Striving for perfection is one thing. Being dissapointed when you
don't attain it is quite another. But how do you curb your own
I'm getting more and more into making little wood boxes for jewelery,
trinkets, etc. Average size 6" X 4", but can be as big/small as
required. Here are some examples of what I've done in utili, oak, ash,
I'd like to turn this hobby into some kind of earner by doing
made-to-measure boxes to order. My big problem is that I'm rarely
satisfied with my work and I assume that a potential customer will be
even more critical than I am. Friends & relations I've shown my stuff
to think its very good but I just can't get past the little
imperfections I know are there: a slightly loose joint requiring some
filler; a blemish on the oil finish where a spot of glue on the wood
wasn't noticed; couple of small "hard" spots on the velvet interior
where some glue dripped.
Question for the wreckers here who do pieces for customers. Are you
ever truly satisfied with your work to the point where you think it
will probably be rejected? Or am I overestimating the capacity of the
public to be critical of something they can't do to begin with?
I had the exact same feelings about my work as you do.
I finally got convinced to take some of my stuff to the local street market.
It sold like hot cakes and people complemented me on the quality
Even people that never bought anything still commented on the quality of
Only a few months after that 1st market I started taking custom orders
and have never looked back.
So my suggestion is, take some gear to a local market or a Trash and
Treasure and see how it does. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
All The best
Well your work certainly looks nice enough. Why was I picturing a pine box
that was nailed together? :~)
With volume will come the skill to foresee and prevent mistakes before you
make them. Like any thing else, practice and repetition makes you faster
and more efficient.
And, yes, I think you are over estimating the publics expectations. I truly
believe that 95% of the people think Ikea is high end stuff. I have a
sister and brother-in-law that were in the furniture business for several
years selling "expensive" furniture. Their preferred style is that rustic
used diesel oil stained pine crap with rusty hinges and pulls imported from
I have seen very nice jewelry boxes similar to yours in jewelry stores that
were perfect as far as I was concerned but they started out at $800.00 and
went up from there.
There are imperfections in everything. I know how you feel though, as I'm
always critical of what I do. You have to be realistic though. I look at
what I made, know what can be done the next time, and admire what I did this
time. Others rarely see the little imperfections.
Only one piece of advice about taking orders. When you take your hobby to
business status, the fun may go out of it. For some people, their hobby can
become a rewarding career doing what they want to do. For others, it becomes
just another job, full of deadlines, and they find they no longer have a
hobby or time for themselves.
Can't agree more on that one.
It reminds me the story of people taking scuba diving classes and
getting hooked on it. Some of them are offered jobs to become dive
master in resorts and hotels. What a dream you may say! Diving for
free everyday in the most beautiful seas in the world. Not! They often
come back after a year or two completely fed up of scuba diving. If
you dive everyday, it's a job and it ruins all the "magic" about it.
Woodworking is a great hobby but I doubt I would be able to do it for
a living. Taking orders, chopping costs so I don't get outbided too
easily, manage customer's expectations and respect deadlines are not
very funny aspects of woodworking.
I prefer to keep it as is and let no constraints get in the way of my
hobby. It would horrify me so much if I had to look at my new General
Cabinet saw in disgust or my router table with no interest.
The only way I believe I can end up selling my stuff without getting
through the usual crap is to make certain pieces of furniture the way
I want (with innovative design) and aim at selling them to rich people
willing to pay the price for that particular piece of furniture. But
again, I will have to improve my skills a lot over the next few years
to even attain the level of an "artist" and it may just never happen
but at least I'll enjoy the ride.
A couple of "confidence builders"..
I had the same problem with my wood turning... I found out that the only people
who find/mention small flaws are the people the have the same hobby... and they
aren't the ones that will buy your stuff, anyway..
Look at paintings and prints in a good quality furniture store... the miters and
joints in the frames are probably way worse that yours are... but they sell and
nobody cares if the lines show...
I don't, I just get grumpy when I make little errors, and usually
remake the piece.
Grumpy or no, I've found that I'm the only one who can see things like
that- and that's while playing show and tell with other woodworkers.
They have the same problem- they see stuff I'd never notice, because
they made it.
You're overestimating. Do it honestly and charge a fair price, and
you'll be fine. I think most people have the same problem when it
comes to this.
I'm glad you see your mistakes. Most people who see my stuff, no
matter how bad I think it looks, are impressed. And like another
post, most people see Ikea as high end. I used to sit on the couch
looking at my pieces and finding new flaws months after they were
built. Then one day I went to pricey furniture store and looked at
the 'quality' furniture. When I compared the fit of the production
jointery to my 'one off' jointery, my little flaws seemed to pale in
comparison. I then went to a shop that sold 'antique' (a pretentious
word meaning used or secondhand), and some of the stuff made years ago
have some of my mistakes. I stop looking at my work and just move
on. I'm just as happy making things that most people can't even
Pete - I only use the nail gun until the glue dries.
