Starting Upper Cut Woodworks #4: Dedicating time to Woodworking

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Matt (Upper Cut) posted 01-06-2010 09:15 AM 1117 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Project Workflow and Documentation Part 4 of Starting Upper Cut Woodworks series Part 5: Creating an Identity for Upper Cut Woodworks »

I’m not sure this post will paste in correctly. Feel free to read the blog on my site.

One of the the things I’ve been figuring out is how to dedicate time to Upper Cut on a consistent basis. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a rewarding but demanding full-time job and a wonderful family that I like to spend time with. Even without a business, woodworking is something I enjoy, so I definitely want to set aside the time for it. So how do I make sure I dedicate enough time to the business in a healthy way?

Step 1: Talk to the wife
If your spouse is supportive of your hobby, they’ll help problem solve this for you. Support comes in many flavors: from encouraging you to spend the time doing something you enjoy to actively participating in the shop. I don’t think I’ll get my wife in the shop, but having her support is great. She doesn’t complain too much about my shop taking part of the garage, she’s bought me tools as gifts (and done well), and she’s asked for more projects – which means she likes what I’ve done so far. She’s also showed off my work to friends, and asked me to build things for them as gifts. This appreciation for my work feels good and motivates me to do more. Over Christmas Break she actually said “we need to get you a dedicated shop!” So yes, I drew up my dream shop – I’ll share that in a future post.

Step 2: Find a shop buddy
If you have someone to join you in the shop, that’s sometimes better than working alone, depending on your personality. Two people working in a shop at the same time might get busy but it will also be friendly and helpful. Someone to bounce ideas off, someone to push you forward, and someone to help get those big pieces through the saw.

Step 3: Be in the shop when you’re not in the shop
If you can’t always be in the shop, you can be connected to your hobby and building your skills. There are great podcasts to enjoy during your commute or workout, and blogs to enjoy during your lunch hour. Stay connected with your hobby, stay up on the latest trends, tools, techniques, and materials, and get inspired! I listen to Wood Talk Online in the shop. Wacky, huh?

Step 4: Create two lists and check them twice
Create two lists of things you need to get done in the shop: one is for projects, and the other is for maintenance. Assign a T-Shirt size representing the time investment for each task, and prioritize your lists. Anytime you get free time for the shop you will have a backlog of things to get done. You’ll know when you last did your maintenance, and you’ll spend your time wisely. I don’t like to work on large projects in lots of little time slices, I’d rather fill those with the small projects and do the large projects in long stretches. It doesn’t always work out, but the continuity of work helps me. For example, if I have three hours free on Wednesday night, I’ll probably skip over my Priority 1 project, and go straight to Priority 2. I bet I can complete a pencil holder in three hours, especially because I know I have the stock ready, and I have already built quite a few. If I’m in maintenance mode I could just go in the shop and put away 10 things (thanks Wood Whisperer and Grandpa Olsen), or I could complete something from the maintenance list.

Priority Project Size
1 Dresser for Mark L
2 Pencil Holder for Grandma’s birthday XS
3 Cutting board for Auntie S

Maintenance Item Size Last Completed
Annual Table Saw tune-up M 11/11/2008
Annual Sharpen Planer Blades S 6/13/2009
Periodic Wax Tools S 6/13/2009

So, how has this worked out for me? Well, I’m still working through the steps.

Step 1: My wife supports me turning Wednesday nights in to “shop nights”
Step 2: My buddy Greg wants to join me
Step 3: I’m already crazy about blogs and podcasts
Step 4: I need to make my project lists and maintenance logs – when those are done I might publish them

How do you dedicate time in the shop, stay connected to your hobby, and maximize your time?

-- Matt Gradwohl, Upper Cut Woodworks,

3 comments so far

View WWilson's profile


106 posts in 3088 days

#1 posted 01-06-2010 07:35 PM

Great plan. I think the key is to ease in slowly. I am in an almost identical situation to you and finding (no making) time is the critical thing. If you can get at it consistenly then you can make some headway. I really like your prioritization / categorization of tasks. I never though about it but the T-shirt analogy is perfect because sometimes you only have an XS amount of time but if you have a list of XS things that need to get done you can maximize your shop time. Great posts. Keep up the good work!


View Matt (Upper Cut)'s profile

Matt (Upper Cut)

264 posts in 3838 days

#2 posted 01-07-2010 01:34 AM

Thanks WWilson—I have to say all these years of managing software teams (and not sucking at it) is paying off. Consistency is key though. I need to establish a rhythm of getting in the shop and getting things done!

-- Matt Gradwohl, Upper Cut Woodworks,

View paulcoyne's profile


133 posts in 3145 days

#3 posted 01-07-2010 02:26 AM

i have no problem finding time to get into the workshop as i was made unemployed the problem i have is motavation so i make lists for everything and i use a whiteboard and marker for reminders also i keep visual aid’s insight like a pic of a drum sander i would like or the house i would like to buy, it helps to keep me focused

-- thats not a mistake... i ment that

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics