When I got into woodworking I got into it for relaxation and a means of self-expression. It was something that had always interested me, but something I had never done. Although we could have probably afforded it, my father never set up a wood shop or anything like that at home.
One day I found myself graduate from college 600 miles from home. Newly married to the woman that I dated for 6-1/2 years. Working at a new job where I sit at computers all day. I would then come home and sit at a computer most of the night. Needless to say it was frustrating at times and I would get upset with what I was trying to do.
One night while sitting at the computer, pounding my head on the desk trying to get something to work, my wife came in the room and said. I have been wanting a wooden trash can for a while, why don’t you go to the shop and make me one? (We had a nice wood shop on the Navy base where I was working that the civilian employees could use too).
Well, that trash can led to living room tables, which led to a bed, and I imagine you can guess the rest of the story. I had a really good hobby started. Something I enjoyed. A nice gentleman at our church offered me space in his back yard garage for a shop until we found a house. The only payment he wanted was to be able to use the tools if he wanted to. As far as I know he never touched any of them. When we bought our house, the shop moved into the two car garage. That is where I stand now.
Over the past few years I have found people like the work I do and want me to build things for them to put in their house. They all pay me what I charge and that is well and good. I enjoy doing things that make people feel better and make people happy. One of my rules for taking a job was that I would never agree to a deadline for the job to be done. No one has ever had a problem with that. For the most part I have enjoyed building projects for other people, but I never enjoy it as much as I think I should.
Now imagine three months ago when a little extra money would have been nice, a contractor friend at church asks me if I would like to build some bookshelves for a house he was building. I talked it over with my wife and we agreed to take the job. After all, how hard could bookshelves be? The only thing I did not like was that I had a deadline to meet.
Fast forward to now. This has been the absolute worst project I have had to date. I think something has gone wrong in every stage of the project. Now I am 2-1/2 weeks from the deadline and I am wondering if it is going to be done in time.
All of this had taught me a lesson. Woodworking is not something I want to do for pay. As far as commissioning a job from someone in the future, NO WAY!!!!! Every time I take a job, my hobby turns into work. I get burned out and do not want to do anything in my shop for months afterward. To me that is not what it is all about.
It is about fun and relaxation. It is about having a place to go after a rough day at work and lose myself in a totally creative effort. It is about being a hobby.
So, I have decided no more commissioned jobs. If someone wants to buy something I have already built I will consider it, but I will not build one for them. I am done WORKING at my hobby. I will be glad when this stretch of days is over and the shelves are installed in the house. For me it will be good riddance and a little money in my pocket. However, for all the trouble I have had, not nearly enough money.
The moral of the story is that if you love woodworking as a hobby, be very careful about turning it into a job. It turns from a hobby into a lot of WORK. As long as you can keep it enjoyable, it is good. As for me I cannot keep it enjoyable and get paid. From now on, no more woodworking for money.
Everyone have a safe and productive weekend. I am off to slave over these bookshelves yet another day.
-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA