The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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The last thing I’ll ever build.


When I finally finished my plant stand project the other day, it ended a somewhat disappointing stretch of woodworking. I think every woodworker reaches a point where he or she builds a piece of furniture that doesn’t turn out as planned, or maybe runs into the woodworking version of “writer’s block”. For me, it was finishing the plant stand with the knowledge that I am planning on taking a hopefully brief break from woodworking this coming summer to finish up some projects around the house. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t be woodworking, but I don’t have any plans to build anything in particular until the fall when then weather cools and conditions for woodworking are improved. Not lost in all of this is the scary thought that my plant stand, for reasons both foreseen and unforeseen, may very well be the last piece of furniture I ever make. It’s not very pleasant to consider, but it did get me to thinking: If I knew I was going to make only one more piece of furniture in my life, what would it be?

The truth is, at this moment I have no idea. I’ve been looking to build a Stickley 802 side table for quite some time. I think it is a lovely piece of furniture that would work well in my house. But had I week to live that wouldn’t be the piece of furniture I would choose to make. I think highboys are awesome, but they are beyond my skills and frankly they really aren’t my taste. I’m not into making chairs, and I have no desire to start. Another project I might consider would be a trestle-style dining table, but since we have a nice dining table already I haven’t really put much consideration into it. In fact, the only thing that vaguely comes to mind would be a card/game table; in the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to make a nice gaming table, but it’s never really been a project that I was willing to go out of my way to build.

So this all reminds me that maybe I have a little thinking to do when it comes to woodworking. While often times my woodworking projects arose from a need, I really think that a woodworker should sometimes make things not out of necessity, but only for the joy of making it. The plant stand I just made is the antithesis of that ideology, and that is possibly why I didn’t really enjoy the project. Sure, it turned out okay, it matches the other furniture in my living room, and it does fill a need. The one thing it lacked was a woodworker that really wanted to build it, and that made all the difference.

I’ve furnished the living room of my house and parts of the dining room, bed rooms, and family room. If I am going to keep woodworking, and keep enjoying it, I need to start making things for me. I like to believe that in making things “for me” I will not only become a better woodworker, but by default make useful pieces that my whole family will use and enjoy. That list may include some items that my wife might not care all that much for. With all due respect, I don’t really care. She isn’t making furniture, I am. It’s high time I started enjoying what I build, and if it comes down to something my wife would like to me to make, and I wouldn’t, she can always hop in the car and drive to Raymour and Flannigan, because I’ll be damned if that plant stand is the last piece of furniture I ever build.

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8 Comments

  1. I watched an old “Little House on the Prairie” episode last year where an old woodworker was making a coffin. It was his own.

  2. billlattpa says:

    Now that is something to consider!

  3. dzj9 says:

    I’m guessing your wife won’t much care for that second bench you plan to build.

    • billlattpa says:

      She definitely wouldn’t, and honestly that is something I wouldn’t blame her for. My garage, with everything else in it, isn’t large enough to support two benches, in particular one in the construction phase. If I do get around to making a new bench this summer I plan on building the base first and not assembling it until I’m ready to move the old bench out. That’s really the only option I have when it comes down to it.

  4. A photographer somewhere on the internets said if you have a period where you can’t find anything to take a picture of, go for a walk without your camera. I guess he is using Murphy’s law to his advantage. Maybe we need to put down our tools every now and again to prevent the hobby from being a chore. I hope after the summer you find a project you can enjoy!

    • billlattpa says:

      That has worked for me in the past. Just about every summer I decide to put the furniture on hold because of the extreme weather, and usually I end up finding something I really would like to build in the mean time. This year I’m going to try to stick to that plan and work on some home/workshop projects. Of course, Murphy’s Law has a way of messing up the best laid plans.
      Thanks.
      BIll

  5. I just took about a month long break from my woodworking projects. It mainly came down to a busy season at work, and some major repairs to one of my cars. I do all the repairs I’m capable of, and it takes time.

    Another thing, like you, I became increasingly frustrated with my current project. I found an old dresser (free) that I decided to “upcycle” into an entertainment center and resale. It’s been frustrating. The materials to do it cost much more than I wanted to spend. Repairs took longer than I wanted, therefore, if I’m going to make money on it I’ve got to sell it for far more than anyone would realistically pay for something like this. Hopefully I can get some money back.

    It’s been more enjoyable since I took the month break from it, but it’s been a learning experience. I’d turned my hobby into work and wasn’t enjoying it. I got too caught up in my “pricing formula” instead of realizing “this is a hobby that I sell stuff to support and buy cool stuff I want, so as long as I get my money back I’m good.”

    My next project is completely for me though. I’ve got a new unfinished walnut rifle stock that I get to finish shaping, fitting, inleting, checkering and finishing. That’s a project that I’m looking forward to.

    The “Dresser from Hell” gets it’s final coat of paint today. I get a week break via Church Youth Camp, and then it’s me time.

  6. billlattpa says:

    Good luck with your current projects. Believe me, I know what you are going through. I think people like us making things “for us” is a good thing, and maybe the best way to improve. I love my wife dearly, but if I keep making things that she wants I will not only go crazy, I will continue to build the same types of furniture. While I could spend the next few years building Stickley pieces and be perfectly satisfied, my wife would have me build the same 3 Stickely pieces over and over again.
    By the way, if you could, when you finish your rifle stock post a photo of it. That is something I would love to check out. Thanks.
    Bill

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