I was reading Chris Pyes, book, "Woodcarving Materials, ...", Vol. 2,
recently and he brought up the topic of "Beginners Syndrome". He's wrote
that it's common enough phenomenon that he thought he should say
something about it. Apparently it's characterized by reading a lot of
books and buying a lot of tools, and not making so many wood chips. I
haven't bought "that" many tools, but I can still identify a little with
the poor suckers he's talking about. So instead of hovering over the new
Marc Adams (School of Woodworking) catalog, that I just received, like I
usually do (they are rather out of my budget anyway), I scanned it
more quickly without hovering, determined to get my shop in order : ).
It has started to occur to me just how much stuff is sold to people, in
various hobbies or pastimes, that might similarly suffer from "Beginners
Syndrome". Just regard this as a PSA message. You might possibly know
someone suffering from BS.... ; ) Toss them a hammer and a nail and
ask them to make the knife--and to get on with it! When one has work
that takes all that you'll give it (a feeble excuse!), it's all too easy
to fall into the BS trap! I think I need to learn how to cut a
pizza...into 7 slices... ahhhh!! Maybe 6 slices...okay.
I think there is another factor to consider. Buying tools is one thing,
but buying materials is another.
When a person sees this piece of furniture he like, he goes out to buy
the materials. He finds the materials is a couple of hundred dollars.
wood, finish, handles, etc. He then see something similar for the same
price at a local store.
His choice is, buy the similar item, or try to build it himself.
Because he is unsure of his skill, he is most likely to buy the similar
item, rather the messing up it up and have a couple of hundred dollars
worth of expensive firewood, or an unfinished piece of furniture sitting
in his garage forever and still buying the similar piece.
I have been there done that.
That is certainly a big part of it in our hobby, maybe
not so much so in others.
But it's definately true for a beginner in woodworking,
not only because the lumber, etc, is expensive, but that
being a beginner he's likely not even aware that rough
lumber exists, let alone has the tools to make boards of
it. Also, the guys with more experience (not necessarily
more skill) are likely to stuff stashed - the lumber left
over from a project, the dozen hinges bought for pennies
in a closeout sale, the screws or sandpaper or whatever
bought in bulk-pack because it'll get used eventually.
Being cost-efficient is a skill, just like using the
FWIW I began my serious woodworking when I was 25, in 1979 I used
common 2x4, 2x6, 1x8 pine. CHEAP! I did mill the 2x's to have square
Once I got better I moved up to the hard woods about 2 years later.
We still actually have a small pine shelf unit that I built way back when.
That said I have never seen furniture, that I could buy cheaper than I
could build, that I would want in my house.
Yep, and it - AKA frugality - can be learned.
When I was young and in the Navy, my camera spent most of its time in pawn
shops. Somewhere around my freshman year in college I started being more
Now - 60 years later - I save bits and pieces of wood...some offcuts, some
knots cut out (I resaw the latter and make pulls from them, lots of swirly
grain). At the moment I am making drawer dividers, all from "scrap".
I also glue up small pieces to make bigger ones. All our closet hanging
rods are made that way from butternut offcuts from when I made all our
I not only enjoy saving the $$, I enjoy finding a use for them.
I made a habit of building entire high school shop projects out of the
off-cuts and scraps saved from other's projects. First day of building,
I'd be the one in the classroom, piece of paper on the desk finalizing
(or starting ;-)) my plans... and generally avoiding the material
It's harder to do that now, despite all the variety of pieces I have I
never seem to have the one I want. Things get complicated when you get
beyond 1x12 pine boards.
He could/should start with something smaller. The quality of
the "lesson" does not really increase with the size of the piece. I am
being systematic about choosing my lessons. Hopefully, I'll create my
second BBQ grill handle soon, this time using my (auction found, Stanley
#51) spokeshave. I need to sharpen it first (small hurdle). Yes, the
first handle I made, designed much like the original one, that it
replaced, only worked right for a year, but it is/was not an expensive
piece of firewood. And, I've since figured out a way to do better than
the original, and my "duplicate". I will be adding a "set screw" (as
the manufacturer should have used)! Hopefully, once this admittedly-tiny
and cheap project is complete, I'll have some confidence with a
spokeshave! Besides that, it sounds "fun"! FWIW, vegetable oil finish
they described some symptoms but not the real problem
the real problem is fear of making mistakes and it is the thing that
prevents a lot of people partaking in a lot of different endeavors
definitely not limited to working with wood
My favorite concept in building model railroads is that of the "chainsaw
layout." It's a model railroad that you build with no other purpose than
to be a learning experience. Go, screw up, make mistakes. Make ugly
holes in the table if that's what it takes.
