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Thread: I thought ww'ing was supposed to be relaxing...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Central PA

    I thought ww'ing was supposed to be relaxing...

    I hear all the time how woodworking is so relaxing for people, yet it stresses me out? I always over think everything due to adhd and im pretty sure its ruining it for me. I literally look forward to my day off for a week planning to get out in the shop, only to stand there staring at a project trying to figure something out in my head until i get stressed out and lock up to go do something else.

    Prime example:
    I've been working on a variation of the work bench from Jay's custom creations plans for probably 2 years now. The first year went into making the top that I'm still not happy with, but wasted so much oak and walnut on it that I cant bring myself to start over. Its about 3ft x 7ft x 3in, but I'm pretty sure I went through enough oak and walnut that someone else could have made 5 full benches with. Then I spent another month and forest worth of oak and walnut making the legs. Not doing detail work just gluing them up and cutting the main tennon that will go through the top.

    Its time to cut the mortise holes in the top but I've been stuck at that stage for over a year now. I keep going out staring at it planning how to cut them. Then buying tools or whatever I think ill need before going back out deciding i don't want to do it that way then getting stressed out and repeating the process over and over.

    I'm pretty sure this is the worst possible hobby for me but I'm too invested to admit defeat and give up.

    I started gathering tools probably 7 years ago with the goal of building a guitar. All those years pass and I never started a guitar yet. I keep telling myself that I need to finish the bench first.

    So essentially I had a two story 24 x 24ft garage put up, equipped it with thousands of dollars worth of tools and stockpiled thousands of dollars worth of wood. So far in the 4 years since the building went up all I've done was mill a bunch of logs and make a few trinket boxes. My wife loves throwing that in my face lol. I gave her the first box made out of cherry with half blind dovetails when i first got my incra router table setup. Every time someone sees the box and asks about it she tells them its her $40k custom cherry trinket box. Then goes on to explain that I apparently spent $40k to build her that box since she has yet to see any other finished projects come out of my shop. Lol

    In my defense I've been working 70+ hours a week so I dont have much time out there

    Maybe tomorrow ill figure out how I want to cut those 4 mortises and get it moving? Lol I doubt it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    McKean, PA
    Some folks build a prototype out of construction grade lumber before they use good hardwood. That way they can work out joint designs and measurements without destroying finish wood.

    YOu can also buy complete plans which will tell you what materials you need, the cutting order and complete dimensions for each piece.

    Or learn 3D cad and start designing each piece.
    Lee Schierer
    Captain USNR(Ret)

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Please Contribute

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Lee hit an important point about something I'm doing more and more now: Prototyping to both figure things out and be sure my idea(s) will work before I commit to the expensive material. I spent several days this week doing just that for what's a small thing, but something that requires me to do stuff that I don't have previous experience in. Don't let the challenges ruin the activity for you...embrace them as an opportunity and wreck some cheap material figuring things out!

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    New Westminster BC
    Make a dozen or so wooden toys for Christmas toy drives, they don't have to be perfect just fun. In my humble opinion, perfection while a lofty goal, is not a reasonable expectation. Make stuff, flaws and all, make more stuff with fewer flaws, repeat, repeat. As woodworkers 90% of the defects we see in our projects are not visible to everyone else.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Columbus, OH
    Working 70 hrs a week?? Give yourself a pass about getting things done in the woodshop.

    Every woodworker takes longer to accomplish tasks when they do it the first time. Learning takes time, and mistakes are made. As Jim and Lee mention, prototyping and practicing joinery is typical when doing things the first time. I buy MDF and cheap pine lumber to waste on experiments.

    BTW, it took me 18 months to get my bench done, working on it 2-3 hrs each weekend. Sometimes I did nothing for a month. Life gets in the way. My timberframe lumber rack took about 20 months. It didn't get finished until I retired.

    Hang in there. Make bite size chunks of progress while you gain experience. It gets easier, I promise.

    "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger or more takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacher

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Issaquah, Washington
    I understand your predicament, stop it now! You are putting way too much pressure on yourself and taking all the enjoyment out of the process. I suggest you start with "simple" shop projects. Build shop toys (cabinets, jigs, etc.) this will assist you in developing skill sets for the projects you want to create. I have been making stuff for over 55 years (48 as a 'Professional") and still have a solid core door with a masonite surface as my main workbench, screw the fancy hardwood workbench and just create a flat work surface that you can work on.

    Just do it! Make mistakes and learn! If it was easy I couldn't earn a living doing it. you live in the heart of woodworking land, there are multiple SMC members within minutes of you who would be honored to have you visit and/or mentor you.

    You can contact me with any question you have at any time. BTW- Tell your wife she should be honored to have a "trinket" box that cost $40K to build. HAVE FUN, THAT'S WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT. BOTH HOBBIES AND OCCUPATION!

