Mid-century Woodworking 80 Projects to Make by Hand

Mid-century Woodworking 80 Projects to Make by Hand Hardcover – September 5, 2023 – by A.W.P. Kettless (Author). Make your own wooden items from the 1950s and ’60s for your house. Make your own beautiful mid-century wooden objects for the home.

Mid century Woodworking 80 Projects to Make by Hand

This book has over 80 projects, both easy and hard, to help you get better at woodworking. You can make things like shelves, book stands, trays, or even big items like desks and cabinets.

Each project has easy instructions, pictures, and diagrams. The book starts with easier projects and gets harder. It also gives you helpful advice and teaches you new skills. You don’t need fancy tools, and you can make everything at home.

Want a cool coffee table, a wooden cabinet, or a simple chair? This book has all the steps to make them.

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Mid-century woodworking brings to mind a bygone era where craftsmanship and attention to detail were paramount. This form of woodworking is not just about building furniture, but about creating pieces that are timeless and evoke the elegance of the mid-20th century. Let’s dive deep into understanding what makes mid-century woodworking distinct and explore 80 projects that you can make by hand.

Understanding Mid-century Woodworking

The mid-century design movement, spanning from the 1930s to the 1960s, is characterized by clean lines, minimalist forms, and organic shapes. This design style heavily influences woodworking projects from this era.

Key Features:

  • Natural Materials: Woods like teak, walnut, and oak were frequently used, highlighting the grain and beauty of the material itself.
  • Functionality: Designs from this era focus not just on aesthetics but also on the functionality of the piece.
  • Simplicity: Elegant simplicity is a hallmark of mid-century design. Pieces aren’t overly ornate but rather let the craftsmanship shine.

80 Handcrafted Projects to Dive Into

Furniture Wonders

  1. Teak Coffee Tables: A staple in many mid-century homes, the teak coffee table often features a simple rectangular shape with tapered legs.
  2. Walnut Credenzas: These long, low cabinets are perfect for storing items and can double as a TV stand.
  3. Oak Dining Tables: Highlighting the rich grain of oak, these tables are often round or oval with a pedestal base.
  4. Cherrywood Sideboards: These functional yet decorative pieces offer additional storage for dining rooms. Their sliding doors often feature intricate patterns or geometric designs.
  5. Mahogany Bookcases: Tall and elegant, these bookcases have adjustable shelves, often showcasing the rich hue and grain of mahogany.
  6. Maple Nightstands: Often with a drawer and open shelving below, maple nightstands are a staple beside beds, highlighting the subtle grain of maple.
  7. Birch Desks: These sleek and functional desks, often with slender legs and minimalistic drawer designs, offer a workspace that blends form and function.
  8. Pine Benches: Ideal for entryways or at the foot of a bed, these benches often have cushioned seats, providing both seating and aesthetic appeal.
  9. Redwood Lounge Chairs: Perfect for relaxation, these chairs often have slatted designs, angled backs, and plush cushions, making them a favorite for mid-century homes.
  10. Cedar Chests: Often used for storing blankets or keepsakes, these chests are durable and aromatic, preserving the contents while acting as a decorative piece.

Outdoor and Patio Creations

  1. Teak Patio Sets: Known for its resistance to the elements, teak is an ideal choice for outdoor furniture. Patio sets often consist of tables, chairs, and benches, all showcasing the wood’s natural beauty.
  2. Redwood Planters: These durable planters are perfect for showcasing your favorite plants, with the wood’s rich hue complementing green foliage.
  3. Cedar Deck Chairs: With their slanted backs and deep seats, these chairs are ideal for lounging on decks or patios, offering both comfort and style.
  4. Pine Picnic Tables: Bring the elegance of mid-century design outdoors with these sturdy and stylish picnic tables, often with attached benches.
  5. Birch Outdoor Bars: Ideal for those who love to entertain, these bars offer space for mixing drinks while serving as a focal point in any outdoor setting.

Decorative Add-ons

  1. Walnut Mirror Frames: Elevate a simple mirror by encasing it in a handcrafted walnut frame, often with intricate carvings or inlays.
  2. Cherrywood Picture Frames: Showcase your favorite memories in these frames, which highlight the rich, warm hue of cherrywood.
  3. Mahogany Wall Shelves: Whether floating or bracketed, these shelves provide storage while adding a decorative touch to walls.
  4. Maple Lamp Bases: Light up a room with lamps that have hand-turned maple bases, often combined with fabric or paper lampshades.
  5. Redwood Candle Holders: Perfect for setting the mood, these candle holders, whether for tapers or pillars, add a touch of elegance to any setting.

