What I hate about woodworking

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Blog entry by KnickKnack posted 11-06-2008 07:16 PM 1291 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The posting rules say “write about your woodworking journey in a casual or tutorial format; whether it is a project in process, inspiration or a challenge”.
I’m gonna go for the “casual” thing.
My thought for the day…

I’m not sure woodworking really suits my temperament, which is part of the reason I do it.
I used to write software for a living, and whilst it might take 6 months to bring a product to market (after all the “lying in the bath staring into space” time, which might last years), some kind of prototype was usually up and running within a day or two – after that it’s nose to the grindstone making it look great and be solid. It’s a metamorphosising (is that a word?) thing – you have something, and you gradually turn it into something else – at each moment it works and day by day it looks and works better.
I guess it’s an instant-gratification thing.
And that’s what I hate about woodworking.
I’ve been working on this outdoor bench for about 10 days now (I’m retired, and the garage leaks when it rains, and it’s not that I work hard).
What do I have to show for it so far? 7 boards that aren’t quite flat, or quite smooth, or quite parallel, and the structure of the arm bits – also not quite smooth.
10 days!
In maybe another 3 days I’ll be ready to cut a coupla slots, and then it’ll be frantic for the 15 minutes I’ve got until the glue sets (it’s the only glue I can get).
And then it’ll be done, except for the finishing.
Instant-gratification along the way – almost none.
At the end of a day I like to take a pew, light a fag (cigarette :-)), see that I’ve made some progress, and plot the next day’s work. “More sanding, more planing” just don’t hack it.

“The building of a fitted kitchen starts with a single joint”. Except it doesn’t, it starts with hours of planing, cutting and sanding!

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

10 comments so far

View MacTownFish's profile


17 posts in 2939 days

#1 posted 11-06-2008 07:33 PM

Well said. I can identify with what you’re saying extremely well. I can’t tell you the number of projects I have started in the shop, but just never got around to finishing.

-- Daddy always said, "Try not to bleed on the wood."

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 3414 days

#2 posted 11-06-2008 08:04 PM

I see your point Knick. Life is too short for that kind of aggravation. Now, where did you say you’re keeping the rest of that white oak? You’ll be wanting to get rid of that first so you don’t get tempted into backsliding you know?


-- Jim

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3014 days

#3 posted 11-06-2008 08:25 PM

Whenever I have problems doing something or I don’t like doing it, I don’t. Which is why I’m not anything but a woodworker. I couldn’t imagine sitting behind a computer all day trying to figure out why something don’t work on a certain program or whatever, then at the end of the day have accomplished absolutely nothing. In woodworking you can accomplish anything with little effort, so long as you are patient and have the correct tooling. It’s all about experience. Once you finish your bench you will be extremely satisfied that you’ve accomplished something that you struggled through. The next project will be a breeze, although you will still have the inevitable sanding, planing, and cutting. I think what I would say is that if you really aren’t satisfied with woodworking then why not choose a different hobby. Maybe restore a classic mustang, or if you want to stay with woodworking try turning. Beating yourself up and being frustrated doesn’t make the build any better or faster.
I hope your bench turns out great, and I hope you share it with us.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View bayspt's profile


292 posts in 3128 days

#4 posted 11-06-2008 08:27 PM

I know what you mean with the glue up. You spend days milling stock cutting joints fitting, refitting, and then in the end, you rush rush rush to get it all together before the first joint sets, and find out part way through the assembly that one piece was 1/32” too long and throws the whole thing off, but it’s too late now, etc etc. Days of work, trying to make everything perfect, for 15 min of flurry where you mess up your days of work.

-- Jimmy, Oklahoma "It's a dog-eat-dog world, and I'm wearing milkbone underwear!"

View fredf's profile


495 posts in 3134 days

#5 posted 11-06-2008 09:12 PM

Welcome to woodworking, KnickKnack,

Don’t give up, because you are taking baby steps at this point in time; you are learning a whole new skill set. (and there are a lot of skills to learn) This bench may take a few weeks, the next one will take a bit less as you will have learned and honed your skills. Once you have done a few projects, you will be able to flatten, cut and fit more quickly and accurately, and the projects will go together much better, woodworking is as much about the journey as the destination.

