I am new to posting here, but have lurked for quite a while. I am a
fairly new woodworker, though I am not a complete novice. I did the
typical shelf and cd rack in high school, then made a cheap little pine
table at home. I have to say I find this quite rewarding. I am a tool
and die maker by trade so I spend my entire day working stee.
Everything is so high tolerance at work and it is nice to go home and
work some wood. It's a most excellent stress reliever, and it also
produces a beautiful end product. It's not cold and dirty like the
stuff I make at work.
I am currently working on making a nice gun case. I am fairly far along
on this project, and its taken about 4 weeks so far. Everything went
mostly well until I moved on to nearly the final construction steps. I
was installing a sliding drawer and mounting the keyed lock assembly.
That was a major pain in the ass. Followed by a seemingly never-ending
stream of problems on the doors for this cabinet. The doors are 3/4
stock by 2" frames that will have a glass center. It seems as if the
building of this project has turned from enjoyable to a constant fight
with Murphy. As such I seem to be losing the motivation I had 4 weeks
ago. It was easy to stay motivated when things were happening, when
there was an end result after only a couple hours time. A panel glued
up, this trim piece routed, a base assembled... But now as things slow
down I am having trouble getting back into the garage. This will be a
beautiful piece IMHO. I just hope to finish strong here.
I guess I am just wondering what it is that you do to keep motivated
when you have hit a few bumps and to keep pushing on. I have set aside
this entire weekend to hopefully finish construction and begin sanding
and finishing. I am really looking forward to getting out there again,
I just hope things go better than they have been. Sorry for the
You're not the first one, nor will you be the last to experience this. A
lot of folks I've talked with over time have at this same "wall" when they
were getting started in woodworking, and will admit that occasionally they
still do from time to time. I'm currently at the point of having a large
mantle 90% complete, leaving the finishing touch up and tehne the final
finish to go. It's been at the 90% mark for a couple of weeks now and I've
been having trouble getting motivated enough to get back out there and get
that last 10% done. I've decided that I'm going to have to give myself a
swift kick in the butt to get over the "hump" and get back out there. One
thing I have found that helps is having someone, whose opinion I value come
over and take a look at what I'm doing. It seems to give me that extra
"boost" of pride in my work or whatever you want to call it to get the
project completed, so I can show off the end results.
Now go make some sawdust.....
My brother has a good quote for these moments." You know your about
done with a project when your sick of looking at it." Furthermore, if
your anything like me, all the inperfections stick out like a giant
"EAT AT JOES" neon sign, very unmotivating. But isn't it a beauty that
we can create things with our own hands. My father-in-law has a chest
that his father made. What a wonderful thing to have. That is all the
motivation I will ever need. I can create an object that will always
have a part of me in it. And if I make my own wood casket I can have
all of me in it.
Just Jim wrote:
I love the quote about being sick of looking at it.
I think that sums it up.
I started remodeling my back porch/deck about 4 weeks ago and boy is it
eating my lunch. I am definitely sick of looking at it. We did some
roofing last weekend. It was only 88 degrees and I was stopping early
before I would keel over from the heat.
I'm ready to sit on the back porch instead of working on it...:)
Others may have other ways of motivating themselves, I look upon the problem
as a challenge to be overcome. When resolved it yields its own
satisfaction. Generally, I try to learn new techniques and develop new
skills for each project, seldom making two of the same thing. Learning,
overcoming problems and finishing with a project with new skills under my
belt is my motivation. Current projects involve lining a silver chest
(thanks to all those who offered suggestions) and chip carved boxes. Have
never lined nor chip carved but looking forward to both.
Jim, I build delay time into my projects. When I need to get-it-done, I
figure out a method that requires me to build a new jig and or buy a new
tool. These distractions actually aid me in finishing the project.
Second, I almost never build anything for myself. It's the giving of a
completed project that gives me a sufficient amount of joy to inspire me to
make the next project.
This morning, my daughter is in labor with my future grandson! I'm looking
forward to spending many hours in my shop with him! Maybe I should wait
till he can at least walk!
Congrats! But I disagree on waiting till he can walk. Spend time
right now with him in a rocking chair in the shop talking with him,
planning things with him, just being with him.
I spent a lot of time with my grandson doing those things with him
and I have a thousand, or so it seems, pictures to prove it.
Now he is just over 2 years old and he walks and gets into everything.
I have been trying to get him to call me "grandpa" ever since he was
4 hours old. Just last week, I heard him call me "poppa" for the very
first time! That's a great feeling.
And I get to babysit him this afternoon so his mother can go to work.
Ain't life grand!!!!!
It sure is! Thanks for the tip! Maybe, if I start him early, he will learn
to sharpen his tools with stones, use a real Skilsaw Mag77, never touch
pocket hole screws, careless about left or right tilt, not ground his dust
collector pipes, believe that Harbor Freight is trucking company by the
port, have Robin Lee (Valley) on speed dial, learn the value of tuning a
scraper, buy a quality 18" bandsaw and 8" jointer.
Congratulations ... hope you're closer than I am. I joined the ranks this
past June and still haven't got to hold the little rascal yet, although a
ton of pixels fill up the hard drive. Long way from Houston to Sheffield, UK
... I'll get there yet.
Hope all goes well.
Still no grandson, maybe a false alarm. Yes, she lives only a couple of
miles away. My lovely bride likes it tha way!
I hope you get to the UK soon and have some quality "shop time" with the
It's not just the workshop type projects that suffer from this syndrome,
either. I have been in the last 10% of finishing a barn build out, for
the past 2.5 months..... a solid 10 days of effort will probably do it,
It's easier, (or so it seems) to do things for others, as then there is
usually a deadline involved.
