Crafting was always intended to play a major role in the game, and was implemented following the finalization of a stable world and the basic refinements to the inventory system that permitted the process to be reliably performed. The inventory system was key to the implementation of crafting as it was envisioned for the game, because the player needed to be able to place items in their inventory, and move them around and between the inventory and the crafting screens.
The first few recipes included Sticks and Torches -- items that could be made inside the personal crafting window with its two-by-two grid of slots -- and then the Crafting Station was created, allowing for larger crafted objects thanks to its three-by-three grid of slots. Next came Axes, Pickaxes, and Swords, then Smelting was introduced via the Furnace interface, and the metals were added to the game. With each new block type for resources, new crafting recipes were imagined and then added as part of the fixed -- or static -- system. To make a recipe the items had to be placed in specific and rigid locations in the grid.
Creating a dedicated Crafting Area or Room in your home is a very good idea...
As the crafting system evolved, throughout the Beta process of development, a means to make the crafting system more flexible was sought. While that would not necessarily impact the structure of the existing recipes, it would allow for a more fluid implementation of new recipes, and in January 2011 Notch introduced that flexible system. The new recipes that heralded this change were the combination of Dyes and Wool, which can be placed anywhere in the crafting windows to craft. While this was a small change, and might even have gone unnoticed by most players, and certainly unremarked by the masses, gamers who understood how such games are structured were suitably impressed.
This should help you to better understand that crafting in the world of Minecraft is both an action and a process, and it continues to improve. To help you with developing your crafting skills you really only need one piece of advice: stockpile resources!
At its most basic definition crafting is the process by which resources that are obtained in the world are converted into other resources and finished goods -- tools that allow the player to obtain the resources that are required to make yet higher tier items, and so it goes. In any good and dynamic game, this sort of system is not chaotic -- it is orderly -- and it should continue to mature as the game itself does.
Imagine for a moment that you are a veteran player who has been playing the game since the very early Beta builds, in which you spent massive amounts of time chopping wood with your fists, digging holes with your fists, and then the Axe and the Shovel were introduced to the game. Far from being the mundane tools that most new players today view them as, they were, to you, major improvements in your game life. Perhaps the most important ability that they delivered to you was that they allowed you to do more in less time -- days are short in this game, and due to the very real dangers of the night in the world of Minecraft, getting a lot done in a short period of time becomes the prevailing need.
Basic Crafting includes taking common harvested and collected items - like Sticks and Wool to make a Painting
In basic crafting there are the items that the player can make in their personal crafting window -- useful and even critical items to be sure -- but perhaps the most useful and the most critical is the Crafting Station itself, which is the window into Advanced Crafting!
When you begin, your priority is not oriented towards crafting, it is (as it should be) focused clearly upon creating a safe haven -- even if it is just a temporary one -- in which you can weather the first long night in relative safety. Eventually though, as you succeed in your effort to construct a safe Den from which to work, crafting will become far more important, and occupy far more time, than any other activity in the game save for gathering resourced. There is a reason, after all, that the game is called MineCRAFT.
As part of the process of basic crafting the first thing that you will do after constructing your Den -- your safe place -- is to obtain Wood, turn it into Boards, and then craft a Crafting Station. Once you have placed the Station in your Den, your next priority is to obtain the resources required to make the basic set of tools, including a Pickaxe or five, and then mine the Cobblestone you need to construct your next Crafting Tool, the Furnace.
If there are two objects that are iconic to Basic Crafting, it is the Crafting Station, and the Furnace, as through those two objects, all other crafts-related objects are possible.
Once you have your Basic Crafting capability ensured, your next focus is going to be obtaining the capability to perform advanced crafting. To do this in the traditional manner requires many hours, even days of play, and for some players, weeks of play, just to obtain the materials and resources that are required.
One of the higher goals in achieving Advanced Crafting is Obsidian, which is a resource that is created naturally in the game where Lava meets Water which makes it a rare resource indeed -- but obtaining that rarest of resources in the Overworld is meant to be difficult... In fact to lay in a supply -- of which you will need to have at least a stack or even two eventually as it is needed to construct objects like the Enchantment Table and gates to the other Biomes/Realms -- ordinarily will require you to do a LOT of searching, digging, and mining as it can only be found by searching for places underground where Water and Lava come together to naturally form it.
