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Children always assume that they’re going to be amazing at something on the very first try. And sometimes they are! This attitude sneaks its way into adulthood: if we’re not good at something on the first try, we’d rather not try at all. It makes sense. Sometimes trying can be expensive, even if we want to get better. Or perhaps we did try before- bought all the tools and gadgets anyone could ever need- and then never used them. 

It makes sense though, to buy all the tools and gadgets. To be a great photographer, I’ll probably need the best camera. To be an Olympic skier, I should invest in the streamline-iest skis. But financially investing in professional or expensive tools does not always translate to emotionally investing in learning the skills required to use those tools.

Beginners How To

Trying a new hobby or learning a new skill should be like a free sample at a big box store. We try the sample to determine whether or not the whole 65-ounce jar is worth it. But the voice of our inner child is pretty strong, firmly believing that it’s the tools that make the skill, telling you, “Buy the $700 camera! It’ll make you a good photographer!”

It’s easy to mistake our excitement to try something new as a guarantee that we will be good at it. Still, as a new woodworker, you’d never purchase cherry to build your first project, so why would a new photographer need the most expensive camera to learn?

Beginner DIY Tools


Try the Free Sample.

There are many reasons to DIY tools that are available for purchase, though I believe the main two are

  1. It’s out of budget and/or
  2. It was left at home and there isn’t enough time to go back for it.

Within just these two parameters, the imagination can come up with multiple solutions.

Using a coffee filter as a light diffuser works in a pinch whether or not a parabolic softbox is in your budget. There is, however, a third reason to DIY tools and gadgets: You learn about what you need and what you don’t.

Overinvesting in a new hobby can sometimes make it intimidating to even start practicing that new hobby. What if you drop your $700 camera? What if I mismeasure my expensive wood for my project? What if I’m just not good at it? And that’s what DIYing is for.

DIYing lets you try similar tools in a lower-commitment, repeatable way. It’s the free sample anyone can try! Oh, and another great thing about free samples, too, is that you may learn you don’t actually want the more expensive, higher-commitment tool! Perhaps after trying many free samples/DIYs, you find a style and method that suits you.

You don’t have to do it like the “Experts”.

Experts are experts for a reason (hopefully), and not everyone should be an expert. In fact, most experts will tell you what they’ve learned because they believe that their knowledge should be shared; should be accessible.

You’ll find on nearly all social media platforms, tips, tricks, and hacks for everything you need to do whatever you want. Simply search the topic plus “tutorial” and you’ll be inundated with videos, articles, screenshots, and Reddit threads. Click here for a quick example of a construction hack (if you’re into DIYing home renovations).

Combining tools is a trend that has been around for a while. If anything it’s the basis for many of the power tools we know today. I’m not a woodworking expert, so when I discovered that a tool like a contour gauge existed, I was impressed! I was even more impressed when I saw someone craft one out of a small piece of cardboard and barbecue sticks.

DIY contour gauge
These are toothpicks instead of barbeque sticks but you get the idea.


Simply observing the ‘real’ tools and breaking them down into their essentials is a great way to recreate tools in a pinch. And for when it feels impossible to break it down on your own, well, that’s what the internet is for! (YouTube University may be a real thing soon!) Experts understand that imagination takes a lot of time, work, and research, so if it’s already up for you online, you may as well take advantage and try it for yourself!

And don’t forget libraries! Libraries often contain informational books that cannot be found online. Your local library is also likely to have a community board filled with flyers from resident experts about the thing you want to learn more about!

NextFab also has its own online library for members! If you become a member, you’ll have access our online library, access to software (Adobe, Solidworks), to freelancing opportunities, and more! Click the link to find out more!

How to know which How-tos to use

But there are a lot of experts out there; a lot of tutorials to consider, online or off. The best way to know which one would best suit you is to decide on these 3 points:

  1. Does the teaching style resonate with you?
  2. Is the lesson taught through a medium you prefer?
  3. Is it the right amount of challenge you need to stay interested?

Once you decide on those 3 points, congratulations! You found the tutorials (and the creator of those tutorials) that you like and work with you! And don’t worry if your answers change as you try your hand at different tutorials.

Every expert became one by making mistakes. While there’s no pressure to be an expert, just know that you’re in good company.

Ready for class?

If you live in or near Philadelphia, PA, reserve a spot for a class at NextFab! We’ve got everything from woodworking to jewelry; from 3D printing to circuitry. We have classes for students at every level and teachers (our resident experts) who are excited to share their knowledge.

Beginners How To

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