Have you ever started a project and then, at some point part way
through, wished with all your might that you hadn't? For whatever
reason: it was too ambitious? you ended up having to buy new tools to
finish it? you underestimated the cost drastically? your interest
just petered out? the reason for making it went away? I can honestly
say that I've never had that experience because my projects are small
and uncomplicated and always within my limited capabilities. But I'd
really enjoy hearing about the bad experiences of others!
That post of yours made me chuckle, Fog.
My commercial work comes awful close to estimates, and I don't get
caught with my pants down too often.
My 'labour-of-love' project NEVER come in on target...either in the
time domain or cost estimation.
I always need to buy a tool or two (drat) to complete the project (or
to make it more efficient..yea right).
I recently built a coffee table and 2 end/lamp tables for my daughter's
new place in Toronto.
Cherry, mission/metropolitan style, solid surface table tops.
For the heck of it, I ran the project through my spreadsheet. Then I
took a look at retail prices, high-end and lower-end prices and found
some similar products in the middle price range.
I came in at triple those numbers and didn't factor in my new Kreg jig
and finishing costs.
They don't call it a labour of love for nuttin'.
> Have you ever started a project and then, at some point part way
> through, wished with all your might that you hadn't? [snipped for
brevity] But I'd
> really enjoy hearing about the bad experiences of others!
Wood working is a lot like boat or aircraft ownership.
Both require you to spend excessive amounts of time and money with no
hope of recovery.
You file those costs under "Entertainment" or "Keeping out of trouble".
I took on a project to complete a job that a friends friends father
started, then passed away. It was a built in desk with filing cabinets.
I got the project as a bunch of maple boards, some of which were cut to
length, some already mitered, some still rough cut. One file cabinet
was built and finished, the other about halfway built. There was not
enough wood to complete the project - so I had to try to get more stock
to match the existing - whew! Oh yeah, a good number of the boards that
were already cut down had started to warp. Did I mention that this was
the first time I had really worked with maple - what fun that is to
sand... Anyway, I'd get a day or so where I'd get motivated to get this
done, then I'd run into another setback and get disgusted with it. In
the end, it took way to long, but the friends friend was happy. Didn't
charge anywhere near what it should have cost, but it was nice seeing
the guy have his father's desk project completed.
Most every project has it plusses an minuses. On the plus side, I get to
buy more tools, on the minus side, I have to finish it.
For me, the whole point is expanding my capabilities. If its hard, I want
to try it. Its the easy stuff that I loose interest in quickly. I love
making mistakes that challenge me to figure out a better, faster way.
Unlike some others, its just my hobby!
I don't usually have this problem either because I have a general rule
that says one unknown thing per project. In other words I already
know in my head pretty much how everything is going to be done before
starting, and is mostly built upon the skills I've already built up.
I'll allow myself that one area I don't know how it's going to work, I
need to see the rest of it before I figure it out, or one new skill
that I haven't done before, or one new tool to help get it done.
Currently though I am working on transforming my parents old china
cabinet (4 doors, held 12 settings) into a curio cabinet (2 doors) for
my sister, because no one had room to take the full thing. For some
reason I thought, sure, I'll just pull it apart, cut it down, slap it
back together. No problem. Two days tops.
Well, it came apart no problem at least. Gotta love those Besseys.
Then I started to see all the shortcuts the factory took. They ran
all the cope and stick panels through their wide belt at about 80
grit. 80 grit across the grain is not pretty, not even their toner in
the finish could cover it up. The mortice and tenons were nailed, not
glued. And the mortices are all full of finish. That's why it came
apart so easy.
So now it's pretty much down to bare wood, at least the top half
anyway. All nice hard maple under there under the stain and toner and
faux worm holes (that they got really carried away with).
Gotta enlarge the mortices a bit and make new tenons.
And did I mention the matching coffee table that somehow came into the
picture? I think it may have even been my idea.
Before I start a project I know it will cost much, much more in time and
materials than a manufactured product.
I also know in advance that I will build something that is original, from my
own mind and hands that cannot be found anywhere in existence. Even a simple
project like a Black Walnut turned Sugar Bowl & Cover that I have looked at
and enjoy daily for over 30 years cannot have a price on it.
I've had a couple that needed a tool. As for getting in over my head, yes.
It was a good thing though, as it forced me to try new techniques and it was
a good learning experience.
I have to get more patient with finishing though. I don't care that a
project takes a long time to complete, especially one that is complex, but
after the first coat of finish, the rest get boring. Right now I'm in the
middle of rubbing out the top of a chest of drawers. Next step is pumice.
I don't underestimate cost any more., I figure what it will cost, add 50%,
then I come in the ballpark. Buying wood, I don't go to extremes, but I try
to get a little extra rather than fall short and have to make a 90 mile
round trip to get a board foot. Leftovers come in handy for a small box or
In the beginning I was in over my head all the time. Now only about
30% of the time. If I'd stop doing more and more complicated things I
could stop buying tools. But what's the fun in that? The learning's
good and so are the tools.
As far as motivation or interest - this is a hobby for me. When it
feels like work, I do something else and come back to it later.
I haven't taken on anything "too ambitious" like a replica of a
Chippendale piece or something from the Palace of Versailles. Each
time it's been just a little more involved. I learn something new all
OK, I'll bite.
Many years ago when I had more time than money (well, that's still
true, but I digress)..
SWMBO and I decided to to a complete kitchen remodel, and the only way
to afford what we wanted was to do it all ourselves. Tear out, moving
windows, new everything: walls, ceiling, floors. Did all the work
including electrical, plumbing, etc. and built all the cabinets. All
on evenings and weekends, working in a small ill-equipped basement
I couldn't even count how many times I asked the question posed
We figued at the start it would take a year and a half, give our day
jobs and other obligations. *6* years later it was all done. Came
out beautifully. 2 years later we moved. My only satisfaction is
that it was the kitchen that sold the house the day it went on the
When we were nearing completion, we decided to have a party to
celbrate, show off, and thank the folks who lent a hand along the way.
The invitiations said something like "Come to a Kitchen's not quite
finished but close enough to celebrate Party"
One of my buddies showed up with a gift. It was a set of large hand
carved wooden utensils, like you might use to toss salad...and true to
the theme of the party, they were only about 90 percent complete...
Everything I've done since then has seemed pretty easy by comparison..
my China Cabinet refinish comes to mind, solid Oak China Cabinet I
picked up at an estate sale for $110, the previous own had refinished in
cherry, an botched the job really bad, looked like they used a gel
stain over the previous finish, so I thought a little striper, little
sanding and some poly I'll be good. As it turned out just stripping it
didn't work, I ended up sanding the whole thing, something I thought was
going to take 3 month turned into a 2 1/2 year project, and to get it
done I ended up getting 3 sanders (ROS, 1/4 sheet, and a B&D mouse
detail sander), a Dremal rotary tool, self center drill bits, and more
sand paper then I want to remember.
Yes.. Not 100% woodworking, but our bathroom had a bad shower valve.
While attempting to replace, I found it had leaked behind the wall and
rotted the floor. After tearing out floor, I notice damaged joists
(which the building inspector should've never passed) and I also
noticed the drain pipes weren't sloped correctly (so that's why the
toilet clogged frequently).
Ended up being a complete gut and rebuild. Started last November, and
I'm totally fed up with it now. I'm building some new cabinets for it
now. That's the only pleasurable part of the project, the woodworking
part of it -- the drywall, tile, plumbing, moving walls, etc is a
second job that I dread worse than my normal job that pays me.
In hindsight, I wish I had just put the house up for sale LOL.
Actually, when it finally gets done, it will be a lot nicer.
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