Categories
DIY projects

10 must-have tools to get into woodwork

A lot the posts I write have a great big long list of equipment required at the bottom. The only reasons that I have accumulated a fair bit of kit since we moved in is that A) it turns out that I love DIY (particularly woodwork) and B) it’s almost always cheaper to buy the kit and DIY than to pay someone else to do it.

The truth is, there’s only a very small amount of kit that you need to complete 95% of woodwork projects so I’ve put together a list of the essential equipment you’ll want to get hold of if you’re keen to get into working with wood. You can get all the gear I’ve linked to for around £250 so you needn’t break the bank and you can make that back in one or two projects.


#1 Circular saw

This is first on the list because there is no bit of kit as versatile as a circular saw. Sure, you can make basic cuts with a plain old hand saw, but it takes ages, is far from accurate and is hard work.

With a circular saw you can make just about any cut, including…

Basic cross cut.

Rip cut.

Mitre cut.

Bevel cut.

Half lap joints.

And probably a huge number of other types of cut I don’t know of!

They do most stuff that you can achieve with a mitre saw or table saw and another big plus is that they’re portable. So yeah, circular saw HAS to be top of the list.

My circular saw gets used almost daily in projects like our fitted wardrobes.

If budget is your absolute priority, this circular saw will get you up and running.

#2 A square

Might seem a bit of a basic thing to be second on the list, but you’ll need some sort of square for every wood project. Without a square, your circular saw cross cuts and mitre cuts will be crap. Plus, when assembling stuff, a square is vital to make sure your assembly is, well, square.

My go-to square is my speed square (also called a rafter square) but a combination square does the same job. I rely on this baby for so many projects, but one example is the gate I made for our driveway.

This combination & speed square set from Screwfix was one of my first DIY purchases and definitely one of the most used.

#3 Measuring tape

You won’t get very far without a measuring tape. My tape is metric only which I find makes it easier to use.

Here’s a super cheap tape that, let’s be honest, does exactly the same job as any other measuring tape.

#4 Combi drill

You’ve now got the gear you need to measure up and make accurate cuts. Next up, you’ll need gear that allows you to actually fix bits of timber together. First in this line-up is the combi drill.

You could probably get away without a combi drill, but I wouldn’t recommend trying. This power tool allows you to pre-drill holes (pilot holes) in wood before driving screws in. In some cases, this isn’t necessary, but it’s usually wise to pre-drill to avoid causing the wood to split.

Combi drills also have lots of other uses in woodwork, including drilling large holes with hole saws/spade bits, countersinking to give screw heads somewhere to sit, and drilling pocket holes.

Obviously, there are also loads of applications outside of woodwork too like drilling holes in your house to put up shelves/mirrors etc., so you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Our decking with built-in storage required at least couple of thousand screws, many of which were near the edge of the wood. Pilot holes are particularly important when screwing close to the edge so I got a shed load of use out of my combi drill on this project.

This Mac Allister combi drill will get you going and is about half the price of the next cheapest drill. While you’re down at your local Screwfix, this set of brad point drill bits will get you going.

#5 Impact driver

With pilot holes drilled, you’re going to want an impact driver to drive screws home. An impact driver is basically a screwdriver on steroids. It does the same job in a fraction of the time.

If you are on a really tight budget, you could probably get away with not buying an impact driver. A combi drill can be used instead if needs be, but it won’t do as good a job as driver and changing out the drill bits every few seconds would be a faff. Alternatively, if you really are a glutton for punishment, you could use a screwdriver.

The workshop that my Dad and I built relied very heavily on my impact driver as pretty much the whole thing is held up by screws.

This Mac Allister impact driver takes the same battery as the combi drill and has equally good reviews. These drill bits are worth picking up too.

#6 Screws

There’s a bewildering choice of screws on the market, many of which I don’t understand the point of. A great starting point is a trade pack of woodscrews with various different lengths and diameters of screw.

If you need screws for outdoor projects, you’ll want to avoid using standard woodscrews as these will rust and potentially stain the wood. To get around this, you can buy decking screws or stainless steel screws.

#7 Wood glue

You can get away with using just screws as fixings in most projects but ‘gluing and screwing’ is the safe bet. That’s because while screwing or nailing are effective methods of connecting two bits of timber together, they actually compromise the structure. Glue, on the other hand, does not do this and a lot of brands actually claim that their glue is stronger than wood itself.

In a lot of projects, the main purpose of nails/screws is actually just to pin wood together while the glue dries (cures if you’re feeling fancy).

Glue comes into it’s own when you’re joining boards together, like I did for our dining table and bench.

To keep things simple, I tend to use an exterior grade glue like this one for all my gluing jobs.

#8 Power sander

Depending on the type of wood you’re working with, it may need sanding. If you’ve ever sanded something by hand you’ll know that it is the most thankless task of all time. So, if you have any amount of sanding to do, please buy a power sander.

My power sander made light work of sanding the feather edge boards that we used to make our pug ugly garage look a handsome shed.

