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Thread: Thinking time vs cutting time

  1. #1

    Thinking time vs cutting time

    I'm building an Art Nouveau ipe screen door and got myself down a dead-end street partway through the build. Something made a lot of sense on paper and not so much in wood. So I backed off and am taking a couple of days to think about it and figure out how to recover and continue. Fortunately I have a day job that lets me do this, but I wonder what folks' ratio of 'thinking' time to 'cutting' time is for an ambitious project.
    I'm assuming pros can't take this kind of time to build a sellable item. Does that mean they have to work closer to their skills envelope (where one is less likely to get stuck)?

  2. #2
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    Most of us will only make a few things in our home shops; a dresser or chest of drawers, dining table maybe a kitchen remodel for those in stable relationships.

    Few will ever make things like doors and windows, which appear simple - but operate under tight tolerances.

    In practical terms, this means each project will involve a joint or construction the maker has never made.

    The difference between professionals and the rest of us is repetition, from which mastery will arise.

    If you're finishing projects, you're ahead of most.

  3. #3
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    Yes, for most hobbyists every build is a considerably different design and incorporates new techniques. So a lot of time is spent considering all of the details of those. I bet if I ever remade one of my pieces several times over, by the 3rd or 4th iteration it would take me less than half the time and be more cleanly made.

    Also, Art Nouveau seems like one of the most time consuming styles. I doubt you see very many pros building AN pieces, there's a reason they tend to stick to Modern/mid-century stuff, even beyond client preference.

  4. #4
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    As mentioned above, repetition results in being sure in how something comes together.

    On the first time around on a project, paralysis of analysis can afflict anyone.

    If one does nothing, no mistakes are made. However, at times the biggest mistake is to do nothing.

    One part of my current project has been tossing around in my mind for a while now. Making a partial mock up has helped to better formulate my plan.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  5. #5
    Another to the list of repetition is good. The last workbench build took maybe a 1/4 of the time the first workbench built in the current shop. Most of the time saved was time spent figuring out how to do certain operations or better tooling, each time repeated will go a little faster than the last up to the point of proficiency.

    ken

  6. #6
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    I like to think, then cut. Usually involves thinking again, tossing, some more thinking and then cut. I figure I'm doing pretty good if I only toss half my pieces out during assembly.

    I have started building a "ship captain's desk" and I'm doing it differently than my typical projects. Usually I build the carcass, and then drawers. This one, I'm building all four drawers at one time, so all are sized the same. Next will come the carcass.
    If the thunder don't get you, the lightning will.

  7. #7
    I am interested in the Art Nouveau screen door and the problem you are having.

    On cutting vs thinking, having a numbered cut list and a piece of chalk helps. Mark out and number the lumber. That is the thinking time. To actually cut, just take a deep breath and cut the longest piece first. If the wood is irreplaceable, repeat the cut list and marking a few times before proceeding to the last step. A sketch helps with figuring out the cut list.

  8. #8
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    If itís a new design Iím working at or the wood is precious I will make the piece out of cheap wood. Usually poplar.
    Then the final piece I can move with quick confidence.
    A lot of the work I do now is one off Art pieces. When making art we donít think about time or money.

    Good Luck
    Aj

  9. #9
    I have found the less time I spend thinking, the more time I spend cutting. And recutting. And swearing. And redoing.

  10. #10
    I have an engineering, project management, and engineering management background. The engineer in me leads me to design a project ahead of time to understand what parts are required and how they will fit together. I almost always do this fairly completely with either sketches or using CAD. The project manager in me leads me to understand the required sequence of operations and their inter-dependencies and prerequisites. The general manager in me leads me to think about efficiency: how to streamline the build, what tools would be best, what jigs/fixtures will help, etc.

    While this may seem overkill to many (and it is for many projects), I enjoy those steps as much as the actual build, and get a lot of satisfaction when the planning results in smooth execution and a final result in keeping with the original intent. Sometimes that actually happens.

    I would say on average I spend about 25% of total project time on the above aspects. More on things like complicated built-ins that have to meet a lot of requirements. Less on things like standalone furniture pieces or small projects.
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

  11. #11
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    Most of my projects are kitchen cabinets and furniture like bedroom suits, drawer sets, tables and desks - each of a different design and size. I use SketchList 3D software to create the piece on a computer then print optimized cut lists and many other reports that make the process pretty exact. Designing on the computer is a lot of fun so I do that in the evenings. I am always designing my next project while I am working on another. I very, very rarely run into any issue unless I just simply mis-cut or otherwise screw up a piece.
    Michael Dilday
    Suffolk, Va.

  12. #12
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    Josko, your question is a good one. I am with Paul and think even simple things to death to come up with the best solution. This process is enjoyable, especially when you prove yourself right. My commercial build stuff is more routine assembly than woodwork, the overall design is still enjoyable. Real woodwork with every project different is a great creative outlet even though the final result may not be that remarkable as you re-invent the wheel!
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  13. #13
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    I use a "Single Brain Cell Sketch Up" to figure what, and how I will do a Project.....then, break that down into a series of tasks. Goal is to complete each task, and see how the next task will fit with what is already done. No rush..might miss a detail if I get going too fast. Just one or two tasks, then spend the rest of the time going over the next tasks to be done.....the next time in the shop......one task might take all day, or, maybe one hour....doesn't matter. Best way to start any Journey, is to simply take that first step...and then the next steps will follow right along.....

    Best thing about laying out everything in pencil....if you don't press down too hard...a "bad" line is easy to just sand away, and a new, better line will take it's place....

    From a stack of scraps..
    Resaws, start up.JPG
    To something like this...
    2 drawer chest, Project Post 2.JPG
    Is simply doing things one step at a time.

  14. #14
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    Sometimes, after much deliberation, I have to tell myself to just go out in the shop and start cutting.
    Life's too short to use old sandpaper.

  15. #15
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    Sometimes it helps me to figure these things out while falling asleep. Sometimes this results in a Rube Goldberg type of dream with an awareness in the morning of a suitable way to accomplish my dream.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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