Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Going Against My Own Advice

It's amazing how much woodworking and blogging one can get in while the wife is away on a business trip.

I started another project today.  Allow me to get on my soapbox for a minute to warn about the dangers of working on too many (ie. more than one) project at a time.

Two projects take twice as long to finish as one.  If you are a hobby woodworker like me, time in the wood shop is precious.  I find satisfaction in sneaking in there for an hour or even twenty minutes during the day.  If you are a professional woodworker and wonder why my projects take so long, it is because I feel I did good if I get 4-8 hours of woodworking in a week. Sometimes it is less, or none.

A wise one on the Old-Tools list once said that a shop in motion stays in motion.  That means that the converse is also true.  If it has been a couple weeks since I was in the shop, chances of me going down there tonight are low.  But, if I am cruising on a project, it seems easy to find a little time to get in there just to get the next step done.

When you undertake a second, third, etc. project on, as a hobby woodworker you do yourself no favors.  Because now it takes twice as long to complete two projects, you are not getting that mental boost that comes from finishing a project.  I don't know about you, but when I put that last coat of finish on a piece and stand back and look at it, I am amazed, and at the same time can't wait to start the next project.

I love to do a small project after a long one.  If it takes several months to complete something, there is something gratifying and self-validating about finishing a weekend project.

The more often you get that little boost, the more efficient of a woodworker you will become.  This is because (for me, at least), you ride the positive endorphins from the last success into the new one.

I get mentally bogged down when I don't have the skills or tools for the next step in the project.  As an example, it took me almost nine years to finish a blanket chest.  By the time it was done, we didn't even live in the same place that I built it for.  I got hung up on flattening the lid and keeping it straight.  In fact, now that I think about it, there is one small project in my shop that has been there longer than that.  I'll have to get back to that someday.

Anyway, I am going against my own advice right now, as I currently have three separate projects going.  But, there is a reason.  We have a second apartment in the town where I work, which is about an hour's drive from here.  I happen to work on an Army post that has a wood shop for me to use (for now).  There, I am building a table for my in-laws, and plan to start a dining table for our second apartment once that is complete.

Here at home, I have my new workbench to complete.  It's going slowly, but it is going.  I can kind-of justify doing these two projects because I can work on whichever one I happen to be near that day depending on where I stay that night.

I hope I didn't jinx myself because Today I went to a third workshop, the kurs.werkstatt workshop run by Dictum here in Munich.  Peter is a great guy and helped me resaw a maple table leg for me to make a Krenov style jointer.  I brought it back to my hand tool shop where I hope to finish it in the not-too distant future.  Hopefully I will be able to use it to flatten the top of my bench.

I'll let it sit in this state a couple days to let the moisture levels equalize.  Hopefully this won't slow me down too much.

Come to think of it, this photo shows another almost-finished project, my tool chest.  Is there no hope?


  1. Brian,along with getting really good at woodworking, you are becoming a really good writer...or maybe you always were, I just never noticed before...that's a big sister for ya....I am really impressed with your bench and all the skills you are learning. You now have as many woodshops as you have apartments...hahaha...Keep posting... it is fun for me to read and watch

    1. Thanks, Sis,

      My goal is to have more shops to work in than I have projects to complete.

  2. Hey Brian,

    I found your site through Bengt's and wanted to say hello. It's a bit late and I'm missing the opening ceremonies so I'll have to explore your site a bit more tomorrow.

    I'm new to hand tool woodworking and I'm absorbing as much as I can. It's been a tough road here in Sweden though. I'm still learning the language and my searches for hand planes on Google have me looking at everything BUT planes.

    Maybe I'll see you at Dictum soon. I'm a big fan of Chris Schwarz and hope to make a few of his classes when he's in the neighborhood again.



    1. Welcome, Ronald! I'm glad to see you here.

      A secret bird told me next years classes by Christpher Schwarz at Dictum will be a two day bow-saw class and a four day Roorkhee chair class. I hope I can go, but SWMBO doesn't like the Roorkhee chair, and just today I was given a bowsaw as a gift. I'm sure I'll be there for a beer or two one evening, though.

      Old hand tools in decent shape are tough to find in Germany, too. I wind up getting most of mine from the states. But, every once in a while you can find a gem.

      Good luck!

  3. Wow! You are really doing well with your woodworking hobby. I'm glad you have lots of places to work on the wood, as you have lots of wood to work on to "catch up". You haven't changed, have you. I'm happy to hear that! Keep up the good work. And don't forget the music, either!