Do you keep a shop journal?

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Forum topic by Willeh posted 02-09-2013 03:23 PM 1210 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Willeh's profile


228 posts in 2333 days

02-09-2013 03:23 PM

Topic tags/keywords: resource tip question

I’ve been toying with idea of keeping a shop journal, something to keep track of the amount of time I spend on a project and to keep notes in about projects as I go (measurements, methods etc) so that If i ever get asked “Can you make one of those for me” I have something to reference in terms of time, and anything I can do to make the next one better or avoid mistakes made the first time around..

Problem is, while I like the idea of doing this, Im not sure i would actually spend the time to do this…

Does anyone else do anything like this? How do you work it into your shop time?

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

14 replies so far

View SamuraiSaw's profile


515 posts in 1958 days

#1 posted 02-09-2013 03:26 PM

I keep a file for every customer that has whatever drawings I used (which is usually a pretty simple line drawing), material list and finish details. I’ve had people call back several years later looking for a companion piece, or for help in refinish.

-- Artisan Woodworks of Texas....

View johnstoneb's profile


2910 posts in 2166 days

#2 posted 02-09-2013 03:36 PM

I have tried to keep a journal of the fishing rods I build. I even made a spread sheet to keep track of guide and colors used. I kept it really well for about a week or so and just never could get around to updating it after that.
The journal is a good idea. You have to keep it up. If I was doing any of this commercially I would probably do a better job of keeping one.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2787 days

#3 posted 02-09-2013 03:40 PM

I do keep notes when spray finishing. What mix of finish and thinner used with a given finish. More like a cheat sheet. Nothing formal but it gives me a good starting point.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View helluvawreck's profile


31019 posts in 2860 days

#4 posted 02-09-2013 03:52 PM

I keep a shop journal for my little electronics shop. You know, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep one for my woodworking as well come to think of it.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3279 days

#5 posted 02-09-2013 03:55 PM

When I first started my business, I actually kept a time card on each project. I would punch in when I started working on a project and punch back out when I wasn’t ( Didn’t matter for what reason). At the end of the day, I would jot down what I actually worked on and what I did. At the end of the project, I would review each time card and it began to give me a good idea how long it took me to do each phase of a build ( how long to build the casework, face frames, doors, dovetailing drawers, assembly, prep for finishing, finishing, etc.).

I also made notes about down time (when I was punched out). On the phone, talking to a customer, running errands, getting materials, etc.

After a couple years of doing this, I had a really good feel how long it took me to do a project and really helped me price future work.

After that, for the next 25 years, I always kept a spiral note book in the shop and kept track of every project I bid on, sketched out ideas, worked out details, etc. The biggest thing I used my notebooks for was to plan out each day and each build. I guess you could say I’m ADD or ADHD or whatever that’s called when you have a hard time staying focused and on track.

Every evening at home, I would make a detailed list of things to do the next day on the project I was working on. I would do complete cut-list, time frame for assembly, step by step (in order that needed to be completed) details of what I wanted to get accomplished the next day.

When I went into the shop the next morning, I would open my note book and start @ #1 and work my way down my list. It helped me stay focused and on track and I was surprised how much more efficient I became with the overall flow of my shop. I also found for me that while I was working on my list for the following day, I was actually mentally building this project and it helped me discover problems in a build before they ever arose.

When I finished with one note book, I filed it and started a new one. It’s amazing how many times I referred back to one of the notebooks later on.

Not only did I do the notebooks, but like SamuraiSaw I kept a file for every customer with all the drawings, proposals, invoices, material list, hardware and finishes.

-- John @

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2877 days

#6 posted 02-09-2013 04:03 PM

I have a small notebook that I keep rough sketches/measurements in. Started off writing in it for all my projects, now each project might get a couple of scribbled #’s or calcs. Would be interesting to look at 20 years from now if I was more diligent at using it….

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View SamuraiSaw's profile


515 posts in 1958 days

#7 posted 02-09-2013 04:05 PM


Great idea on the notebooks. That kind of time accounting really does help in determing how much effort is put into each task.

-- Artisan Woodworks of Texas....

View shipwright's profile


7979 posts in 2792 days

#8 posted 02-09-2013 04:36 PM

I take lots of photos. I hate making the same thing more than once but photos don’t take any time and are really worth the thousand words they get credit for. I often go back to my photos to see how I did that last time.
The bonus is that if some of you ask for a blog, I usually have the pics to do it.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2140 days

#9 posted 02-09-2013 04:42 PM

I don’t know if you saw Paul Sellers recent blog entry on this same subject. Very interesting read and pics.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29216 posts in 2332 days

#10 posted 02-09-2013 04:47 PM

I photograph everything I make. I probably should keep a journal, but I would probably lose that with my pencils. :-)

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2678 days

#11 posted 02-09-2013 04:59 PM

Good idea but I would get an F on keeping it up to date. I have several spiral steno books in the shop…most of them have drawings and measurements…very few of the pages have a description of what it was for (I actually laugh at myself when I page through…it would have taken all of 10 seconds to put a description of what I was doing). In my defense I hardly ever make two of anything. I’m a hobbyist and make stuff to fit a particular space or I size it depending on what materials I have laying around.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18707 posts in 2561 days

#12 posted 02-09-2013 06:30 PM

If i was trying to make money at it, you bet I would!!!

Since I know I’m loosing money at it, I never ever want to know how much.

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

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2678 days

#13 posted 02-09-2013 07:16 PM

Don W…you are in what is called denial! You have company.

View kizerpea's profile


774 posts in 2361 days

#14 posted 02-09-2013 07:21 PM

Good idea…but i would not spend the time to do it…...


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