What do you think of this. Are you guilty of the perfection syndrome?

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Forum topic by Jorge G. posted 03-08-2012 03:43 PM 1466 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2498 days

03-08-2012 03:43 PM

”Human beings find mechanical perfection profoundly dispiriting we look at this absolutely perfect made by a robot creation and feel inadequate. I would love to experience something made by a human being attempting to be as good as they can be but knowing that they going to fail in the pursuit of perfection.”

This was sent to me by David Savage on an e mail relating how he wanted to leave an imperfect surface top. The quoted paragraph was the response from the client.

Although he is lucky to have such a client, I have to admit I am one of those that some times does not see the wood for the trees. I obsess over a small details many times, but then where do we draw the line? When is it good enough to be presented to a client? How do you deal with being your own worst critic? Specially when you are dealing with a new technique or design. I took inspiration from Aviad (a LJ member) to design a guest bathroom (what we call here half bathroom, just sink and potty) and let me tell you just figuring out the angles for the cuts is giving me nightmares…..literally, I lay awake till 3 in the morning thinking about this….

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

25 replies so far

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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2873 days

#1 posted 03-08-2012 04:08 PM

A fascinating topic, current, and it always will be.

Just some random thoughts:

“achingly perfect” as in opposition to “achingly beautiful.”

One of my two early mentors said, in this discussion, “Sometimes you just have to push it out the door.” I took that to mean, one obsessively attended to spot can lead to another and the discipline of consistency (a good thing, generally) can lead you down a long winding road that has no bearing whatsoever on the Total Receipts column for that month.

A woodworker/artist of some accomplishment made a beautiful piece (over 20 years ago I think), a china hutch or something like that, walnut, and then pounded a rusty nail in the side and bent it over. It was the ignition point for some wonderful dialog. Published in Fine Woodworking. I cannot find it or recall his name, but if we can locate that, it will be an interesting addition to this discussion.

On my morning walks I often pass by an office building, new, which is on the fringe of a residential section so it was designed and built house-like. It is so symmetrical that the doorknob makes it look unbalanced. I find I tense up when I look at it. It is perfection, and I find it disturbing. (This thought is more about design than execution. Sorry for getting a little sideways.)

On we go…



-- " 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 willie's profile


534 posts in 2477 days

#2 posted 03-08-2012 04:17 PM

I remember a line from the movie “Roadie” by Meatloaf, “Everything works if you let it!” As dumb as that sounds, it’s true. Sometimes we over-analize the problem and make it worse. If I’m having problems with a project, I have found that the best thing for me is to walk away from it and do something else. Sometimes the solution to the problem just comes to me. It’s usually a lot simpler than I had previously made it out to be. I enjoy woodworking and letting details get the best of me takes the fun out of it. Keep it simple and let it work.

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View Viktor's profile


464 posts in 3441 days

#3 posted 03-08-2012 04:26 PM

“and let me tell you just figuring out the angles for the cuts is giving me nightmares…..literally, I lay awake till 3 in the morning thinking about this….”

- Ha-ha. Count me in. I sand and finish every part of furniture piece to the same standard, regardless whether it is table top or inside the cabinet behind the drawer.
I also don’t do simple. I take the most trivial of projects and replay countless scenarios of what could go wrong with it mechanically or else, ending up with complex, overdesigned, overbuilt but versatile object.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3331 days

#4 posted 03-08-2012 04:30 PM

I can hardly say that I am “Guilty of the Perfection Syndrome” but I would definitely say that I am “Proud of my Perfection Syndrome”. We all have our definitions and levels of perfection and what I might consider to be the best that I can possibly do might look like poor work to others.
All that any of us can possibly do is to create the best work that we are currently capable of and strive to improve each and every moment.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3197 days

#5 posted 03-08-2012 04:32 PM

My goals and aspirations, for my woodworking, are about 50-80% higher than my realistic capacity to achieve them.

At least for now.

It has been said that “Stress … is when reality fails to meet expectations.”

I’m working hard to take some of THAT kind of stress … out of my woodworking.

And … I think I made one fatal error: I got tools good enough that I can’t rationally blame THEM, anymore ;-)

-- -- Neil

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joey bealis

177 posts in 2529 days

#6 posted 03-08-2012 04:33 PM

I also over do and over think just about everything I do. The killer part of it is that I am still trying to make that one thing that is perfect. I have my doubts that I ever will but I will keep trying.


