Must be time for an existential crisis

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Forum topic by BTimmons posted 10-17-2013 02:58 PM 1411 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2303 posts in 2719 days

10-17-2013 02:58 PM

Fair warning – significant quantities of rambling and emotional BS ahead. I’m usually very bad with talking about feelings, so when they come out, I can go a bit overboard.

Simply put, the slow plodding pace of my woodworking is a big problem and it’s taking a toll. I’ve been working on this project for a friend (thankfully it’s about 80-90% done now) and they’re eager to get it finished. And by eager, I mean more like “why isn’t this done already”. It’s going to be used for his new photography business and they have an event in early November to do. I looked at the pictures that were taken at the start of this project, and the date on them shows that this has been going on for three months. That is entirely too long.

Last night my wife ripped into me for not having finished the project already. She said that whenever the topic of my woodworking comes up with our friends and I’m not around, the very first thing out of their mouths is that I take forever to get anything done. That hit me like a ton of bricks last night and it still stings. Not because it’s an insult from someone that doesn’t know me that I could simply shrug off because they don’t know what they’re talking about. It hurts, because it’s totally true. This has been ignored in the back of my mind for a long time, but after having spotlight shone on the issue, it’s eating at my confidence and self-respect. I hate feeling like I’ve let my friends down.

So I’ve been pretty angry at myself since then, trying to figure out what my issues are. It’s hard to pin on any one cause. I see several problems working against me.

The design is probably more complicated than it needs to be in some areas, and in other crucial aspects, such as securing the doors in their open and shut positions, hasn’t been thought out enough. So I’m winging it in addition to second guessing myself every step of the way. Why the hell is this taking me so long? At its core, it’s just a freakin’ box. The really tricky joinery with the through tenons was done months ago. Months. This is ridiculous.

There’s my inexperience. I keep making little mistakes that take time to fix. It doesn’t help that I’m not working from a plan, just making it up as I go along. There’s been a fair share of trial and error, emphasis on the error part. The doubt and uncertainty is hard to grapple with. It’s hard distinguishing between a healthy sense of caution and an unhealthy lack of confidence.

And that’s when I even have time to be in the garage! That’s got to be the main problem, just the time to do things. I do the weekly 9-5 grind which leaves nights and weekends. And that time is almost exclusively spent taking care of my wife and daughter. My wife is spending a lot of time at the gym, five times a week on average. She’s been overweight ever since I’ve known her and she’s finally getting it under control. She’s been seriously kicking ass at it, down 40 pounds already and I couldn’t be more proud of her. But that means that on those nights and weekends it’s just me and my little girl at home. And on the weekend, she’ll pretty much make a whole morning out of it. She’ll have her personal training session, do cardio for an hour, then go the store and run errands. That’s three or four hours away from the house right there. My daughter loves being in the garage with me, but she’s not even 4 years old yet, so it’s not like I can actually think or get anything done out there if she’s around. Oh yeah, and she’s at the age now where I can’t count on her always taking a nap in the afternoon.

So the only time I have to myself is either at night after they’re both asleep or in the morning before they wake up. So many times at night I’m too tired to trust myself with tools, and let’s just say I’m not a morning person at heart. I usually have to get up for work at 6 in the morning, but for a while there I would get up early at 5 just so I could have an hour to myself in the garage to get things done. After I slam a huge mug of coffee I’m ready to go. But the motivation and energy to even get out of bed to begin with is the hardest part.

Last night after I’d had time to think about what my wife said, I raised a point about how we as a family prioritize and allow time for each other. I said, “Look. I hold the fort and raise our daughter when you’re working out and I’m totally fine with that. I know this is the most important thing for you right now, and I’m behind you 100%. Whenever you go to the gym, not once have I objected and asked if you can stay home instead because I’d like to work in the garage. And when you’re home at night, sometime I need the ability to go in the garage and get things done, just like you need your time away from the house too. On the weekends I shouldn’t be the only one to ever take our daughter to a park, and sometimes I need a few hours out there to work without any interruptions. Up until now I’ve always tried to work around every else’s needs in the family, but I have my own needs as well. And if I’m ever going to get things moving well enough to make some extra money with my woodworking then I absolutely need time to do it.”

She understood that and acknowledged what I was getting at. After the whole talk was over I see her texting on her phone. I ask if she’s telling our friend about how she’s been cracking the whip, she says yes. I can’t really object. This is mostly my fault, and I need to get better about making time for my work. And when I do have time, I need to more efficient in how I actually use that time.

Well, I did warn about the excess rambling. If anyone actually reads this far, bravo. I debated whether or not to mention this online, but I figured that if anyone has been in a situation like this, it’s the people in this community. So has anyone else had similar problems with confidence in their workmanship and finding time in the shop? How have you dealt with it? I hate feeling like a disappointment to myself and everyone else. I need to find a way past this.

