Getting Discouraged

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Forum topic by Chris Speights posted 05-11-2012 04:13 AM 2782 views 1 time favorited 47 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Chris Speights

129 posts in 2381 days

05-11-2012 04:13 AM

Before I go further, not SO discouraged I want to give up.

I have done a few projects, that I will eventually post. They have turned out “okay”. I guess what you would expect for someone new to woodworking. But, I am realizing that I mess up more wood than I actually succeed at. That being said, continuing the “learing” process is getting very pricey. Do any of you have any pointers for the best ways to learn without spending a fortune on wood?

I know a lot of my deficiency is simply in the tools I have (or really the tools I don’t have, I should say). But, I believe I have sufficient tools to do a lot of work. I am just at a loss. I mean, when is the right time to say, “I am just no good at this” and sell everything? Haha, don’t want to, but from what I know, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I don’t want to be “insane”, so I am reaching out for a little help. I keep seeing people post projects like, “first ever attempt at (name any random, relatively complicated project)” and they look like they have been woodworking for years…

I will get off my soapbox now, sorry for the downer post…just really want to figure this out. If I don’t figure this out soon, the wife is going to make me stop spending money on tools…haha!


47 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)


10476 posts in 3671 days

#1 posted 05-11-2012 04:30 AM

Build something really ambitious… way beyond the basics. Build
something fine like an acoustic guitar or a chest of drawers and
educate yourself so you are prepared at every stage. You’ll
find that hand tools are really where the skill is at and that
you can do some really cool stuff if you take the time to read
up on it and get your hand tools tuned to do the fine

All the sanders and routers and table saws save sweat but
owning them won’t make you a craftsman. You have to
get close to the wood and learn to do things the old way
to get the logic and poetry of wood into yourself.

Salvage broken furniture for the wood. Then it’s cheap.

You may even find opportunities to buy big office desks
and things for nearly nothing you can take apart for the wood.

Make yourself a bow saw.

Make a hand plane.

Read, read, read.

That’s what I did. Now I have the confidence to build anything
but I never go into any project without reading up on how
others have done it and assessing how I’ll tune my tools
to solve the problems that come up.

View Tomj's profile


204 posts in 2405 days

#2 posted 05-11-2012 05:43 AM

I second what Loren said, I started out building Bows (long bows, fiberglass bows selfbows, all types of bows, people don’t realize you can a make a bow from just about any type of wood. I had never worked with tools before but building bows taught me how to use all sorts of hand tools and most of all patience. Along the line I started to build other things and ever since I have just kept at it. When someone post first attempt at something and gets it right most likely they have built something else that dealt with the same joints and use of tools so they really knew how to build it all along and sometimes it’s just the first attempt. I broke my first bow but haven’t broken one since and each time I build another It’s gets better or I learn from it. yes read, read, read and then stop reading and make some shavings and then read some more. I know it’s cliche but practice makes perfect. Good luck and as long as it’s not detrimental to your health keep at it.

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2601 days

#3 posted 05-11-2012 06:01 AM

Keep at it Chris, you’ll get there. Practice on scrap and heed the above advice and you will incrementally
increase your skill.
Practice, read, make your own tools and have fun. Ask questions we’ll help ya.

View KnickKnack's profile


1090 posts in 3590 days

#4 posted 05-11-2012 06:52 AM

the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

I don’t know about that as the definition of insanity, I think I’d call that the definition of “practice”. When you learn a musical instrument you play scales and arpeggios again and again and again and again…. After years you get better. I used to dread picking up a saw because it never went straight, or vertical, and it often “skipped” and marred the wood – I avoided doing it. Now, I still don’t much like to pick up a saw, but my cuts are way better than they used to be.

I keep seeing people post projects like, “first ever attempt at (name any random, relatively complicated project)” and they look like they have been woodworking for years…

Yep – that really winds me up too.