-- Fred, Springfield, Ma

View Dusty56's profile


11804 posts in 3112 days

#6 posted 11-06-2008 09:45 PM

Cheer up , Bro . They say that you should spend as much time finishing your project as it took you to build it !
Someone here at LJs has the slogan that the only easy wood project is a fire ! Or something like that …hahahaha

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View itsme_timd's profile


689 posts in 3255 days

#7 posted 11-06-2008 09:58 PM

Bingo. I know what you mean totally. I think that’s why penturning appeals to me so much. :-) I can have a finished project in a couple of hours. I’ve had a few that I put more work into but I’m able to find a little more patience with them because if I want to crank out a quick pen I can do that, too.

I always enjoy getting some of the bigger projects done, a real sense of accomplishment there. But I do enjoy my little turning projects a lot.

-- Tim D. - Woodstock, GA

View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 2925 days

#8 posted 11-07-2008 12:26 AM

Here is what I do to avoid these sentiments.
I have two or three projects on the go at various stages that way when you are waiting for the glue to dry in the clamps you can sand or finish another project. Also I tend to do all my planning while I do other mindless tasks like sanding or cleaning the shop.
Hope this helps.

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3208 days

#9 posted 11-07-2008 03:13 AM

Sounds like you’re trying to do it all with hand tools (as I am: read my posts!). If instant gratification is what you want in woodworking, you really need to go with power tools. Sure, you’ll still need to do some touch-ups with a hand plane, perhaps. But you can feed a board in your thickness planer, buzz buzz, and bam! (At least that’s what I think happens – I’ve never used a planer, nor even seen one in action!)

If you’re an impatient woodworker, go with the power.

Wow, I can’t believe I just encouraged someone to go power tools. :^)

-- Eric at

View KnickKnack's profile


1062 posts in 2990 days

#10 posted 11-07-2008 07:05 PM

I’ve thought some more, and come up with one more thing :-)
Back to software (which I was pretty good at)... I can spend 3 or 4 hours going down a thread trying something. Then I can look and decide I don’t like it, and just go back to where I was. With woodwork you can’t do this – “I’ll try a dovetail and if that doesn’t look good I’ll try a box” – errrrrr no! With software you can fix the mistakes. The joy of a “cybersomething” rather than something physical.

Now to comment on the comments…
“OutPutter” – I’ve started sanding the remaining oak into dust for easier shipping – expect one bag a week for, ooo, the next year or so.
“kolwdwrkr” – can’t argue with any of that, except I very very happily spent and spend hours and hours staring at the screen. I have problems that I still work on from 3 years ago – once in a while I spend a day at them – once in a while they get cracked – more often than not they don’t. I’m a perfectionist (a sagittarian perfectionist at that – I’m way confused) – software gives me the opportunity to keep at the problem for a decade (my mp3 player is that old), whereas woodworking doesn’t.
You are right though – once it’s finished I’ll feel that sense of accomplishment – but, and it’s a frustrating but – it’ll be finished. The Adironveld chair, for example, sits in our entrance hall (it’s for outside but it’s raining for a few months), so I pass it maybe 10 times a day. I get a buzz every time I see it – I like the design, and it isn’t badly done, but more and more I’m starting to stare at little bits that aren’t quite perfect, at that little glue droplet which didn’t take the finish, and I could swear it’s getting bigger and bigger every day. And I can’t fix it. Luckily the neighbour likes it and wants one, so I can try again.
Perhaps it didn’t come across but I enjoy quite a lot of the woodworking – but mainly the design side and actually implementing it to see if the design was ok or even good involves quite a lot of drudgery.
Oh, and I never quit!
“bayspt” – one thing I don’t get is why everything is just tickety-boo when you dry fit – as soon as you add glue nothing fits any more?
“fredf” – and there in lies another problem. So I will finish the bench, but then we’ll have a bench! Unless I’ve really screwed it up we won’t need another one for, let me think, forever. I’ve made a few footstools, which I enjoyed (small stuff I prefer to big stuff), but my wife has absolutely forbidden me to make any more. I try to encourage the cats to use them so I can say there are none spare for us, but they don’t seem to want to! This also relates to Eric’s comment – with a planer/thicknesser a lot of my hassles would go away – but they ain’t cheap, and I can’t justify it when I’m running out of stuff we need.
“Dusty56” – love that quote!
“itsme_timd” – I’ve thought about doing the pen thing because I like the smaller things too – but I’d really need to turn a keyboard.
“TraumaJacques” – “cleaning the shop” – that’s a novel idea I’d never thought of!
“Eric” – actually I am using power tools – but not a planer thicknesser, see above.

But thanks for all the comments – this truly is an inspirational site!

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

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