-- Brian Timmons -

17 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117416 posts in 3811 days

#1 posted 10-17-2013 03:18 PM

I’ve been there on projects where I’m just not motivated to go get the job done even though it my not be that big of a project,it’s just because”fill in the blank” . It’s like someone that needs to loose weight being pressured to take action to get the job done,the pressure is a negative force not a positive one. I’m guessing your wife is embarrassed that the project is not done because the people waiting for it are friends. Some times just going to the job helps you get going,with out and pressure by yourself or others. Don’t set a goal how much will get done or how long you will work just go to the shop and do something no matter how small. Just starting will sometimes break the mental log jamb and then you can go out and enjoy yourself. You don’t have to spend a lot of time each night or on the weekend just make up your mind to start. This has helped me when I’ve been stuck doing a project. I hope you become more at piece with the whole process.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 2424 days

#2 posted 10-17-2013 03:51 PM

i feel your pain.i work around 65-70 hours a week and don’t have a lot of shop time,and when i do its hard to get daughters 6 now and loves going to help in the shop.(she actually uses sidewalk chaulk and draws).when i really need to concentrate or make cuts i tell my wife and she keeps her inside.i don’t try to take projects for anyone that’s normally in a hurry.i have a customer that has a project now,but i told her it could be a couple months before i can even start.main thing i’d suggest is to try to arrange some weekly shop time,plus it helps relieve stress or adds a different stress which ever you look at it.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2709 days

#3 posted 10-17-2013 03:53 PM

BT, BT….chill out buddy. We all have these projects that seem to take forever. For one, are your friends paying you for the projects? And I mean full pay not just materials. Something I learnt a long time ago is to separate friendship from business, no matter if you do this only as a hobby. Now a days if a friend asks me to do something I give them an estimate and a finish schedule. You should see their shocked faces. You friend imposed on you by asking you to do this on the cheap if he is not paying full ticket.

As you are finding out people think that all you need to do good wood working is a hammer and a few nails. I am guessing your friend is doing collodion prints, the next time he asks you why the project is not done ask him why does it take him so long to make a collodion print? now a days all you need is a cell phone and a printer. Then he will start explaining to you that he needs to coat a plate for a large format cameras, then carry this big ass camera to what he needs to photograph etc, etc…..then you tell him it s the same with you, that you need to make perfect tenons and mortises if they are going show through and look good and so on.

Now as a hobbiest you are now learning the difference between doing this for a living, you need to learn how to work efficiently, by this I mean not fast, but in a manner that things flow from one stage of the project to another, I am guessing this is why it takes you so long.

Look you have nothing to feel frustrated or lacking of confidence, this is not your business but a hobby, and as such you are doing things that are common with hobbiest. Stress that to your friend, tell him to relax and that it will be done when it is done.

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

View Makarov's profile


102 posts in 2039 days

#4 posted 10-17-2013 04:19 PM

When this is over build only for yourself. IE projects you want to do. gifts etc. Just explain to others you don’t have time to finish there projects in a timely manner. This is a hobby its supposed to be fun. Consider taking your daughter into the shop with you give her son scraps for blocks’

-- "Complexity is easy; Simplicity is difficult." Georgy Shragin Designer of ppsh41 sub machine gun

View Don W's profile

Don W

19034 posts in 2801 days

#5 posted 10-17-2013 04:53 PM

Most of its been said, but maybe you also need to redefine your concept of “friend”.

You didn’t say if you were being paid for this project, but it sounds like your not.

My wife ordered an upholstered love seat form a reputable dealer locally. They promised it in 6 weeks, its been 4 months now. Luckily she don’t care, but the point is, there are plenty of guys who make a living at this and can’t deliver on time. Who would expect a hobbyist to be quick.

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

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2719 days

#6 posted 10-17-2013 05:02 PM

Thanks for the advice so far, folks.

Some clarification – My friend will be paying for the project when it’s done, and has already covered the cost of materials. And while I didn’t promise a firm date for completion, it really should have been done by now. I’m not doing anyone, especially myself any favors with my glacial work pace.

Jorge – It is for a collodion process, yes. And my friend, to his credit, hasn’t really given me grief about this. It was my wife who really brought the gauntlet down.

-- Brian Timmons -

View chrisstef's profile


17796 posts in 3240 days

#7 posted 10-17-2013 06:14 PM

Brian – if youre anything like me you have a hard time saying no and I suspect that this is the case. Whether its helping someone move, having your family over the house, or building a project for a friend you always feel like you have the time .. at least thats what your heart says. I know it all too well and tend to dig myself into holes that way. I try and be everything to everyone sometimes and its hard to do that. Real hard. Its sounds crazy but sometimes you need to think about yourself. I know that it sounds amazingly selfish but its the truth. Working, raising kids, being a husband as well as mr fix it around the house is a full plate brother. Taking on things outside of that deserves contemplation because in the end being a dad, husband, and home owner really takes precedent over most other things in life.

Lately, ive been trying to not put myself into those positions where a deadline is mandatory because 90% of the time I wont make it, there’s just too much other stuff goin on. Ill work myself ragged to avoid admitting defeat. Losing sucks. Don’t put yourself in a position to lose and defeat isn’t an option. Now im not saying stop woodworking and challenging yourself, just temper your own expectations. There’s only so many hours in a day buddy.

