What the He%# am I doing?

So, I just walked in from the shop.  Still sweaty and covered with sawdust.  My wife is gonna kill me when she sees the mess I left.

I’m here at the computer about to launch into one of my patented stream-of-consciousness posts.  If you want to read, please continue. If you would rather look at pictures of gorgeous woodworking made by talented folks, check this out.

No, I’m here at the computer because I have to wonder just where the heck I am as a woodworker.  So, I’m working on those bookshelves, and I drag my posterior outside to the shop on a hot, sweaty day  after mowing the lawn. I just had lunch and about a quart of Gaorade, so I should be OK in the Florida heat.  Heck, I even turned on the A/C to get the shop down to a manageable temp.

I lay two of the sides of this piece side by side and get ready to start routing matching dadoes. Nothing is lining up.  Nada.  Hmmm…

Funny… when I laid out and cut the pieces, I used stops to ensure accuracy.  They should all be identical sizes… right?

For giggles, I laid a square against the back support and the bottom piece to see how square they were.

My next words can’t be typed on this – a semi family-friendly blog.

I was so far out of square, it wasn’t funny.  On ALL FOUR sides for both shelves.  Not off by a whisker off a gnat’s behind over four feet kinda out of square – more like you could drive a freakin’ Mack truck between the back member and the blade of the square. Somehow, during my dowel/mortise and tenon debate, I had failed to use my FREAKIN’ square to check to see if the pieces were going together 90 degrees to eachother.  Let me repeat that… I didn’t check to see if the pieces were FREAKIN’ square!

Woodworking 101.

I’m not sure what’s going on here.  But, it seems as if the more ‘advanced’ of a woodworker I am becoming, the more I’m forgetting to do the basics right.  I was watching Tommy Mac yesterday do some really cool veneer work on his walnut lazy susan thing.  “Gosh, that looks like it would be fun to do.”

But, gosh, getting to that point in a project to try something more advanced requires knowledge and application of skills previously learned.

There’s something more, though….

Yesterday, I was flipping through a photo album of some of my earlier pieces. There I was, grinning like a fool standing in front of what were some OK looking pieces.  Some were really eye-catching, while others were held together with bubble gum and spit.  The one thing that I do remember in common with all of those projects was how excited I was to be building them.  I can remember waking up before my wife and my at the time little kids and sneaking into the garage to check on that glue up I had put into the clamps in the wee hours of the morning.  I can remember that rush that I felt pulling a board off the table saw with a relatively straight and burn-free rip and thinking to myself that I was the master of all things xylem.

Now, I can literally go days – heck weeks – without even setting foot into the shop.   I don’t even bother cleaning up and arranging my tools for the next shop session’s work.  I don’t race home, wolf down dinner and see how many joints I can cut before I have to tuck the kids in their beds. Am I becoming the most talented tool collector on my street? The provider of the prettiest sawdust for my neighbor’s compost pile?

Could it be I’m not in love with woodworking like I used to be?

Probably not.  It could be that it’s 98 humid brutal degrees outside, that I’m in the busy part of my work year and I had a bad assembly on my project.  I’ll rip the piece down, salvage what I can (Maybe even turn some of those uprights into shelves or something like that) and get back in the saddle again.

Maybe I just need a vacation.. or to meet up with some other woodworkers to get that spirit back!




18 thoughts on “What the He%# am I doing?”

  1. Tom,

    I feel your pain. Hang in there!

    We all go through stages like this. Maybe the high temps *did* have a lot to do with it. Don’t give up; hang tough, let it get out of your system, and the next time things will be better. They will be. We all have crappy days – some are worse than others.


  2. 98 degrees and high humidity will make a man not want to do anything. Hang in there.