I went through a “bad patch” a few years ago – I was pretty new to the whole thing.
Not wishing to disagree with the previous answers here from people who have way more talent and way more expertise than I, but I went the other way – back to trying to do something very simple, but trying to do it really well – I went to using floor-boarding pine, which is pretty cheap here. I decided it wasn’t a competition and I just needed to get to the end of a project and say “well, that went pretty well – should have (.....) so I’ll try to remember that next time”

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2638 days

#5 posted 05-11-2012 07:57 AM

hang in there chris it take time and pratice and as loren said there is material all around . don’t rush hast makes waste.any thing i,ve made so far the fist one is going to be a pratice run . i dont even get the good stuff because its proble going to be re done its just learning thats all we will get there .i like what the way Thomas Edison looked at insanity.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Thomas A. Edison

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View Rutager's profile


27 posts in 2327 days

#6 posted 05-11-2012 09:00 AM


Try and find a local person who can mentor you a little. Woodworkers are great people and you shouldn’t have much trouble finding someone from a local club or guild who would stop by your shop and demonstrate some of the stuff that is beating you up. Also see about taking a class or two at one of the many schools. You will figure this out and every day will get better and pretty soon the things that are frustrating you will become second nature.


View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3132 days

#7 posted 05-11-2012 09:38 AM

Chris, what you are feeling is not much different than all of us had at one point or another. When I first started woodworking, I thought “I would like to make my own furniture.” Two minutes after I started, I thought “I would like to make a square piece of wood…”

Raw materials can be expensive. The best cost savings approach is learning how to surface and flatten lumber. If you are limited to purchasing pre-surfaced wood at the big box stores, the cost is going to be astronomical. If you learn how to joint and plane wood, then your sources are practically unlimited. Old wooden furniture that is sitting out for the garbage man will yield some good boards, sawmills sell rough lumber at much more reasonable prices, you can find some good deals on craigslist, etc.

Another thing that comes with learning is how to fix your mistakes rather than scrap progress already made on some pieces. If you can’t salvage a piece you are working on for the existing project, cut out the mistakes or make the board thinner for use on other projects. Just because you drill a hole in the wrong location, or make a routing error, or some other form of disfigurement, it doesn’t mean that the wood has to be totally scrapped. Amateurs make mistakes, Pros just know how to hide theirs. I have had project parts break on me due to weaknesses in the wood that I was working on and I was able to repair and hide the flaw. Sometimes the breaks you repair are stronger as a result of the bonding.

Good luck and keep in mind that there is a large community here that can help you with just about any dilemma you might run into.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 3776 days

#8 posted 05-11-2012 10:28 AM

LOL Chris…....

Been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt. When I got back into woodworking 5-6 years, I tried starting out with a couple projects that were a little over my head at the time. As a teen, I made some nice dressers, a hutch, and a few other nice things. When I got back into WW about 6 years ago, I wasnt even cutting a decent (you name it) joint. I did alot of reading, watched alot of youtube, and asked alot of questions. But it was mostly practice that I was lacking. Needless to say….. Lowes sold alot of pine over those few months. I would say my second huge problem was that I was not planning out my projects properly. I am a technical guy mechanically, and I need a visual plan, print, or graph to keep myself on track. These days I try to put everything down a paper graph…....including all hardware and cutting layouts. I also make notes for what tools will be needed so that I have them ready before the project begins. Alot of the guys and girls on here use a great little program called “Sketchup” for planning thier projects. I’m still a pencil & paper guy…. a creature of habit.

Stick with it. Baby steps are the best way to go.

V/R…. John

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3504 days

#9 posted 05-11-2012 11:00 AM

Great post Chris. We have all been there. Woodworking is not only a craft, but an art. It can take years to be “really good” at it. Some people have had formal training, others have not…self taught as they say. Some have a knack for it, and others dont. You can still have fun though no matter what category you fit into. In many cases it takes longer to self teach, but many do it. Like some have said, start out simple and keep pushing yourself to try new things.

Tools arent the entire solution. Many have a simple workshop, and others a more elaborate one. Keep in mind that not all that long ago, everything was done with hand tools, so power tools arent really necessary.

Although I have had some formal training, and I continue to go to classes from time to time, I still watch woodworking TV shows, read a lot of woodworking magazines, and ask my fellow Lumberjocks plenty of questions. Practice practice practice is one of the keys to developing your skills.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3336 days

#10 posted 05-11-2012 11:04 AM

+1 on David Craig’s comments.

I was at a very frustrating level with anything more than but also including 2x work around the house because I couldn’t produce a flat square board to work with.

