This post was originally made on my new woodworking and metal working blog, BuilderFleet.
I’ve had a philosophy for a long time that the best way to learn any new skill is to make the simplest possible project to develop that new skillset. Some skills might be harder to learn than others but the key to learning a new skill is to find the smallest project as an entry point and expand from there.
If you want to get into baking don’t bake a souffle, bake cookies.
If you want to learn to how to play violin don’t practice songs, just practice hitting one note accurately.
And of you’re getting into woodworking or welding don’t build a house or a car, just build a table.
This is such a simple concept but one that most people ignore or don’t think will work for them.
And this is understandable because, in my experience, most people want to have something to show for the work that they’ve done. They want to make something that will impress everyone in their life and thus think that they have make something to compete with the quality and scope or mass manufactured goods.
But when you think about it more features and a better polish doesn’t usually make a better product. Sure, it makes one that looks better and having all of bells and whistles makes you start to imagine all the possible ways you can use it, but the product itself usually doesn’t need all of those things.
My go to example of this is a table.
All tables are just ways of elevating the floor to a height that is comfortable to work at when sitting or standing. That’s all. Nothing more complicated than that.
In a pinch the simplest table can be made from a pile of dirt that is flattened. This is a table and requires no tools to build and is literally cheap as dirt.
Of course you can complicate a table as much as you like.
The flat top can be made from raw wood, finished wood, metal, glass, anything. It can have any style or design on it. Equally the legs can be made of so many different material and in so many designs that we will never run out of ways to make a table.
Each change you make to the basic design adds complexity to the process and requires more skill to master, but the basic design can be made by anyone.
As you get comfortable with basics you might start adding different things to your table. You might replace the basic 2×4 wooden legs with square steel tubing. You might replace those legs with more complex legs made of steel rods. You can change any aspect of it as you want to learn more skills.
So don’t think you have to master every skill on your first project. And don’t take on projects way outside of your comfort zone. Just build a table.