    Just my thoughts - Bill
    Last edited by Bill McNiel; 10-31-2020 at 10:51 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    South Coastal Massachusetts
    Most of the productive woodworkers logging billable hours like yours are insomniacs.

    Have a browse of Neanderthal Haven. The approach there concentrates on the fun, quiet stuff.

    Mill with machines on the weekends - saw, plane and join as an hour comes available.

    Measure your wife for a coffin as your "next" project.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    NE Iowa

    Woodworking is not inherently relaxing, any more than any other activity is. For any activity to be a stress reliever, you have to let the work itself be the end. Go to the shop to work with wood, not to make the best bench you can imagine, or a guitar you've been dreaming about. Make an agreement with yourself that the precision, fit and finish, and look that you are capable of achieving is the right precision and fit and finish for your project. If that's not yet what you would want it to be in the long run, make practice the purpose of your work.

    Others here have pointed out some very useful ideas for how that can be. Make wooden toys. Make bluebird houses for a local Audubon project. Carve some green wood spoons, and if they turn out crooked and cracked, use them for kindling and make some more. Build more boxes. Don't be afraid to make stuff that doesn't matter too much, because the making itself is what matters. The point is to touch the wood, cut the wood, make sawdust and chips, and learn some hand skills and some "don't dos" and the feel of the tools. If you want to do this to relax, the point is to lose yourself in the process, not the thing you get at the other end. It can be that for quite a long while

    I would also suggest, although I understand that your work schedule may make it impossible, that you look for classes for techniques you want to master, or maybe someone to work wood with. One of the beautiful things about classes is that they give you experienced people on on who to offload your performance anxiety for what you're doing. The instructors are there to teach, obviously, but more importantly for many people, they are there to absorb the negativity that comes from not getting stuff right - to literally be the one to say "not perfect, but good enough for where we're going, and hey, my friend, I've done worse myself."

    I do relax by working in the shop - wood, metal, machine restoration, the whole lot. All of them work to relax me, not because of what I produce, but because the process of production gives my brain complete permission to be there, doing that, and having the doing be the point, and be enough.
    Last edited by Steve Demuth; 11-01-2020 at 1:55 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Longview WA
    Blog Entries
    The desire to achieve perfection is often the enemy of finding satisfaction with something that is good enough. (or something like that)

    Or like the Nike ad says, "just do it."

    Then make another trinket box for the wife. When you give it to her, mention that the first one is now only worth $20k.

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

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Los Angeles, California
    +1 on Prototypes and extra parts. I had an anger management problem for a few years with stress and such, and woodworking really wasn't working for me. I'd be making a part on a near finished project and space out and cut the mortise on the wrong part, cut the leg too short, whatever, you get the general idea. I'd get super pissed off and the part would go flying down the driveway, and I was unapproachable for days, wanting to set fire to the table saw.

    I actually went to counseling and in my day job, the counselor noted that I made copies of key documents or notebooks for safe keeping. Christ, that is what a photocopier is for. So after prodding, I realized that if I need four legs for a chair, I probably should make 6 or even 7, because chances are that I will screw one up and that way I'll have a spare. It isn't that difficult making extra parts if you have the stock.

    I also made prototypes, practice pieces, set up pieces, whatever you want to call them, out of the exact same sized and milled wood, except I used poplar or alder to save some money.

    Once I started that practice, I stopped getting angry about screwing up parts, stopped stressing about critical cuts (although I do those critical cuts in the morning after a cup of coffee when I'm fresh and relaxed and do not do them at night when I'm tired), and surprisingly, I end up with a nice project and often a bunch of extra parts. That evolved to making 2-3 copies of everything, so out of the three chairs, I'll pick the nicest one for me, probably screw up one completely, and have an extra for parts or a giveaway.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    So Cal
    Brandons post sound a lot like my summer gardens. One year I spend hundreds of dollars just for a few tomato plants.
    After the squirrels and bugs took their cut my tomatoes were about 25 dollars each.
    I know this doesn’t help with Brandon mental block. Nothing get me more frustrated then when one of my machines starts acting up. All my creative freedom will leave until I get sorted out.
    Good Luck
    Last edited by Andrew Hughes; 11-01-2020 at 2:15 AM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Fairbanks AK
    Good is the enemy of good enough.

    I agree with a lot, well, all, of what has already been said.

    I spent quite a bit of time getting my first bench built so I could get on with other stuff, and I don't regret one single moment now - there were several low points - but now that it is built I have a place to work on other stuff.

    So your top is ready enough and your legs have the top tenons already cut. Are these through tenons or stopped tenons? Will you able to see end grain of the legs in the bench top?

