Big Project Plans = Big Compromises

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Forum topic by Scorpion posted 10-15-2011 12:00 AM 1435 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 2757 days

10-15-2011 12:00 AM

Search the internet or this forum alone and you will see some amazing projects that were really executed nicely. I see these large ones where execution was completely on point and the end product clearly shows it no matter how close you get to the item(s). Excessive time and care was spent ensuring that every joint, every corner, and every surface was perfect.

I’m not that guy. I’ve learned that I can build anything however I get to a point in a project where I want it done and I being to compromise here and there. I’m skilled enough and have the eye to do what the best do however I begin to itch for the next project, the next challenge, the next pile of material. As well as woodworking, I’m a machinist. I can hold tight tolerances however one day I learned that the tolerance only needs to be as tight as it actually needs to be. Knowing it’s tighter doesn’t buy me anything. Sadly, this “gift” has translated into every hobby including wood working.

A year ago I moved into a new house (new to me). The new house had a new garage that was a clean slate. The downside of a clean slate is the amount of work necessary to get it to a usable point. Electrical, storage, etc, etc…all equates to work. I got to the point in the plan (which I’ve stuck to very closely) where I’ve been building the drawer stacks, cabinets, shelving, and counter tops. Problem is, this part of the project has already taken 6 months and, even though they’re slowly getting there, I’m starting to make compromises. Neighbors, family, and friends are more than amazed at what I’ve built but what I see is the imperfections, the exceptions to the plan, the deviations…the “no way I’ll do it agains”.

Do I accept these feelings as a personality flaw or do I take a break, work on something else, and go back and fix them to be as perfect as my plan initially was? In this case, it is only a shop however my other big projects that grow old do end up the same way.


9 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


17803 posts in 3247 days

#1 posted 10-15-2011 01:41 AM

Matt, im with you on this one. I feel like im the king of 90%. Ill paint an entire room and not cut in the top because “Im going to put molding up”, and the moldiing takes 6 months for me to get around to doing. I can never put a finger on why i dont finish things 100%. Ive been getting a little bit better recently but still get caught not being done-done occasionally. I always want to move on to the next thing, learn something new, try something else and that gets in the way. Ive been trying to stick to the motto “if its worth doin, its worth doin right”, i feel that when i look at a project thats done-done im much happier and dont pick out the little flaws.

I say take a break,do somethin that challenges you because this is what i suspect you are really looking for, then when you have some time where you want to just “do somethin” get back around to some of the things that you can do easily.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4229 days

#2 posted 10-15-2011 02:14 AM

I do the same thing toward the end of a project. I hate sanding and finishing. Both a necessary evil. I made a pie crust table that I did a blog on here, and it sat for 6 months waiting for final sanding and finishing.

It’s like it was sitting off to the side laughing at me. But I got back to it eventually, so don’t worry about it. You will get back to your project’s when you feel like it and finish it right.

But I’m not the one to talk. It took me 10 years to get back to my harpsichord, but I did get it done!

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

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Don W

19050 posts in 2808 days

#3 posted 10-15-2011 02:17 AM

Matt, you’re singing my song. I typically have several projects going just for this reason. I’ve had 6 sheets of plywood to finish the walls in my shop for 6 months now.

I look at it as sometimes the need to finish is a good flaw to have, other times I take a break. I built my house about 30 years ago, I put an addition on 15 years ago, someday I’m going to add the threshold to the door in the bathroom in the original section. (at least the addition is complete)

I’m with you, sometime tighter just doesn’t warrant the time. Other times I want it perfect.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3291 days

#4 posted 10-15-2011 07:45 AM


What you’re saying is you’re human. We all want the gratification of a perfectly done project, but there is no such thing as perfection. ‘Good enough’ means something different to everyone on every project. If we allow ourselves to see nothing but the flaws instead of the beauty we have created, we would never accomplish anything. The little flaws and inconsistencies say “This was made by human hands (and maybe he/she used some machines in the process) and Mankind is the only species on Earth able to do this”.

Do the best you can within reason, leave a lot of stuff behind that your kids will fight over like wolves over a dead moose, and enjoy yourself. However, if you’re building a heart-lung machine or a space shuttle, ‘good enough’ should probably be better.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View StumpyNubs's profile


7690 posts in 3041 days

#5 posted 10-15-2011 03:10 PM

Compromise is part of life. What’s the point of woodworking if you get to a point where it becomes drudgery? Have you ever examined the back or underside of a fine piece of furniture? Compromises are everywhere, they just know where to do it and where not to. Some of the nicest pieces you’ll find have dadoes on the drawer backs instead of dovetails. Plywood drawer bottoms instead of solid wood…

Just save your compromises for the areas that don’t matter, don’t ever get seen, don’t undermine structural integrity. And don’t lose any sleep over it…

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4459 days

#6 posted 10-15-2011 03:23 PM

I’m not that guy. I’ve learned that I can build anything however I get to a point in a project where I want it done and I being to compromise here and there.

I can identify totally. What I have learned (and this helps a lot) is to focus on my enjoyment of the process and to try to quit thinking about the finished project. Remind yourself that you enjoy the work, and that the end result is just the icing on the cake. You wouldn’t take a train trip across the continent and leave your window shade pulled down to hide the scenery along the way, thinking only about the final destination.

In your mind, break it down into sub-projects that can be completed in a session or two. “Today, I’m going to make drawer fronts.” That way, you can have a sense of completion when your drawer fronts are done. Repeat that mindset with the next task, and so on. If you can maintain that frame of mind, the whole project will be complete before you know it.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Scorpion's profile


5 posts in 2757 days

#7 posted 10-16-2011 03:26 PM

After reading your replies and taking the week off (i have a tendency to work on stuff after work too when I’m wound up), I realize that it’s the big projects themselves that are the problem. Very few events in life are fun, stimulating and exciting start to finish. The problem with building cabinets that have 43 drawers and 12 doors, and 18 face frames is that it’s gonna take a while to do the finish work, it just is. I think my real problem is this is a hobby for me that I can dedicate limited time too. After family, work, and other responsibilities, I’m left with a handful of hours in the shop on a weekly basis. Sure I get a full day in here or there, but rarely a full weekend. So that big project is just gonna take a while and I’m going to have to figure out how to enjoy all phases more. I need to remember that all phases are supposed to be a break from responsibility and not just more work. I need to challenge myself to not lose sight of that.

Maybe, it’s much less complicated than I’m making it. Maybe getting to 90% in a hobby is something I should celebrate.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4459 days

#8 posted 10-16-2011 03:41 PM

Making a full set of cabinets as a hobbyist (meaning limited working time available) is a HUGE undertaking. Don’t get down on yourself for not being totally into it at all times. Also, keep in mind that the little flaws we see in our own work are almost always non-existent to others.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Scorpion's profile


5 posts in 2757 days

#9 posted 10-17-2011 05:25 AM

I got up this morning and sealed the drawer fronts. Prep took about an hour and a half and I spent maybe 30 minutes spraying material. With the temps starting to drop, drying times have increased substantially which prevents me from many multiple coats in a day. Even though I’ve had this moment of reflection that has helped me to see that I need to slow down and enjoy the process, it would appear that my pace will slow regardless with the change of season.

Thanks all, I feel much better.


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