Placing an Enchanter's Table along with a dozen or so Bookshelves to power it opens the doorway to Advanced Crafting and Enchanting...
If that sounds like it is a hunt for a needle in a haystack, well, it is. But that does not mean that it has to be! You see Minecraft is a game, but it is a game that counts upon human ingenuity and intelligence. The creators of the game count upon the players to look for -- to actively seek out -- alternate methods for obtaining the things that they need.
If you think about the different higher-order systems in the game, they are all the proof that you need that this is the focus. Take farming for example, as the means for ensuring a reliable and safe supply of food. That is not a mechanism that appears in nature, it is a man-made result, created through the imagination and ingenuity of man, who devises a system of steps that can be taken to consistently in order to obtain the same results, over and over!
Players need Obsidian to move to the next level of crafting, and as intended, players in the game spend a great deal of time and effort experimenting to see what will happen if they subject the different resources in the game to conditions that are other than those intended. Experimentation of this type lead directly to the discovery of the automated Obsidian manufacturing system that today allows gamers to obtain Obsidian with great ease and convenience, whenever they need it. When you find yourself in need of that no longer truly rare resource, read the section on How to Manufacture Obsidian for the answer to the question of where you will obtain it!
There are presently over 170 recipes in the game, about half of which are considered to be Advanced due to their requiring secondary tier and crafted resources. Whether you consider them to be truly Advanced Crafts, or whether you reserve that distinction for recipes that contain the rarer and harder to find ingredients and resources, once you have reached the point at which you have mastered the skills that are required in obtaining those resources -- and you have crafted those recipes -- you will truly be an Advanced Crafter... At least until the next set of recipes are added to the game :)
You have very likely already encountered the reality that every item that you craft in the game has a fixed number of uses -- what is called Durability in the game -- and while that may be annoying when, for instance, you find yourself quickly burning through a large number of Stone Pickaxes as you mine your way into the depths, really you would not want it any other way! You have to have pain to know pleasure, sadness to know joy, and you have to have better durability on the rarer resources in order to value them in the game, since there is no store and economy through which to bestow a base value in Minecraft.
The three most obvious classes of items that you will notice the durability on are Tools, Weapons, and Armor, in that order, and as you use your Tools and Weapons, and your Armor takes hits, you will notice that their durability bar falls (the red bar at the base of their icon), and eventually when it is completely empty, the item will "break" and disappear.
Crafting a Bed and using it to skip the night is key to getting things down quickly
It does not actually have to do that -- items can be repaired in the crafting window by simply placing two damaged items of the same type in the window, which will cause the game to combine them. Of course you do not get a brand new fully-durable item from that process, you simply obtain whatever the durability was from both items when they combine plus a small bonus of extra durability -- so while it is often easier to simply make a new item when the items you are combining are made from the rarer resources, repair actually makes sense.
One thing you will want to bear in mind however when you are repairing is that ANY enchantment on the items - even when they both have the same identical enchantment, is lost in the repair process. The newly repaired item will be enchantment free.
The durability of a tool or crafted item is going to depend on the type of resource used to make it -- for example Stone will have more durability than Wood, Iron will have more durability than Stone, and Diamond will have the most durability of all. Tools made from Gold will be the fastest to use in the game, but also have very poor durability so you will quickly find them wearing away to nothing!
Bearing in mind that these numbers only apply when a tool is used "properly" (that is to say, for its intended purpose), these are the basic durability numbers based upon the materials, organized by durability/maximum uses:
Gold: 33 uses
Wood: 60 uses
Stone: 132 uses
Iron: 251 uses
Diamond: 1562 uses
The improper use of a tool -- for example using a How to chop Wood -- will cost the player a double-use penalty, which seriously effects the durability, so it is always a good idea to try to use the tools properly. Note that some tools can be effectively used improperly in a pinch -- for instance the Axe makes a decent weapon -- but bear in mind that using it that way still incurs the penalty.
In the case of Armor bear in mind that its use has changed since earlier versions -- with durability now only serving as the indicator of its condition / number of hits remaining. The actual protection offered by the armor remains the same from the first hit to the last.
Basic and Advanced Crafting in the world of Minecraft means using the Crafting Stations and the many recipes that are used to create the variety of items that make life easier. This section of the guide discusses Crafting as a pursuit in the game.