000 to $2,500, depending on the size.
I constructed my bed with mortise, and tenon joinery, which I cut using a router and the table saw. Mortise and tenons can also be hand cut using chisels and hand saws. Dominos are another way to quickly create rock-solid mortise and tenon joints, although the price point for a domino machine can be a no-go for many home woodworkers.
Once you factor in the material cost, ~$250, you can start to see the income potential from making beds.
Even if you don’t want to sell them, making your own bed is a great family heirloom-style project that will last a lifetime.
Difficulty: Medium Shop Tools Required: Miter Saw, Orbital Sander, Drill, Sawhorse
Making dining tables are another project that is actually a lot less work than you may think and don’t even require any detailed woodworking plans. Some of my favorite styles that require a minimal amount of time and a minimal number of tools are rustic and live edge tables.
Rustic Dining Tables
Rustic wooden dining tables are exactly as their name implies – rustic. That means they don’t need a perfectly jointed and smoothed surface, advanced joinery techniques, or a glass-like finish. They can be made from common lumber found at the big box lumber stores or rough sawn hardwoods like maple or poplar from your local hardwood dealer.
While the height of the barnhouse rustic decor fad may have passed, it is still a popular style and, due to the lower cost of materials and time, these tables sell well at a lower price point.
Using pocket hole joinery and basic finishes like milk paint or wood stain keep this an easy woodworking project.
There are a ton of free plans for rustic tables available all over the internet, so find one that best fits your aesthetic.
Live Edge Dining Tables
As the rustic woodworking fad faded, the live edge fad rose in its place. In almost every decent-sized city in the country, you can now find backyard sawyers or companies setting up shop in old warehouses selling live edge wood slabs.
I built a live edge dining table for our house a few years ago, and we still love it. There is so much history in wood slabs, and the dark tones of woods like walnut go well with the more modern styles that kitchens have adopted.
Making your own live edge table is actually a pretty easy woodworking project that only requires a sander and power drill!
When buying a live edge slab, look for one that doesn’t have any cracks, knot holes, or rot voids. Also, buy from a company that offers flattening services. When slabs are cut and dried, they have a really rough surface and tend to warp a bit. The slab can be smoothed and flattened by running a router on a flattening sled over both sides.
From there, all you need to do is sand it smooth and apply a few coats of finish.
There are many options on sites like Etsy for pre-made table legs in your choice of wood or metal. These legs are bolted to the underside of the table, and your project is complete!
Final Thoughts on My Favorite Woodworking Projects
These woodworking projects range from where I started as a new woodworker to tackling bigger projects as my shop capabilities and skills have grown. I hope these projects inspire you to start building either for yourself or for getting started selling your woodworking as a side hustle.
This article originally appeared on