  3. Tom,

    All I’ve been able to accomplish since Gretchin’s Cradle is really piddly stuff. I just haven’t had the time or energy. I’m still in love with woodworking, I just can’t be 100% in the rest of my life right now AND do a good job in the shop. I’d rather putz than tackle something right now that would end up firewood. So, don’t fret brother. Hurricane season will pass, the temps will lower and your shop will once again be the blissful haven it has been.

  4. I think it’s ‘heat exhaustion.’ It fried your brain! Take heart, and look around for something in the shop just for Fun, that you’ve put off for lack of time. Do something relaxing, then when you ‘get back in the saddle’ you’ll be more in the groove. I believe that was a whole sentence of cliches, but true.

  5. BTDT….I once cut a piece of plywood that measured square diagonally and the sides measured the same but not one corner was square!!!
    I still don’t know how I did that???
    Count to ten, take a day off and get rejuvenated and excited about doing some wood working and things will come together better.


  6. this reminds me of my early day when I went from being a full time carpenter to a full time cabinetmaker, I had this happen to me a couple of times, I didn’t think I could have made should a stupid mistake, but I did so I took it as lessons, one of them was to slow down “which is not what they want you to do in a cabinet shop” but it made me more productive. I remember how brutal the summer heat there in FL I worked in a small shop just south of Crawfordville FL one long summer in 97 with just fans to cool us.

  7. Chris – I’m gonna rebuild the side frames the way they should be. I’ll use the lumber in the current frames to help build the shelves…

    Hey, it’s a learning experience.. .and I still have all ten fingers!

  8. Tom, I am finding myself in a very similar mindset this summer. I absolutely think the head has something to do with it, but I also have so much else going on during the summer that woodworking (and blogging) falls to like #4 on the priority list instead of #2 (wife would kill me if I ever bumped it up to #1). I went through something similar last summer, but by the time Woodworking in America rolled around, I was already full-bore shop crazy again.

  9. This one came in from Adam King. My spam filter was set to ‘Kill’


    There comes a time in a good craftsman’s life when the fire and passion from the early days is replaced with a quiet confidence and self-reliance that can’t ever be fully described.

    The need for constant exposure to magazines, tools, discussions, and tool catalogs dissipates and makes way for working and acting from the inside out. You have the knowledge and skill to uncover the solution to any quandary, and can do it with the least amount of essential tools.

    It’s called growth. And it’s a very good thing. If you never stopped being dependent on the information, enthusiasm, and experiences of others then you’d have cause to worry.

    If you never mature within the craft then you’re doing it wrong.

  10. Well, I know you’ll understand when I say that if a guy with vastly most advanced skills then mine -such as you- makes a mistake, it helps me realize that when I make a mistake, even the much more talented guys do to.
    So to that, I say Thank You.
    And, living in Kissimmee, I can absolutely feel your pain—literally!
    Can’t even bring it out to the driveway in the rainy season.
    (as least you have air in the shop-ya lucky dawg)

    I just got done with -what is for me- a pretty big project, and I don’t intend to start anymore until it cools down a little.
    I think a little machine maintenance, and shop straightening out in the cooler evenings is in order for a while.
    Thanks Tom

  11. Anything which brings extreme gratification also can bring extreme frustration. I’m always anxious to jump knee deep into the next challenge, but get just as anxious to be done with it about 3/4 of the way through. You will overcome the mistake, and learn from it, but it doesn’t mean you won’t make others. Look at how many of us you inspire!

  12. Hey Tom, I know this feeling all to well. The North Carolina summer today saw a temperature of 108 degrees (according to one of the temperature clocks in town) and where was I? Of course, I’m replacing rotted siding on a house built in 1810. The intense heat of the summer is completely wearing me down and as much as I wish I could be in the workshop, I just don’t have the energy. I live for weekends.

  13. Are you out of square consistently? Turn it from error into design, taper one side. As Marc Spagnuolo often says: Woodworking is not about not doing mistakes, but about recovery from them. 🙂

  14. I thought you learned last summer that doing a big commission project in the dead of summer is way too much work. That’s what I thought anyway….

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