How productive are you?...... really! (A rant)

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Forum topic by newwoodbutcher posted 05-11-2011 07:15 AM 1383 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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539 posts in 2269 days

05-11-2011 07:15 AM

My woodworking hot list is a mile long. Two black walnut Greene and Greene (influenced) book cases and a matching desk. Mahogany pantry (shelves, wine rack, pull down desk front, drawers, and cabinets), King sized bed, three double cedar (outside) gates, untold numbers of jigs and shop furniture Including a new bench), mahogany curio cabinet, a variety of picture frames, a black walnut sewing center for my wife, a mahogany media storage center and that’s just woodworking. I don’t even want to go into the hardscape/landscaping projects, regular “stuff breaks” projects and home maintenance, and did I mention I own my own business?
A few months ago, on another forum a guy had pictures of his winter projects, this guy built more absolutely beautiful furniture in one winter than I have in my whole life! How did he do that?
Thanks to several Palomar woodworking classes, I have improved my skill enough that I can now build some really nice heirloom quality furniture as long as I don’t get too fancy. I’ve got a well equipped shop and wouldn’t mind leaving some very special furniture after I’m gone. So I’m wondering, does anyone else have a list of really hot projects where the list is longer than their lives? Is there any advice out there on how to get more productive? Because all my stuff is one of a kind, I spend a great deal of time planning. I just don’t see many plans for sale that I want to build. By the way If anyone has a set of Blacker House bookshelf or desk plans, I would love to talk to you about buying them. once I know exactly what to build I’m able move pretty well with getting it done. I down loaded Sketch up but couldn’t get to a basic level of competence fast enough. I also see on this forum that it’s a time consuming learning curve. Do you all think it’s worth the time investment? Is there a real (face to face with the instructor) class anyone can recommend?
What do you all do to improve your productivity? What’s your best/biggest time saving trick????

-- Ken

21 replies so far

View wwbob's profile


111 posts in 2294 days

#1 posted 05-11-2011 07:52 AM

Productivity: do only 1 maybe 2 projects at a time. Let’s you focus and get a better sense of completion.

Sketchup: The only way I learned it was to do a simple project. Example: The latest edition of Wood magazine has a “simple bench” under the “basic built” category. Transfer that design into sketchup. You’ll learn the sketchup features you need the most, instead of all possible features. Modify the design as you see fit.

That’s about all I can recommend.

-- "I like the quiet I hear." - Channing, age 4

View jerrells's profile


891 posts in 2304 days

#2 posted 05-11-2011 02:35 PM

WELL having been (or claimed to be) an Organizational and Effectivness expert for many years let me chime in with a few thoughts.

1. Organize everything. If you spend more time looking for it that using it you have a problem.
2. Prioritize – what is most important and why. Make a written list of some sort. A big yellow tablet will do fine. Break it down into some amount of steps so you don’t get stopped in the middle of the project. Also, what do you enjoy doing vs. want to do vs. need to do. Don’t go over board but just look at it from a realistic view.
3. Software – I have stopped trying to learn software. At my age (around 65) I do not have that much time and I want to spend most of it doing productive things. I have found that after months of trying to learn some software package I have not.
4. Keep it simple. A catch phrase but great idea. If you can do it or learn to do it fine. However if it takes months to try to learn is it of value.
5. Finally – HAVE FUN. Woodworking is a hobby for most of us. I enjoy this few things I do and are able to use, give away or sell. I keep my list short.

Those are my thoughts and I hope (somewhat) it helps.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View patron's profile


13524 posts in 2760 days

#3 posted 05-11-2011 02:52 PM

i’m with jerrells
all i will ad is write your list
and get a clip board
and put a nail to hang it on

nothing like wasting time looking for the list

and maybe date things
so you can learn to pace your self
like a runner does
and keep track of your progress that way

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2402 days

#4 posted 05-11-2011 03:03 PM

Lists never shrink they just get bigger or are revived onto new lists. I have limited my lists to the project at hand. This allows me to concentrate on the current project and getting it finished. If your like myself and tend to get a little ADD, lists can create mass confusion and I never get things done. Since I also prefer to do one of a kind projects. I find that when I concentrate on one project at a time, I tend to make less mistakes and not spend a lot of time constantly setting up machines. This also helps keep the shop from getting disorganized and allowing me to put things away so shop clean up doesn’t become a chore.

Christmas time gets real hectic as I tend to throw out my rules and have many projects at once which creates mass confusion. As I grow older in my woodworking journey I have come to slow down more. While there are many projects I would like to do. I have found the one I’m working on is the most important one at the moment to do.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View saddletramp's profile (online now)


999 posts in 2057 days

#5 posted 05-11-2011 03:07 PM

Start project

Oops, wrong project

Start right project

Look for sketch of project

Can’t find sketch, but found sketch of first project

Restart first project

Hmm ….... is that 5 boards 3 feet long or 3 boards 5 feet long?

Look for reading glasses

Ahh ….. 3 boards 3 feet long

Look for the boards that were set aside for the project

Can’t find the lumber stash but find sketch of senond project (how in the hell did that get there?)

Restart second project

ad infinitum …............................................................................................