Well we aren't going to be able to see any problems unless you had a
better camera, and even then we probably wouldn't see them.
What I've found is someone who is paying for a custom piece has
already sort of mentally sold themselves into liking it before they
even see it. If it's not a custom piece they are mainly just looking
to see if they like it, not looking for problems. Whereas you already
know everything about it, so all you see are the problems. Try
sticking one in a closet somewhere until you've forgotten about it,
then pull it out and see if the flaws still jump out at you. You'll
find them again, but you'll have to look for them.
You have the right attitude as far as wanting to be sure you're giving
them something deserving of their money. As long as you aren't
looking at it from the opposite direction, what's the minimum I need
to do to make a sale, you're going to be fine.
The trouble with small boxes is we look at them up close. You don't
pick up a dresser you built and hold it up to your eye and spin it
about looking for problems.
Keep working to do better, and that never ends, but you gotta learn to
let go when the piece is done.
One tip: Have your finishing area well lit and be looking for
problems as you're applying the finish. You can basically wet sand
those glue spots right as you're finishing and they disappear right
before your eyes. Then give it a critical look over before the second
My last comissioned jewelry box I had problems with the finish. Had
to sand it down and do it over. Still wasn't happy with it. I really
wanted to sand it down again, but at this point I'm a week late.
Shipped it. Client was totally pleased and wants me to do more work
Please excuse my ignorance, but what do you mean by "wet sand those glue
spots right as you're finishing"?
Does the glue spot show up when you're applying the finish, and you sand it
while the finish is still wet?
- Owen -
On Sun, 18 Jun 2006 15:46:55 -0400, "Owen Lawrence"
Yes the glue spots become very obvious with the finish. What I used
to do was leave it be until the first coat dried, then come back and
sand and refinish that area, let that dry and then go on with the
second coat. Sometimes by the time you come back to sand the glue
spots you've already forgotten where they were and maybe you miss one,
then you see it again doing the second coat... and it's hard to tell
whether you've sanded it enough. If you do it right then with the
finish still wet you don't miss any and as you sand it once you've
done enough the finish gets absorbed and matches the surrounding wood
so you know exactly when to stop. I wipe the excess finish off before
sanding with a paper towel, sand, wipe the dust off again with a paper
towel and then reapply the finish over the area
Earlier this year I made a small coffee table to donate to a charity
When I assembled it, it simply wasn't square. If it was for myself or a
paying customer I would have remade it, but I wasn't going to remake
something I was giving away.
Three people bid it up to $500; evidently they didn't see it as out of
So yeah, I think the craftsman is too hard on himself; but of course I
haven't seen your work.
In any line of work, the workman, if he cares at all about what he does, is
usually his own worst critic. Your boxes look fine to me. Better than I
can do at this point. Your photography, though, . . .
It's entirely likely that most people will not notice the imperfections
that you may see. They'll just appreciate the quality work.
I don't do woodworking all that much, but I have taken on some
significant projects, including building a 20-string acoustic guitar,
I could show you a dozen places on that thing that just make me cringe.
But most people, to be honest, are just blown away by what they see.
And in retrospect now, I marvel at the fact that I actually finished
'assurance' that what you're looking at was done with human hands? as
opposed to the cold perfection of manufacture?
As a friend of mine once said - "Art is never completed; it is
If you want perfection then it isn't handmade. It is CNC machined,
assembled in a factory with sprayed on glues, finishes, etc.
It it isn't perfect, then it is truly handmade and one of a kind.
Somewhere between the mechanics of woodworking and raw timber is art and
the artisan and only he can turn lumber into art.
If you want a bunch of identical boxes, go to Walmart or an Import place... hand
made, one-of-a-kind items are just that... YMWV
These look nice based on what I can see but the pic quality is not
good so it is hard to see the details. If you are going to sell on the
internet you should do better with the pics.
A while back a furniture maker posted a message and I follwed his link
to viwe his site. His work looks acceptable but for sure the pics are
all doctored-up on photoshop or some other program.
On your question- I am never fully content with any result that I
get....I always feel I can improve. However, if you are going to sell
these boxes I feel filler or glue drips are not acceptable. To me
those are not minor imperfections.
Just an opinion... I think that a balance between acceptable work and striving
to get better is a naturel process and desirable... but has to be tempered by
the realization that perfection is impossible..
Definition of a perfectionist:
One who takes great pains and gives them to others...
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