    What about stretchers? Are you going to have a rectangle of sticks near the ground holding each of the feet in alignment?

    What I would do (did) at this point is put a pair of sawhorses down roughly where your bench is going to go, and then set your top on those saw horses. Now you have a workbench. It needs better legs, and doesn't have a vise mounted to it, but you now have a place to work on the legs. You might need some clamps to hold the top to the sawhorses, and it won't be the perfect working height, but you can work on it.

    Or you could put the top on the sawhorses upside down and do your stopped mortises first.

    I remember my first independent shift as a new grad RN. I was working 11P-7A. I had 60 beds, probably 55-58 of them occupied. The midnight med pass was about the death of me, but 2A and 4A weren't so bad. At 0500 I thought I was going to make it, until the computer popped up (@0501) all the meds I absolutely had to pass between 0500 and 0700. It was pages and pages and pages of stuff for people I had never met because they had been sleeping all night. It was one of those sink or swim moments you never forget. And I had "a moment." It didn't matter what medication I passed to who first, but I had better pass something now and keep passing stuff now or I would never get then all passed in time. That was almost 25 years ago. I clocked 65 hours this week and have made zero progress on any of my carpentry projects. I seem to have successfully avoided the pague for another week. Posting here is about as close to "woodworking" as I am going to get today.

    Similarly, if you are still cutting joints, it doesn't matter which joint you cut next. You will not be able to put the whole thing together until all the joints are cut. Get your sawhorses out. I chose to just lay my slab on the horses and finish the legs and stretchers before doing the layout and cutting on the top. It doesn't matter really, but I figured if I screwed up the legs I could put the mortises in the top at places other then planned. You may choose to put your mortises in the top next. Just pick, and then -this really important- enjoy the process of doing the joinery. There is plusses and minuses both ways. The point is to get your (first) bench built, learn from it, enjoy the process of the doing, and do "better" (whatever that means) on the next project.

    You will build more benches. What I like to do is layout all my markup for whatever phase and then come back tomorrow or next weekend and make sure my layout marks line up before cutting any joints. But that is my blindspot. I learned that by making very expensive fuel for my woodstove, but now I know it and work around it, work with it.

    For workbench and up size M/T joints I do the layout, sleep on it, double check the marks on the wood line up correctly. From there I chisel to the line to cut the fibers at the surfaces and then drill baby drill. On the show sides I will often excavate the first 1/4" or so with a chisel before drilling. Drill some more, about half way through from one side, flip, about halfway through from the otherside. Are you sure you have drilled all you can? Victory is when you have a big enough through hole for your chips to fall away rather than clutter up the working face of your mortise. Once the chips off your chisel are falling through you are home free on that one. Enjoy the process.

    FWIW my bench build is here, but there is a ton of workbench build threads here, look forward to seeing yours.

  13. I get what is meant by the planning. While I hate going by blueprints, etc. When I find an idea for making something new. I sketch it, make allowances for putting things together, finishing, etc, and then work through the steps on paper, so when I get to actually doing something, I get it done in the proper order. Then I gather materials and "make' The kicker, I do not do fancy joinery, etc. I just wood turn. However, when I run through a prototype with the steps on paper, and adjust where I need to I can do a production run of any number afterward, really fast. I make simple ornaments for Charity. It is down to the point that I can make them in about 4 minutes each, including painting. The planning of making an item, so simple, for efficiency of steps and not involving much changing lathe accessories took the longest part. Even came up with jigs and a specially modified tool to do the job. Each such "job" is kept in a notebook, so if I want to do it again in five years the steps are there in order., materials etc.

    Which brings me to the analogy about travel. It isn't always about the destination, but sometimes the journey is the destination. Some times the part important to self isn't the finished project, but the process of getting there. For others it may be the enjoyment others derive from the finished item.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    What strategies have you employed in other aspects of your life to overcome/work around the ADHD you're blaming for your woodworking issues?

    By the way, I like your wife's sense of humor.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    E TN, near Knoxville
    Quote Originally Posted by Perry Hilbert Jr View Post
    ... When I find an idea for making something new. I sketch it,...
    Same here. I rarely make something without at least a simple sketch, often a detailed sketch.

    As for 70 hours a week at a job, that will end at some point either with retirement or the grave. I also work a lot of hours a week but I have a lot of variety - farm work, animal care, raising peacocks, working on buildings, woodturning in the shop, sawmilling and processing wood, clearing brush and moving dirt, mechanical work, welding, gardening, teaching.

    As for the money, some people spend multiple thousands of dollars with only a fish or a golf score to show for it. One good excavator will cost more than 40k The only danger of spending on hobbies is spending without having the money. Or if the spouse doesn't get equal opportunity.

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