View JollyGreen67's profile


1676 posts in 2786 days

#7 posted 03-08-2012 05:22 PM

It has been observed I have an anal retentive attitude about perfection in woodworking – - – and I accept that.

-- When I was a kid I wanted to be older . . . . . this CRAP is not what I expected !

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2498 days

#8 posted 03-08-2012 05:28 PM

I wonder if this also relates to becoming more capable. Remember back when you were first starting how good it felt when you made your first perfect hand cut dovetails, or how a projects just came together perfectly and you thought, now I am starting to get the hang of this.

After a while this becomes routine and it seems no longer satisfying and then I start looking for things to obsess over. I had a friend who once told me, “It seems that we do thing better when we start than now that we know”...maybe not better but certainly with more joy.

I am rambling here, but it seems that for me to get back on the groove I need to keep raising the bar and trying to come up with more difficult projects…..when does it end?

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2377 days

#9 posted 03-08-2012 05:46 PM

When you feel something is really bad, step away from it, then come back and look at it after you’ve gotten over your frustration, either it will be ok, or you will need to figure out how to fix it.

I see down to pours in the wood grain, just the way my eyes work, I’ve had people across a 6×8 work bench ask me if their piece was sanded enough, looked down at it, saw the sanding marks and replied “no”, their reply, how can you tell, I then break out a pencil and circle the bad spots for them so they know where they need to concentrate. It was messed up admittedly, but true story, By the end of it I had 3 people asking me if I could see any flaws, occaisionally I wouldn’t spot on, but “shrugs” no one’s perfect.

All of that to say, I see flaws more clearly than everyone else probably does, and what I see others may never ever see looking at it directly, Sometimes you have to just let it go. Though now that I work for myself, I make sure all my customers understand look, I’ll give you a time estimate, but if something takes me longer to do right, then that’s the way I will be doing it, and it may take longer, but it will be right when I’m done.

In summation, it’s a balance of knowing what you can, and can’t let go.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3197 days

#10 posted 03-08-2012 06:02 PM

”I see down to pours in the wood grain, just the way my eyes work,”

Whereas, I’m lucky if I can even see my way down the stairs, to my shop.

I guess you and me have both ends of THAT spectrum covered, huh ? ;-)

-- -- Neil

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4948 posts in 3983 days

#11 posted 03-08-2012 07:04 PM

As the guru Charles Neil says, “If it looks good enough, it IS good enough”. I’m not arguing with him after seeing his work.


View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2537 days

#12 posted 03-08-2012 07:43 PM

Building electric solidbody guitars and selling them, I build something that is almost always very close to people’s eyes when they use it. That being said, some things I do by hand, and I make it a point to tell people so. When I inlay a pickguard, about 40 inches of carving has to happen to hold the pickguard in a 3MM deep shoulder. Not all of it is going to be dead straight perfect, and people know it because I carve it out by hand. On the other hand, those six strings had better be dead nuts down the middle, and a ton of other geometric items have to be dead on. As far as finishes, a polished finish that is smooth and shiny to any hand is good for me. Some of my exotic woods have natural burls and other imperfections in them, so they pass.

Sales guys always want it out the door as soon as possible.
Quality people always want it dead nuts surgical perfect before anyone sees or uses it.
The difference is in the user.
Would you put it in your own home as a user? Would your wife buy it, (Ask her, because you are jaded)? Find out and go forward from there. Guitars I have thought were sub-standard people have told me are beautiful and bought them. You learn…

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2967 days

#13 posted 03-08-2012 07:47 PM

You can obsess over something until every little detail is perfect, even the ones that the customer will never see or care about.

However, as business people, time is money. So you have to make a decision as when it is done. There is a point where you start to spend so much time that you are not making the hourly income level that you need. And the biggest question is: Does the customer care? If the customer doesn’t care about dove-tailed drawer sides, why take the extra time? In that time spent doing the dove-tails, you could be onto another project or make another sale in that time.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2510 days

#14 posted 03-08-2012 08:04 PM

Are you guilty of the perfection syndrome?

If you saw my shop and burning pile you wouldn’t have to ask that.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View dbhost's profile


5723 posts in 3255 days

#15 posted 03-08-2012 08:08 PM

Are you kidding. If I wanted technically perfect, mass produced boredom, I would go to Walmart for my home furnishings… I want character, charm, warmth. Something a machine can not do…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

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