There are a few different varieties you can get, but most sanding jobs can be done with an orbital sander like this one. These sanding discs simply velcro onto the sander pad.

#9 Spirit level

You probably know what a spirit level does. But in case not, it makes sure stuff is level and I’d be lost without mine. For jobs like fitting our wardrobe shelves, there’s no substitute (well, you could get a laser level, but a spirit level is the best place to start).

Spirit levels aren’t just about getting stuff level, though. They’re brilliant for providing a ‘straight edge’ which is often needed when making long cuts. I use my 180cm spirit level along with my circular saw to make long, straight cuts all the time.

Spirit levels come in a massive variety of sizes, from a few cm long to 180cm plus. They all have their own merits, but I’d say the most versatile length is 60cm long like this baby.

#10 Clamps

You won’t get very far without clamps. Whether using them to clamp to a workbench while you’re sanding, or to squeeze two bits of timber together while gluing or screwing them, they’re really, really useful.

I used several clamps to keep the sections of our picture ledge in place while the glue cured.

Similarly to spirit levels, clamps come in loads of different sizes and also styles. I’d recommend getting a couple of these quick-grip clamps as a starting point.

Honourable mentions

To my mind, those 10 are the absolute essentials. You can get so much done with them. However, if you do fancy extending your woodworking kit a bit wider, here are a few bonus bits.

  • Workbench – you don’t need a workbench, but they make life a lot easier. I made one similar to this one really cheaply.
  • Jigsaw – circular saws are great for straight cuts, but if you need to cut any curves then you’ll need a jigsaw. This budget jigsaw will stand up to most jobs.
  • Mitre saw – a circular saw can do almost everything a mitre saw will do, but a mitre saw is required to get truly accurate mitre cuts and if you need to compound cuts like I needed to on our decking seats. Here’s the one that I use.
  • Table saw – similarly, a circular saw will sort you out, but table saws allow you to get really accurate, repeatable cuts done really quickly. Mine is super cheap and does a decent job, but I ain’t going to be doing any fine cabinet-making with it.
  • Router – routers open up a lot more options when it comes to woodwork projects. Whether rounding off the edges of a table, cutting a dado (essentially a recess) to help assemble a cabinet, or even cutting a perfect circle for a stool, routers are awesome. You can get wee palm routers for smaller & more intricate jobs, big ol’ half inch routers for chunky work, or a quarter inch router like mine which is a good compromise.

If you do buy a few of these bits and find yourself enjoying woodwork, the chances are that you’ll get addicted and within a few months you’ll be buying tools that you didn’t know existed!

In case you are just starting out, a couple of really simple and easy projects to kick things off could be a picture ledge or hanging bedside lights.

Categories
DIY projects

DIY decking with integrated storage seats

2020 was perhaps not the ideal year to build a big deck for all the friends and family to enjoy… This project took me a lot longer than expected but was really enjoyable and we’re chuffed with the (almost) finished result. It’s a great space to have a BBQ or toast some marshmallows on the fire pit, and the integrated storage seats come in handy.

If people are interested in making their own I’ll do a few posts with step-by-step instructions but here’s a (relatively) snappy summary of how I built it. I’ve added materials and equipment to the bottom of the post, as well as how much it cost.


Decking base

After spending a looong time planning out the whole thing, I grabbed a mattock and shovel and dug out the area to a fairly shallow depth.

There are a few ways to approach the foundations for decking and I went for the cheapest & easiest. The decking frame sits on some big paving stones & breeze blocks that I nabbed from my Dad. The only prep was to dig out slightly deeper in the locations of the pavers, then fill with hardcore and compact before plopping the pavers/breeze blocks on top and covering the area with weed membrane.

To help water run off the decking, I built in a fall of 1 in 60. A handy tip for getting this right is to use a 600mm spirit level with a 10mm spacer sat under the end that you want to be lower – when the joists are showing as level, you’ve got your 1 in 60 fall.

With the foundations set, I started work on the decking frame. I used standard timber dimensions of 3.8 x 2.4 metres so there was zero cutting required. After fixing the outer frame together using 100mm screws, I begun positioning the 150x50mm joists 400mm apart. A couple of screws through either end and joist hangers held the frame securely together.

I slapped some end grain preserver onto the exposed ends of the joists to give them an extra layer of protection.

Noggins across the middle of the frame added rigidity.

Keeping everything REALLY square here was key as otherwise there would be untold consequences later on so a decent sized speed square/combination square is key. The old trick of making sure diagonal measurements are exactly the same is a good final check.

The gaps between joists provided a great opportunity to get rid of some of the 67 tonnes of rubble that I dug up in preparation for moving the garage.

I then cracked on with screwing the decking boards in place. Using screws for the spacing helped make this a really quick job.

I chose to use the decking with the flat side facing up as I much prefer the look and it actually makes them easier to clean. Apparently, this side is no less grippy and I’m yet to slip on my arse.

You may think from the above photo that I missed a spot… That’s because there are seats on 3 sides and so I figured there’s no need to spend money on decking when it’ll have seats over the top. In hindsight, I’d have decked the whole thing as the seats would have been easier to build.

