In the last article, I talked about cleaning up my work environment to allow for shorter setup times and more ready access to the machines and items in my workshop.
But that is only part of the battle.
I experienced some personal loss this last year that really took the wind out of my sails. I won’t get into all of that here, some already know what I am talking about and we will just suffice with that. I found it difficult to get motivated again but shop cleaning is a good way to clean the cobwebs out of your head as well as out of your shop. The challenge I had to face was how to organize my time with this different schedule. Part of it was coming to some conclusions of what kind of woodworker I was.
I am a hobbyist. I got a great deal of slack one time for trying to outline the difference between the artist/craftsman and the hobbyist. It isn’t about the quality of the work. Both can be equally talented and original. What makes the difference, to me, is the sacrifices that are required in pursuit of this craft. Family and responsibilities, in my case, are never going to be required to take a hit for my work. They already took hits on my education and take hits with my current employment. When push comes to shove, my hobby is the thing that has to take the back burner when events in life happen. Simple as that. At the same time, my hobby helps keep me sane and I really don’t want to go long periods of time without that stress relief. The answer, for me is to grant myself the shop time, but in small increments (except during my days off with time to putter) on a daily basis.
How does this work? And what are the benefits?
In the past, i would look forward to my long excursions in the shop. The problem was that I would try to finish my projects as fast as I could because I didn’t know when I would get another chance to finish what I started. So the mindset started becoming “project” instead of “process.” I wasn’t thinking clearly about each step. Each time I sat down to do a task, I was thinking about the next task and not the process at hand. Obviously this leads to stupid mistakes, crappy finishes, and a less than stellar project. I would always hate that feeling of having something unfinished and it was making my work suffer. Now, I approach the shop with the mindset of completing a step in the project but not the project itself.
I will give you an example. I am working on a quilt box from a plan that is in a Woodsmith magazine I received a couple years ago. Basically, you complete a box shell, cut slots for the lid, bottom, and substrate, assemble the base, cut off the lid, and glue up a pattern of squares and diamonds to make patterns on the substrate for the lid. It makes a quilted pattern, hence the name. It has a number of steps. Rather than trying to complete a number of them in one visit to the shop, I just concentrate on one. The first day, I milled and cut to size a cherry board for the base. The second day I cut the required slots. The third day, I rounded over the board, and the fourth day I cut the miters. I only spent about an hour each day. Some tasks should only take about 15 minutes. I used that extra time to make sure that the 15 minute task was done right. Extra measuring, more anal tool setup, etc. As a result, the steps are more satisfying and I leave the shop with the feeling of completing something rather than leaving an item unfinished. And, at the end of the week, I made progress on a project where I would have normally did nothing in the shop except look at a piece of Cherry and dream of the day when I can use it.
Progress so far on current project (box is upside down) -
So that is the current mindest and should lead to more successful completions to come.
Thank you all for reading,
-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.