The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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The Long and Winding Road.

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Sunday, April 12th was the day I almost quit woodworking. There was nothing special about the day, aside from the lovely spring weather. In fact, the entire weekend was nice. I spent Saturday morning at Valley Forge Park working on one of the cabins as a volunteer. I got to install some true 18th century hinge hardware, and I got to use woodworking tools. We did a lot of nice work and it was an enjoyable morning. Sunday started out with a lot of promise. It was warm, sunny, and a perfect day for woodworking. But that all changed when I stepped into my garage.

For the past month or so I’ve been doing my best to organize my garage, prepare my woodworking tools, and otherwise do my best to turn the back of my garage into something of a real woodworking shop. My first attempts were successful. I reorganized my hardware, got rid of a lot of unnecessary clutter, and slowly but surely got my tools prepped for building furniture again. The next step I had planned was making a wall rack for hanging chisels, files, rasps, and marking tools. Currently, all of those things are in my tool chest. My tool chest has found a home under the right side of my bench and it is frankly a pain in the ass to keep bending over to pick things out of it. I felt a wall mounted rack would be an easy solution and the best way to keep everything safely out of the way but also within arms reach. I still had some scrap Walnut left over so that is what I used. And it pretty much went down hill from there.

Board in the rough

Board in the rough

Sawing to length

Sawing to length

Cleaning up the edges

Cleaning up the edges

Rather than break out the table saw I decided to do everything by hand. I won’t bore anybody with the details. I sawed, I planed, I chiseled, and I planed again. Let me just say before I continue that I generally don’t enjoy making “shop projects”. To me they are at best a necessary evil, at worst, a complete waste of time and energy. To continue, the next step was to lay out the holes for the tools. I marked the board and laid out a symmetrical pattern of 7/8″ holes roughly an inch and a half on center. After, I broke out the drill press to bore out the holes. Let me just say that boring out twenty or so holes using a drill press may have been one of the least satisfying experiences of my life, and this is coming from somebody who went through Basic Training. The entire time I was working I continually asked myself: “Why the F*** am I doing this? It’s nice out, and this completely sucks.” It then came to the question: “Why am I woodworking? Because right now I’m not enjoying it even a little.”

Cleats marked

Cleats marked

Cleats sawn and chiseled

Cleats sawn and chiseled

Bored holes, bored woodworker

Bored holes, bored woodworker

sawn out.

sawn out.

One hour and one big mess later the holes were bored out. Then came the even worse task of sawing out the fronts of the holes. After thirty minutes and even more mess that was finished. To add insult to injury, around the second cut in it occurred to me that my carcass saw needed to be sharpened, but I wasn’t about to do it then, so I instead used an old backsaw that was given to me by a friend of my wife. At that point I had had enough. The holes still needed to be cleaned up and rasped, the rack still needed to be smoothed and sanded, and the cleats still needed to be shaped. I didn’t do any of those things. I cleaned up, went and got myself cleaned up, and did my best to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

I will probably finish this project on Saturday afternoon, as my wife and daughter have somewhere to be. Not that I want to, but because I’ve already invested several hours into it I need to see it through. As this was all going on and I was completing the mind-numbing task I couldn’t help but to wonder who in their right mind would enjoy making a rack for chisels. But many woodworkers must because I’ve seen dozens of projects such as this in every woodworking magazine I’ve ever read. It then dawned on me that maybe I’m not cut out for woodworking after all. In any event I did the correct thing and walked away from it before It drove me from partially to completely insane. Maybe when it’s finished I will feel a little better about it. But right now I am four days removed and I still feel no enthusiasm. It will pass, I’m sure, but the next time I need a tool rack I’m going to buy it if I can, and the next tool box I make will be one that hangs on my wall.

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7 Comments

  1. theindigowoodworker says:

    I used to be that way with shop projects. I have plenty of them around to show just how much I hated doing it. Now I look at them and think why did I do such poor work on those things. I look at them every time I’m in the shop and it’s really embarrassing to me that I did such shoddy work. Now I’m going through and doing them over with the same attention I gave to furniture projects over the years. I’m loving every minute of it too. Old age setting in I guess. It’s the process, not the product that I’ve found to be satisfying these days.

    • billlattpa says:

      I made two mistakes with this one: making it as large as I could, and doing it on the nicest day we’ve had in the area since literally last August. The work suffered and you can see it. There’s nothing that is irreparable, but I think that I will use this for some of my mechanical tools, and make two smaller versions; one for bench chisels and one for carving chisels. The simplest solution would be to make a wall mount tool cabinet and be done with it.

      I’ll say this, I was never more pissed off woodworking than I was last Sunday. I honestly went to the gym on Sunday night and worked out for an hour just to relieve the anger. I hope I never run into this again. Thanks
      Bill

  2. dzj9 says:

    I made an L shaped bench for a kitchen table for my mother-in-law about 25 years ago.
    She tells everyone I made it. I wish she wouldn’t. 🙂

    • billlattpa says:

      My work on this rack was hardly the best work I’ve ever done, but what bothered me way more was the mentality behind making it. Just because I am a so-called woodworker, it doesn’t mean that I have to make everything. I spent two hours making a rack I could have purchased far more easily. I like making furniture, not tool holders. It was all just a disappointing waste of time unfortunately.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  3. Bob Benedetto says:

    You’re in good company… I do some guitar work, and you can definitely tell weather has an effect on quality through history. The Spring time made Gibson’s from Michigan come to mind… and if you can help it, never buy one that was stamped on Friday in the summer.

    The point is, not wanting to do mundane activities in the shop while the sun is shining and the temperature is perfect, is as much evidence that you are not a woodworker as is wanting to stay inside to do highly payed reproductions while it is raining slush evidence that you are a hermit.

    You’re solar powered and it was a hard winter. Do something that feeds your soul, variety is the spice of life. The holes that need to be drilled will wait, and even if they aren’t drilled perfectly, they would be nothing without you, so they’re happy. God had days like that, too… “It’s a Friday in July, I give you Flounder… see you on the water, I’m out. I mean, for the love of me, I’ve got Giraffe and Platypus to figure out, it’s not like another fish is the extent of my ability, here… how long is it going to take for the bald tool monkeys to notice anyway?”

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks for the kind words and support. I hear what you are saying. The mistake I made was starting a project like that on a beautiful morning. I will likely finish it tonight, and “tonight” is the key word here. We are having another perfect day today. I can easily do what I need to do to finish the rack at night, and that is exactly how I’m going to handle it.
      Thanks again!
      Bill

  4. rnatomagan says:

    Excellent job of capturing emotion with words. I felt frustrated for you as I read.

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