Thanks to the bad influence of my fellow lumberjocks I discovered that a jointer and planer and a good fence on my tablesaw this could be acheived!!

Projects improved as well as confidence, and I still marvel when I mill rough wood into nice flat and square dimensioned boards.

I do love power equipment, and I am not good with hand planes yet, but many of these guys are and can do what I do on my power equipment with hand tools, just takes longer.

I still make a lot of mistakes, but I think a lot of us still do, but how you figure out a recovery and still complete the project is all part of it.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2866 days

#11 posted 05-11-2012 11:53 AM

While I won’t disagree with any that has been said (because I didn’t do it myself) I think you should not build a project that is TOO ambitious. In my opinion, that could very well be setting yourself up for disappointment. That disappoitment is compounded if you have a lot of time and money invested in the project.
On the other hand, a simple project here and there will cost little, give you confidence, and help develop skills along the way.

One of the exercises I find helpful for beginners (I’m still a beginner in my mind years later) is to build a square box. Practice techniques to get it TRULY square. This sounds simple but, for most people, will prove to be much more difficult than it sounds. Remember, I’m talking perfectly square on all six sides.
Here’s a hint on that exercise. Very few people can do it. I can’t. It will teach you something important in wood work though. There is a such thing as good enough. How close something has to be for you to be satisfied that it is good enough though is what will determine the level of quality you will have in your projects.

The best advice I can give new wood workers is to make your own path. I do not know of a single wood working technique or operation that has only one way of accomplishing an end result. Find the way that works for you. When I started in wood working and tried doing everything the “proper” way, it was an exercise in frustration. When I started doing things my way and thinking outside the box, it opened up a while new world for me.
Nowadays though, afger doing something my way, I do try to learn the proper ways of doing certain things though, just for the sake of knowing that I know how.


View kizerpea's profile


774 posts in 2391 days

#12 posted 05-11-2012 12:33 PM

First u need a plan to work from..follow the plan…try to find someone close that does woodworking to…u didnt finish your home page…so no one knowes the area you are from….there could b a lj member across town that would b glad to mentor you..step up to wood magizine…mail box post….flower planter..a simple table or work bench..plan first! follow the plan! you cant learn to build from a picture over night..


View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2700 days

#13 posted 05-11-2012 12:50 PM

Hey Chris,
I know that frustration.
What you need is some instant satisfaction and a confidence builder.

Start small. Something easy and quick.

Cutting boards – wifey poo will love it.
Bird houses are fun
simple jewelry boxes
a work bench and a good set of stackable horses
planter boxes, adriondac chairs
picture frames

Copy someone elses design.

We live in a world where we want it all now. Wood working will fight you all the way and frustrate the hell out of you if you rush it “your way” and therfore make alot of mistakes. You’re obviously thinking about the end instead of the next step on a well thought out plan and a scaled drawing. What’s your hurry?

Go online and find a woodworking project you like that has drawings and follow the directions exactly.

I keep a few mistake pieces on display in my shop. Makes for a great story and a daily reminder. So, don’t beat yourself up too bad. Eventually you will laugh about it.

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3072 days

#14 posted 05-11-2012 01:05 PM

No body so far talked about vidoes/DVD and even youtube.
Watching someone else doing something is for me more helpful than reading about it.
There are excellent videos around and most of them are free.

I watch on youtube: Paul Sellers,Stumpy Nubs and the askwoodamn and I also watch Roy Underhill on PBS, there are many more

-- Bert

View woodklutz's profile


221 posts in 2792 days

#15 posted 05-11-2012 01:22 PM

I have been living your life to a tee. Frustration in getting things square so no gaps, using wood filler in my box joints even though they start off snug, and everything else you described. The waste of expensive wood in the finishing process etc. The learning process is painful but worth it.
But we go on, it is a hobby for me so I do not let perfection stand in my way. My wife and friends love what I show them but I know that they are only being nice, and do not find that shellac blob offensive or the smiling teeth of the box joint. For free wood, Home Depot cut off pile. You will be surprised.
Above all have fun, watch your fingers, look out for nails before you cut, and do not surrender to the I need that tool demon.
A sharp blade is number one on any of your tools.

-- honing my craft one mistake at a time.

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