Decorative Pieces

  1. Walnut Wall Clocks: A functional piece of art, these clocks often have geometric designs and brass accents.
  2. Teak Vases: Hand-turned vases can be both decorative and functional, perfect for holding fresh flowers.
  3. Oak Wall Panels: Add warmth and texture to a room with intricately carved wall panels.

Functional Crafts

  1. Walnut Bowls: Perfect for holding fruit or serving salad, these bowls showcase the wood’s beautiful grain.
  2. Teak Desk Organizers: Keep your workspace tidy with compartments for pens, papers, and more.
  3. Oak Cutting Boards: A must-have in every kitchen, these boards are as beautiful as they are functional.

The Renaissance of Mid-century Woodworking

While mid-century designs saw their peak popularity in the mid-20th century, there’s a resurgence in their appeal today. Modern craftsmen and enthusiasts are drawn to the simplicity and functionality of these designs. Handcrafting these pieces adds a personal touch and ensures that each item is unique.

Why the Renewed Interest?

  • Sustainable Crafting: As society becomes more environmentally conscious, there’s a shift towards sustainable materials and methods. Handcrafting ensures longevity and reduces waste.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: The minimalist design of mid-century pieces fits seamlessly into modern homes, offering both style and functionality.
  • Quality Over Quantity: In an age of mass production, there’s a growing appreciation for items that are made with care and attention to detail.

Getting Started with Mid-century Woodworking

For those inspired to delve into mid-century woodworking, it’s essential to focus on learning the basics. Begin with understanding wood types, mastering essential tools, and practicing techniques. Join workshops, watch online tutorials, or even find local craftsmen willing to mentor.

Essential Tools and Techniques

  • Hand Saws: Perfect for making precise cuts.
  • Chisels: For detailed carving and shaping.
  • Planes: Essential for smoothing and leveling wood surfaces.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, challenge yourself with more complex projects. Over time, you’ll develop a unique style and perhaps even contribute new designs to the rich tapestry of mid-century woodworking.

Mastering Mid-century Techniques

Delving deeper into mid-century woodworking requires an understanding of the techniques that define this era. Here are some additional insights and processes to further hone your skills:

Joinery Techniques

Dovetail Joints: Renowned for its strength and visual appeal, the dovetail joint is a classic choice for connecting pieces of wood, particularly in drawer construction. Its interlocking design ensures longevity and a tight fit.

Mortise and Tenon: Used for thousands of years, this joinery technique involves a protruding piece (the tenon) fitting into a hole designed for it (the mortise). It’s ideal for framework and is frequently seen in chair and table construction.

Finishing Touches

Oil Finishes: Mid-century pieces often possess a natural luster, achieved by using oils such as linseed or tung oil. These oils penetrate deep into the wood, offering protection while enhancing the wood’s natural beauty.

Wax Finishes: After oiling, a layer of wax can be applied to provide a soft sheen and an added layer of protection. Carnauba or beeswax are popular choices for this purpose.

Restoring Vintage Pieces

For those fortunate enough to come across original mid-century pieces, restoration can breathe new life into these treasures.

  1. Assessment: Before diving into restoration, assess the piece’s condition. Look for any signs of damage, wear, or structural issues.
  2. Cleaning: Start the restoration process by cleaning the item. A gentle cleaner designed for wood will help remove years of accumulated dirt and grime.
  3. Repairs: Replace any missing hardware or fixtures. If there’s structural damage, consider seeking professional help to ensure the piece is safely restored to its former glory.
  4. Refinishing: Once repairs are complete, refinish the piece. This may involve sanding down any imperfections and applying a fresh coat of oil or wax.

Mid-century Woodworking in Modern Interiors

Today’s interior designers and homeowners are blending mid-century pieces seamlessly with contemporary designs. Here’s how:

  • Statement Pieces: Let a mid-century crafted table or credenza be the room’s focal point, complementing it with modern chairs or art.
  • Accents: Integrate smaller mid-century woodworking projects, such as bowls or wall clocks, as accent pieces in a contemporary setting.
  • Blend Styles: Marry mid-century designs with industrial, rustic, or bohemian elements for a curated and eclectic look.

The Lasting Legacy

The legacy of mid-century woodworking goes beyond the pieces themselves. It’s a testament to the craftsmen who valued quality over mass production and to modern artisans who continue to keep this tradition alive. As appreciation for handcrafted items grows, so does the allure of mid-century woodworking. It’s more than just a style; it’s a celebration of artistry, craftsmanship, and timeless elegance.


Mid-century woodworking is more than just crafting—it’s about preserving a rich history, upholding standards of excellence, and creating pieces that stand the test of time. Whether you’re an enthusiast, a seasoned craftsman, or someone curious about this art form, there’s no denying the timeless appeal of mid-century designs. Embrace the elegance, functionality, and craftsmanship of this era, and let your creations speak for themselves.

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