Woodworking encompasses a wide range of skills and techniques, and despite popular thinking that you need thousands of dollars of tools, there’s a lot you can do with very little!
Here at Tiny Workshops, we’re all about starting new creative hobbies, so we put together this list of woodworking hobbies for all skill levels to help you find the right one for you!
Note that I’m not including things that are typically considered professions, like carpentry and cabinet making, in favor of more amateur pastimes you can do from home. If you want to try those out, check out our list of the best woodworking classes.
Affiliate disclosure: Articles on Tiny Workshops may contain affiliate links.
Spoon carving is one of the most approachable woodworking hobbies, and you really don’t need much to get started. With a decent knife, a spoon gouge, and a piece of wood (called a blank), you can churn out your first spoon in a few hours.
Using just these tools, you can make cooking spoons, coffee scoops, salad servers, butter spreaders, or even simple chopsticks! These all make great handmade gifts because they’re both beautiful and utilitarian.
If you like wood carving but want to focus on more decorative work, figure carving is another alternative. These can be little figures for display or decorative objects like vases and trays.
The tools required for this are again pretty affordable since most of the work will be done by hand. You may want some limited power tools to join pieces of wood for more complicated projects.
Scroll saw work
The scroll saw is a tool that has fallen a bit in popularity recently, but it’s a great option for anyone who wants to express their creativity with a single tool. If you’ve never seen one, you can think of it as a jigsaw with a very thin blade that’s attached to a large table.
Typically you’ll print or draw a pattern on a thin panel of wood, then slowly cut it out with the scroll saw. It’s a slow and relaxing process, and the tool itself is pretty affordable for beginners.
Miniature hobbies are incredibly versatile, enabling you to make tiny versions of everything from railway stations to furniture for dollhouses.
If you commit to using balsa wood, you can create miniatures with just a sharp knife and some glue. However, if you want to take things to the next level, the German brand Proxxon makes incredible woodworking machines for miniatures.
Boxes are always useful, so why not make them beautiful? It might sound boring to spend your free time just making boxes, but it’s an extremely rewarding woodworking hobby that can be surprisingly challenging. Plus, they make amazing gifts.
Kumiko is a Japanese woodworking technique to create geometric patterns using precisely cut lengths of thin wood. It was traditionally used to distribute light (and look nice) on shoji doors and screens, but they look gorgeous in their own right.
The only downside is that you need a handful of specialized jigs to achieve perfect fits. You can make these at home or buy them online. To learn more, we once again return to Matt Kenney for his book The Art of Kumiko and his online Kumiko course on Domestika.
Pyrography, or wood burning, is the art of burning patterns and designs into a solid block of wood. This can be used to personalize items like cutting boards or create large, original works of art.
This is one of the cheapest woodworking hobbies to start, since the only thing you need is a wood burning kit and a block of wood. If you want to automate the process, check out the section on laser cutting below.
Woodturning uses a tool called a lathe to spin chunks of wood at high speeds, enabling you to chisel away material to create rounded objects like bowls, vases, bracelets, chess pieces, rounded boxes, and more.
To start you will need to buy a lathe and a set of chisels, which can be a bit expensive. Lathes tend to be large and make a huge mess, so this is not something you’ll want inside your house. Still, it’s a timeless and versatile craft.
As someone who made furniture semi-professionally for a number of years, furniture making will always be one of my favorite woodworking hobbies. Having the ability to create simple (or complicated) pieces to furnish your own home is an incredible feeling, although I recommend leaving it as a hobby and not going professional.
Depending on the type of furniture you want to make, you may need to invest a significant amount of money into tools and equipment. Start with a table saw and a few other basic tools before investing in nice-to-haves like a bandsaw and planer.
CNC and laser cutting
For the more digital crowd, CNC and laser cutting will allow you to create small furniture, artwork, and other knickknacks without having to get your hands dirty. Even affordable laser engravers can hugely speed up the wood burning process if you’re running a small business.
CNC machines are expensive, but simple laser cutters like the Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro S2 are pretty affordable. They’re a bit of a pain to set up and you will want to use them in a well-ventilated area, but they really do open up a lot of interesting possibilities.
Marquetry and intarsia are more artistic woodworking hobbies. They involve inlaying different species of wood to create a pattern or image, which is then sealed and varnished over.
Marquetry uses thin veneers to achieve this, while intarsia uses solid sections of wood. Both often feature pretty archaic designs, but for a more interesting look at what’s possible check out Modern Marquetry: Decorating with Wood.
The final entry in our list of woodworking hobbies is by far the least accessible, but it can be a great long-term project for anyone who lives near water.
You probably won’t ever make anything larger than a canoe, and you’ll need to master techniques like wood bending for the best results. If this sounds like too much, remember you can use many of the same skills to make a miniature boat in a bottle!
That’s it for our list of woodworking hobbies! Do you have any more recommendations for beginners? Drop them in the comments below!