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

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3203 days

#8 posted 10-17-2013 06:23 PM

When you do get a minute to yourself, even if it’s only over a cup of coffee, think about what you need to do to finish this job, then think about the order in which you need to do them and make a list. Make the list into a schedule and you’ll get an idea of the work that’s left to do and then get on with it – I know you’re pushed for time but it might help to have achievable goals for every time you walk into the workshop.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2719 days

#9 posted 10-17-2013 06:36 PM

Stef – Thanks. I just need to find the right balance in all this.

Renners – A list is a great idea. Sounds like what I need.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Sanding2day's profile


1014 posts in 2080 days

#10 posted 10-17-2013 06:41 PM

In the same boat and appreciate the post and advice given. I was working the full time government job and hitting the shop as you were in the mornings before wife and daughter’s were up, evenings and weekends when I could break out. Due to the furlough which for me only lasted the first week of Oct I decided I should attain a second job which has been tying up virtually all my shop time/lessening motivation after work, but I like the idea of treating the woodwork as the hobby that it currently is and just getting to it as possible for any length of time possible. I have been working on a project which I have seen as hours from completion for about a month now… Will be putting in another 56hrs work through the 22nd but then only 8hrs a day until the following weekend so hopefully get into the shop Wednesday-Friday evenings to wrap things up and move on… Really looking forward to seeing it completed!!

Best of luck and hope that the advice given here has helped you feel better about the situation…

-- Dan

View chrisstef's profile


17796 posts in 3240 days

#11 posted 10-17-2013 06:47 PM

Its a hard balance, I totally agree, im finding that out for myself. Lately ive been remodding our kitchen and like renners said, lists are crucial. Knowing that ill realistically only be able to work in 1-2 hour chunks I need to make sure that im prepped for the next step in everything I do. If I have to paint one night I make sure I have everything caulked, all my brushes are clean and ready, paint is there, ive got a stirrer, so on and so forth. This way as soon as time allows I hit the ground runnin with no wasted time. Do the thinkin when workin aint a priority.

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

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2719 days

#12 posted 10-17-2013 06:50 PM

At Renners’ suggestion, I started a list a few minutes ago. It does help my state of mind somewhat, seeing it all clearly spelled out. Gonna have to ask the wife for some “me time” in the garage this evening. Given her frustration at all this, I imagine she’ll agree to it.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Hammerthumb's profile (online now)


2907 posts in 2209 days

#13 posted 10-17-2013 07:11 PM

Brian – I know your pain. I reallized some time ago that the projects that I got paid for were the hardest to get motivated for. So I told myself that I would no longer do commisioned pieces. Most of the furniture I have made has been given away as my house is already filled with pieces I have made. If someone asks me to make a piece, I tell them I’ll review my projects schedule and get back to them. I have had friends wait 2 years before I asked them if they still wanted me to build the piece for them. My best friend came over about a year ago with a large board of Purpleheart (he is a hardwood floor contractor). He asked if I could build him a corner table for his office. I told him he needed to help with construction (having someone in the shop helps motivate me). We completed a bent front corner table with drawer in 2 weekends. I decided that I wanted to do a French polish finish for it. He did not help me with that. It took 2 months.

I don’t build for money anymore. It took the fun out of it. When I build a piece for a friend, I am up front with them that I will only go in my shop when I feel motivated, and they may wait months for what I make. I let them know that they can give me an idea of what they want, and not to exceed dimensions, but I like to have freedom in design. Why not? I’m building it for me. It’s just that I am going give it away when finished.

I have enough stress at work. Don’t need to get stressed at my hobby.

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2709 days

#14 posted 10-17-2013 09:27 PM

It was my wife who really brought the gauntlet down.

Or maybe your friend made this comment to your wife knowing full well it was going to get back to you…...Sorry if I sound too cynical, but like it says in the dollar bill, in God we trust, the rest are SOL…. :-)

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

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2719 days

#15 posted 10-17-2013 09:45 PM

I’m not blaming anyone but myself for this situation. I hear plenty of folks who say they don’t want to do woodworking for the money, and I get how some would make that choice. But I am not financially comfortable enough to toss money into this unless I can turn a profit. I’m in my mid 30s, my current job is of the dead end variety, and I really don’t know what else to do.

I’ve discovered an aptitude and passion for woodworking, so this is the hope that I have to latch onto. The Joker noted, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” As far as fictional psychopaths go, that seems like surprisingly solid advice to me. I have no illusions of being Bruce Wayne levels of rich from woodworking. I simply want to provide my family with a comfortable middle class existence, rather than the lower middle class one we have right now.

Bottom line is, that’s what I want. I don’t know of another way to do it, and although I most certainly don’t count myself as a person of faith, I just have to believe that this is possible. The disconnect between my present and my goals is what troubles me.

-- Brian Timmons -

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