When you get to the point you've learned what you need to, take a
chainsaw to it and cut it out. Start fresh.
You can apply that concept to just about anything. I do it often,
sometimes I call it "iteration 1" and repeat the process 3-4 times until
I have something I'm happy with.
Well... I think we all have things we intend to do, and just don't get arou
nd to doing them. For many, buy the accoutrements is the most fun, learnin
g to use them, not so much.
I think too, how long it took me to develop fluency with the tools I use al
l the time, and honestly, to use them well took years. So I sympathize wit
h the guy that dreams of being a cabinet builder, gets inspired by watching
Krenov video, looks at Karl or Leon's work, or looks at a magazine and say
s to himself "hey, I think I could do that". Sadly, they don't understand
that it isn't the tools that make the craftsman, but the years spent using
them to gain proficiency.
Over the last 40 years of doing all manner of wood working, I am surprised
at a couple of things with wood workers. First, how many folks have thousa
nds of dollars invested in shop tools, only to make a coffee table or a nig
ht stand once a year. Sometimes a keepsake box for good measure. Second,
I am surprised by the industrious few that do great work with very inexpens
ive tools and at that, damn few of them. Hand me down saws used with homem
ade guides, chisels that need to be sharpened every 20 minutes of use, no p
neumatic guns (not even a brad nailer), just a few clamps, no drill/driver,
etc., and yet they have a ball. And as mentioned, some really turn out so
me nice work. Their only downfall is that it takes them months of their sp
are time to do what it takes a pro to do in a day.
I think is like the guy that likes to play golf that reads a ton of magazin
es, puts thousands into clubs, cleats, gloves, and occasional lesson, balls
, etc., but only plays once a month. Never goes to the driving range, but
thinks he can learn by simply playing more often.
No matter what it is, when you are doing anything that requires processes o
f some sort, motor skills of some sort, and the confidence to use both of t
hose skills, you don't learn without a lot of perseverance and practice. I
know a lot of folks that have the money and the desire to do certain thing
s, but as one of my amigos says, "then life gets in the way" and they never
get to do the things they want.
But they can still read that magazine while sitting on the hopper first thi
ng in the morning and keep their dreams alive.
On 11/20/2015 11:56 AM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Leon might remember this:
Years back helped a dear friend sell off her ex's equipment out of his
air conditioned, 3600 sf shop, after the divorce.
A shop loaded with every large tool (high dollar, 3ph commercial grade
tools/machinery, too big for any shop I've ever owned), and every hand
tool that could be bought from Rockler, WoodCraft and LV; a dust
collector that would suffice for a lumber yard, a forklift, a spray
booth larger than my current shop, and office space bigger than the
ground floor in my home, among other things.
And it was well documented that the ONLY, and I mean ONLY, thing ever
made with those tools were a half dozen pens put together with blanks
All the equipment was new, and, except for the small lathe used for the
pens, had never been used when it was sold.
And no, I availed myself of none of it, except for some expendables ...
simply refused to profit in any way whatsoever from our good friend's
But, I do occasionally dream about what I could have done with all that
space and all those tools. Oh well ...
Que sera, sera ...
Yes, I agree with you. I think it may not be "fear of making mistakes"
as much as "fear of the unknown". Who knows, "avoiding the unknown" may
be part of human nature? Then we read to make it "less unknown"? To a
point, knowing what we're up against is a good thing.
There's much truth to that - but if you make a mistake,
don't understand how it happened, how to fix it, and how
to avoid making the mistake next time, then you're not
learning, you're just stuck.
Places like this newsgroup are a good way to avoid that.
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