Seat frames

The basic structure is two rectangles sat on top of 2×2 (47 x 47mm) pressure treated timber that’s screwed into the joists. I must have used a couple of thousand screws on this project and was too tight to buy super long decking screws to fix the frame together. Instead, I countersunk 60mm decking screws which worked well.

Once established a bit of a system, it was a case of making repeated cuts and working my way around all 3 sides.

I angled the back of the seats at 10 degrees to make them more comfortable.

There were some tricky angles in the corners but after a bit of trial and error I got there. I wouldn’t bother attempting this project without a mitre saw as getting the angles spot on is crucial.

Taking the time to get everything level, square and aligned was worth spending the time on.

Eventually, all 3 sides were finished so I turned my attention to the seats.

Storage seats

To free up some garage space, I figured it’d be worth adding some hinges to the seats so that stuff can be stored in them. It was a bit of a faff but well worth it as we’ve now got loads of extra storage, albeit only for stuff that can get wet.

The seats are made out of 100 x 22mm rough sawn treated timber. I gave each board a quick sand at 80 grit before cutting them to length. I used my circular saw and a guide to rip cut some of the lengths of wood down to stagger the widths and make things a bit prettier. A table saw would have made this process a hell of a lot quicker but I didn’t have one at the time.

I then clamped up the boards and screwed supports (made from off cuts of the seat wood) from the bottom, being careful to make sure they wouldn’t clash with the seat frame when opening/closing. Again, screws worked as great spacers.

The back of the hinges are screwed into a thin section of wood that’s fixed to the seat frame, while the front parts are screwed directly into the seat section. The hinges are on show and it may look like this means you could sit on them, but unless you have a particularly triangular-shaped arse there’s no risk of this.

I wasn’t certain that the hinges would be able to take the weight of opening the seats but they worked a dream. The first opening was an emotional moment. I repeated the same process for all 3 sides.

Finishing off other panels

In between making the hinged seats, I fixed all the other sections in place. This was a lot quicker than making the hinged seats as it was just a case of cutting and then screwing in place. Having said that, there were some tricky compound angles to work out where the angled seat backs met at 90 degrees.

One thing I definitely hadn’t anticipated was just how much wood this project would need. I had to re-order, twice!

I was careful to make sure that the boards that met horizontally were exactly the same width and met at the same height.

I used some scrap wood for the bottom sections of the storage areas to keep costs down.

Finishing bits

Before cutting and fixing the top and front sections in place, I fixed some 75 x 75mm treated posts against the frame to support some festoon lights and a sail shade. I used my jigsaw and router to neatly cut out around the posts.

I left the back of one of the sides open for wood storage. It’s really handy for the fire pit, looks pretty cool and prevented me from having to re-order wood for a 3rd time…

Haz reckons there’s a bit of a Love Island vibe going on what with the sail shade and festoon lights – this was absolutely not my intention.

I sneakily led the guttering from the shed behind the seating and into a water butt that’s hidden behind the seats. I didn’t want a big ugly butt sat in front of the decking.

I added a wee slate channel around the perimeter to finish things off and that was pretty much it.


Fingers crossed we’ll get a shed load of use out of our decking seats in summer 2021. We did have a few evenings on it in 2020 but socially distanced nights by the firepit aren’t quite the same.

I’ve still got to oil it all so that it lasts as long as poss, but as I keep saying about all the things on my to-do list, that’s a spring job.

In terms of cost, the whole thing came to around £900 of materials. This was a fair chunk more than I was expecting, mainly because I underestimated how much wood this baby would get through. It would seat 10 people fairly comfortably so making a smaller version could easily save a couple of hundred quid. I guess it’s also worth taking into account that paying someone to make something like this would probably cost a fair few grand as there’s a lot of labour.

You might enjoy having a read of some of my other posts, including how much our extension cost or how I made our fitted wardrobes.

Materials

  • Patio slabs
  • Weed membrane
  • End grain preserver
  • Joist hangers
  • 40mm galvanised sheradised square twist nails (for joist hangers)
  • 150 x 50mm pressure treated decking joists
  • 100mm joist screws
  • 120mm x 28mm pressure treated decking
  • 60mm decking screws
  • 47 x 47mm rough sawn pressure treated timber (for seat frames)
  • 100 x 22mm rough sawn pressure treated timber (for seats and panelling)
  • 40mm decking screws
  • Stainless steel twin ball bearing hinges (for seat storage)
  • Corrosion-resistant 25mm screws
  • 75 x 75mm pressure treated posts (for festoon lights/shade sail)
  • Decking oil

Equipment

  • Mattock
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Speed square/combination square
  • Measuring tape
  • Mitre saw
  • 600mm spirit level
  • Plastic shims/spacers
  • Table saw (can use circular saw with guide)
  • Combi drill
  • Impact driver
  • Orbital sander
  • 1/4 inch router
  • Jigsaw (if need to cut around anything)