Perhaps you can plan a Halloween unveiling party, invite your friends
over to show off the piece? That gives you a deadline, an incentive.....
I am building my daughter an Argie 10 sailing dinghy, check it out:
It's not just the precision that's different! I used to do a lot of
metalwork and recently started working with wood. One thing that I
noticed is that, with metal, the piece usually is held tight and you
move the tools. With woodwork, the tools are stable and you move the
It still feels strange to work with tolerances of more than .001".
When I worked for a company that built precision gages, we had
tolerances of 10 millionths on some of our equipment!
Yes, this being my first major project it was really hard for me to do
this job with a tape measure. I found I kept looking around my garage
going "Where the hell did I put that caliper??" Then I'd remember that
if I tried to measure and cut everything that way I would go insane.
I'd also catch myself thinking about how to do something like make a
cut or a dado, but in terms of the machines I have at work, not in the
garage. Once I got over all that and remembered that a little putty can
fill a little gap and its ok, everything got easier.
I recently read an interview with an author I have read often. He said
something to the effect- I like being an author, I like coming up with
ideas for a book and I like it when I finish a book. But I don't
always enjoy the process of writing.
Such is also my feelings for woodworking. It is a psychological hurdle
that almost every hobbyist experieces. Push through it, one step at a
time. Soon the momentum of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel
will take over.
That's how people are different. My calipers keep me sane. I measure
EVERYTHING under 4" with them. I use it as a depth gauge, to measure the
inside width of a dado, the thickness of a kerf...I'd be lost without
I tried to upgrade to a dial version...then a digital..nope brought them
back... just my oldies-dead-nuts-to 1/128"
With FWW, you mill your lumber straight and assemble. When framing (a house)
just make sure the floor joists all "crown up" and when you want to use
that slightly bowed 2x6 as a wall cap, you beat it into submission with a
nail driven at an angle.
Usually, for me, this is a sign that I'm going too fast and focusing on
getting to the goal as quickly as possible rather than focusing on the
process and the step I'm doing now. I've done maybe only four projects
to completion now. And I've abandoned one that was too ambitious.
I noticed several things in the projects that I worked on so far. One
is that my shop was woefuilly inadequate. Not enough clamps, not
enough work surfaces, too cold/hot, some machines ok, but some really
bad, and nowhere near enough storage. I took a step back and made some
decisions about my shop. I decided that I needed a critical mass of
tools, certain things I deemed necessary, before trying to start on
another project. I dumped most of my bench top tools, and started
investing in bigger/better stuff. And along the way, I decided to
focus on simple shop projects to impove the usablity and storage.
So whenever I get a new tool/toy, I play with it for a while, not
really worrying if I'm making "something". Rather, I just enjoy the
time in the shop doing something or nothing. It's supposed to be a
stress lowering experience so I don't really set any goals for myself
other than to get the shop set up and comfortable while learning about
the tools I have
I'm currently nearing the end of what I consider an ambitious shop
project. I had major problems ripping 4x8 sheets of ply. So I built a
large cabinet that incorporated my contractor's saw, but also a router
table, outfeed table, dust collection, and storage. I'll probably
finish it this weekend.
I learned a lot about the tools I have and procedures for doing things.
For example, I edge-banded some melamine for part of the outfeed table
with southern yellow pine. Even though I had the biscuit jointer set
correctly, it's still not exactly flush. Next time I'm going to try
tongue and groove with my new router table. We'll see if that works
better. I think building a set of processes that work best for you and
your tools is key to a low stress experience. And learning on the shop
furniture means that I can still use what I make without worrying about
my level of perfectionism.
I also strive not to evaluate a procedure based on the amount of time
it consumes. In most of my life, my time is at a premium. So if I
think a certain step is taking too long, it gets frustrating. It's
exactly at these times that I make a conscious effort to expend the
extra time, even if I feel it's a waste. Sometimes I come away
thinking I didn't get anything acomplished in the shop. But my real
goal is to enjoy my time in the shop, which is the real acomplishment.
I guess to answer your question, I make an effort not to care so much,
and to focus on the step I'm doing rather than the goal.
Sometimes leaning into it will only cause you to
slide backwards as you push. Take a break, do
a small project or two in order to keep your
blood/sawdust levels up and solutions will come
to you. Sort of like not looking directly at a
pale star. After a while the mental block will
come unglued and solutions will present
themselves - all in good time.
Though it's a gun case you're making, go
fishing. Great excuse for sitting around
"doing nothing" while your mind wanders
all over hell. It just might wander onto
"an easier way" to get around your road
When a project stops being challenging
AND fun, it becomes work. Vocations
have deadlines, budgets and other folks
to please. Avocations have none of that
(unless you're married, in which case
all bets are off). Far as I know, no one
has ever died of stress related illness
in amateur/hobbyist woodworking.
Take a break, do something else and the
piece'll get done - without a lot of angst.
I approach it a bit differently. I plan ahead how much time I'll spend each
evening or weekend on the project and quit when I've done that. Of course,
I'm building things for myself and have no SWMBO overseer so I can work at
my own pace. For example, working on an oak 6' tall liquor cabinet with
leaded glass doors and a wine rack. Last night, my 'project' was to install
the hinges and test hang both doors. Gave myself about 90 minutes. When 90
minutes was up, the doors were hung but not operating smoothly. Called it a
night and went in to watch TV and have a beer. No frustration - no burnout.
In the past, I would have stayed with the door alignment, even though I was
tired - leading to mistakes and frustration. MUCH easier my new approach.
Went out next night and finished he door hang.
It helps me.
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