When I was a kid I spent a fair amount of time with my mom, dad, and papa working on various projects. We would build things from bare wood up to something fun (go kart! fort!) or practical (furniture!). But I would never consider myself to be a "woodworker" or really good with wood. Wood is fun - the tools and techniques for handling it are fairly cheap and easy - but it is also really tough to do "well." So, here are my secrets to having fun and making decent wood projects, in an environmentally friendly way. I've listed the secrets as part of narration of a little counter that I built for an empty spot in our kitchen. Our stove left an 11 inch gap going to the wall. Given that we lacked counter space, gaining that 11 inches of extra space became a welcome improvement to cooking happiness.
1. Start with Scrap Wood
It's not just good for the environment, it's good for your bank account and your creativity. Start with scrap wood!
These are leftover pieces of wood selected from among the rotten pieces we tore down when we replaced our fence. We're giving life to something that would be trash. It also gives a fun feeling to the end result: weathered and full of character from the first minute. If you don't have your own scrap wood, go to a construction site and scrounge from their dumpster. They'll be happy to let you do that because it's less waste for them to pay to haul off. Other great sources include your local dumpster, the alley, fence replacement projects(!), any business that deals in large goods delivered in crates, wooden sign companies (they have to take them down too...).
Dealing with scrap wood also helps with secret number two.
2. Measure twice, cut once, but only if necessary