-- ♫♪♪♫♫ Saddletramp, saddletramp, I'm as free as the breeze and I ride where I please, saddletramp ♪♪♪♫♪ ...... Bob W....NW Michigan (Traverse City area)

View Ocelot's profile


1458 posts in 2057 days

#6 posted 05-11-2011 03:19 PM

I’m not productive either, but I’ll toss in a few words.

1) Don’t turn opportunity into obligation. There are things you can do, but most of them are not things you have to do. If you have to do it (in your mind), it’s hard to enjoy the process.

2) There is a guy who bult an airplane who wrote some things about shop discipline that I like.

View sarahss's profile


258 posts in 2068 days

#7 posted 05-11-2011 03:28 PM

I believe Bob Lang is offering both a weekend and a week long sketchup class this summer at Marc Adams School. Mr. Lang also has an ebook that I purchased, but have not really gotten into yet.

View Gene Howe's profile (online now)

Gene Howe

8094 posts in 2848 days

#8 posted 05-11-2011 04:09 PM

“1) Don’t turn opportunity into obligation. There are things you can do, but most of them are not things you have to do. If you have to do it (in your mind), it’s hard to enjoy the process.”

Truer words were never spoken!

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View darinS's profile


676 posts in 2286 days

#9 posted 05-11-2011 04:15 PM

I have a book from the Missing Manual series simply titled “Google SketchUp” that has helped me tremendously. There are also online tutorials that may help like these: and I am sure there are others.

Most importantly, enjoy your time in the shop. That’s what I try to do.

-- They say many people die because of alcohol. They never realized how many of them are born because of it.

View Bertha's profile


12989 posts in 2112 days

#10 posted 05-11-2011 04:20 PM

I’ll go against the grain here and bash Sketchup. Some of the nicest Shaker furniture I’ve ever admired was built without Sketchup and CNCs. I’m versed in CAD and the like but it draws from the enjoyment of woodworking for me. I remember working with a pal of mine on his first woodworking experience, fraught with complications. I think he parted the experience understanding that the project is organic and there’s no mistake that dooms the project terminally (like that beautiful cracked bowl posted recently). I guess my projects are crude and I have little interest in Starrett-like accuracy and CAD-generated cut lists. That’s just me, though, and it takes all kinds. Great topic!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2269 days

#11 posted 05-11-2011 05:07 PM

Hi Ken—

The thread through this thread is “language has power.” More than we give it credit, most of the time.

I offer as an example my friend Dan, general contractor, carpenter, cabinetmaker. He never says “problem.” Instead, he says “opportunity.” People love to be around him. He always has work.

There is no magic pill to make you more efficient in the shop instantly, and that’s not the point.

To me, the point is to get that list to a place where it is not a negative force in your life, but a positive one. If it is keeping you from being in the moment and enjoying the act of the moment, it’s time for a sitdown with the list.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Jack Barnhill's profile

Jack Barnhill

366 posts in 2785 days

#12 posted 05-11-2011 05:29 PM

Not to go off on a tangent, but I have a different perspective on the usage of “opportunity” in place of “problem”.

The company that I used to work for had once adopted the same practice of replacing “problem” with “opportunity. The “problem” with that was that it never changed anything. When our customer’s equipment broke, they had a “problem”, no “opportunity” to continue business until we fixed the equipment. We took control of their “problem” because we had the “opportunity” to fix the equipment and satisfy the customer. But, if someone had failed to stock the correct part or the correct part was back-ordered with the manufacturer, we had a “problem” too with no “opportunity” to to satisfy the customer. The equipment would eventually get fixed but the customer would never be satisfied with the service event.

Calling a “problem” by a different name doesn’t change the nature of the situation. I really learned to hate the word “opportunity”.

Sorry to digress. It’s just something that has bugged me for a long time.

-- Best regards, Jack -- I may not be good, but I'm slow --

View Bertha's profile


12989 posts in 2112 days

#13 posted 05-11-2011 05:31 PM

Lee’s words above really struck a chord with me. I really needed to hear that.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View newwoodbutcher's profile


539 posts in 2269 days

#14 posted 05-11-2011 05:31 PM

Thanks folks, lots to think about here.

-- Ken

View helluvawreck's profile


22669 posts in 2286 days

#15 posted 05-11-2011 05:42 PM

If we’re talking about hobby woodworking, then my advice is that if you are young and really want to have a productive woodworking hobby and build nice things then don’t ever, ever, ever get involved with a manufacturing company where you own part of the company – even if it’s related to woodworking. I have been involved with two manufacturing businesses in the woodworking industry for the last 40 years and have literally worked my life away before my eyes with most of my weeks being 70 to 80 hr weeks over 6 or 7 day work weeks. I have done a lot and learned a lot – even about woodworking. However, the kind of woodworking that I have always wanted to do was always put on the back burner. Now, at almost 61 years of age, and after many years of hard work, I can no longer work the way that I use to. However, now I want to do some nice woodworking more than I ever have wanted it but am no longer in my prime of life. I still have to work 50 hours per week 5 days per week so I only have my weekends since I no longer have to work on Saturdays and Sundays. By the week end I can still put in a reasonable 6 to 8 hours each day but am not nearly as productive as I was in my prime.

If your still young, do some serious thinking about what you want to accomplish with your life and then do it with gusto but watch yourself and don’t get into something that will keep you from doing things that you love – even if those things don’t pay any money.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

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