And So It Begins... #3: ...Getting over the Fear!!

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Blog entry by ChrisN posted 08-25-2009 03:21 AM 3994 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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As I think back, every time I bought a new tool it was in the hope that this tool would be the one that would make sure that every cut, or hole, or edge, or…whatever, would be perfect. I wouldn’t have to worry about ruining a perfectly good piece of wood. Every project I had pictured in my mind would be easily translated through my hands and my new tool into a work of art. Yet everytime I opened the box, and set up the new tool, I found myself making the same timid steps forward. I would cut something, not quite perfect, or square something…almost…and get that same fear of failure, or imperfection, and quietly walk away.

I suspect many of you know what I’m talking about, all us perfectionist with crystal clear images in our head that we don’t start for fear of ruining the vision. I bought my table saw almost 10 years ago and it really got very little use until recently…until I started to ignore the fear, accept that perfection would not come from starting, but from patience and practice.

As per my previous post, I recently built and Adirondack Chair. I won’t say I completed it, as I still have a few more screws to cap and the whole topic of finishes scares the “Cr*p” out of me, but I built it, and you can sit in it and it is comfortable and only I know all of the things that are wrong with it…though a few things are obvious…hard to hide it when a template slips on the router. But I did it and I can say that I learned a ton in just building that one project.

That little success led me to face my next fear…remember that tablesaw? When I bought it, I got a dado blade set with it…never even opened the package until about a week ago. Now I’m more than half way through building a nice rolling cabinet. Cut some dado’s and a couple of rabbetts and what do you know it is pretty close to perfectly square and it’s all glued up and I put the wheels that I bought a few years ago on it and it rolls around really nice and all of a sudden I have a little more working space.

For the past few months I’ve had visions of boxes in my head. I have a book or two on the subject, but there was that old fear…I have some scrap wood, but I would need to resaw it and I know what the plans say, but that’s not the vision I have in my head. So the other day I switch out the blade on my band saw to something a little more suited to resawing and made a few marks on the edge of a squared up board and started to cut. Problems started almost immediately, I was using a fence, but the blade kept tracking at an angle. So I gave up on the fence and free handed the board into 2 and 1/2 pieces, before I realized that I could slide the guide blocks forward on the saw so they stabilized the front of the blade and not the back. All of a sudden, the blade is tracking much better, even free hand…who woulda thunk it!

As I work through the vision that is my box, I realized that I wanted a top that has some dimension to it and it occured to me that the scrap of purpleheart that I have lying around makes a wonderful contrast to the hard maple I resawed for the sides of the box. So tonight, I set up the fence on the bandsaw and made a nearly perfect resaw cut of that purpleheart which should joint and plane up much easier than the boards for the box sides.

As I do, I watch…as I watch, I see…as I see, I learn…as I learn, I get braver…as I get braver, the fear begins to shrink. Oh, it’s not gone. It will linger, probably forever, as I gain more experience but it is no longer keeping me from my tools. I can make mistakes, just look closely at my chair, but instead of being discouraged by them I am learning from them…you will have much more trouble finding the imperfections on my next chair…the wood is already roughed out.

Thanks for listening…more pictures soon.


-- Chris N, Westford, MA - "If you won't eat something from your fridge that turned green...why would you eat something that started out that way?"

4 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117120 posts in 3603 days

#1 posted 08-25-2009 06:38 AM

Learning thats what it’s all about.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 3456 days

#2 posted 08-25-2009 09:09 AM

Great blog Jim. We all make mistakes, but like you said, we need to learn from them and not get discouraged. The only way to make less mistakes is to practice and learn more.

That is the great thing about this site. Here you can find all the info you need and help from a lot of the members, But you still need to get out there and try it yourself.

Keep your head high and look toward the future. Allways more/better projects comeing along.

Thanks for posting.


-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2794 posts in 3464 days

#3 posted 08-25-2009 01:28 PM

And remember, when you take pictures and put them on LJ’s, imperfections are really hard to find. The camera lens may add 5 pounds but it doesn’t show mistakes that much! ;-)

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Schwieb's profile


1858 posts in 3487 days

#4 posted 09-02-2011 01:39 PM


1. I’m with you on eating the green stuff, beyond lettuce, the green stuff is easy for me to pass up.

2. The perfectionist trait is something you have to learn to tame and perfection is something you strive towards, practice makes perfect. It doesn’t need to keep you from trying to make things. I look at some of the work I was quite proud of from the past, now, and I see wasn’t as good as I thought. You start with decent tools and get them tuned to work properly. Then careful layout and set up of the machine for the operation you have planned. Here using sacrificial pieces to test the setup is necessary. I learned from my Dad that it’s not so much the tools you have as what you do with what you have. You gain confidence by using lesser woods and then work your way up to the prize woods. He always said that “Only God is perfect, as humans we will make mistakes. A craftsman deals with them, repairs them, and often makes them look like they belong there.” I’m told that Shaker woodworkers would purposely put a defect in their work for this very reason. In my experience getting good outcomes starts with thinking through the cutting – construction process brfore you start and then sort of sneaking up on the final fit and finish.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

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