The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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A quick poll


Lately I’ve been struggling to find any free time for woodworking among other things. This is generally my favorite time of year to woodwork, the weather is warm and comfortable, but the heat and humidity of the summer are still weeks away. It left me wondering how many woodworkers in my situation also manage to find time to woodwork. Basically, my schedule is as follows:

Wakeup 5 a.m.
Leave for work 6:15 a.m.
Work 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Return from work 6 p.m.

Like most people I work Monday thru Friday. I also work every other Saturday. Of course, there are the typical things that needed to be done around the house like washing clothes, cleaning, making sure bills are paid, lawn work, etc. I also go to the gym either 3 or 4 nights per week depending on the week. Luckily the gym is just a short distance from my house so that generally takes no more than 90 minutes of my time. Couple all of this with things like having dinner and spending time with my family and it doesn’t add up to a whole lot of free time. At that, I would have to think that my schedule is pretty typical for most people in my age demographic. So my question is: Do other woodworkers struggle to find free time for woodworking as much as I do? I would love that answer to be “yes” just to know that I’m not the only one in that boat.

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35 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Yes, in a normal week I am luck to a couple of hours on a Saturday and if I am really dedicated to the task, a hour or two during the week.

  2. Kinderhook88 says:

    Life gets in the way. It seems I can only get shop time if I’m getting paid to do it.

    • billlattpa says:

      I find that I get a lot more motivated when I have a project of some kind in the works. Right now, I don’t have anything major going on, just stuff planned that I need the material for to get started.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  3. Mike says:

    You are not alone; between wife, kids, house, work, and yard I maybe get a couple of hours per month spring through fall, and a couple of hours a week in the winter. I really like your blog, keep on writing!

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks. It’s good to know. I see a lot of blogs where woodworkers are getting stuff done, and I started to feel that I must be doing something wrong because I can seem to get any free time.
      Bill

  4. Yep, now that I am back at my day job it’s hard to find time to do what I want and need to do! That’s one problem with working a 10 hour day with a 30 minute commute each way! I can’t wait for November when the day job ends!

    • billlattpa says:

      I have that same schedule for work and it doesn’t leave a lot of free time for woodworking. I can’t complain about my work schedule, though, because most of the people I know do the same thing or something similar.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  5. Jeff Branch says:

    It is rare for me to find more that a couple of hours on a weekend and in total, more than an hour during the week. I sat down just this morning to write out a woodworking schedule for the rest of the week, in hopes it would help me get some things done. Still a challenge.

    • billlattpa says:

      It’s funny that you mentioned creating a schedule because I’ve been considering doing the same thing. I’m hoping to hit Hearne Hardwoods at the end of June to pick up some material. Then I hope to schedule some time, even just a few hours per week, to start working in earnest again.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  6. Randall says:

    Like shop space, time is also at a premium. I am very fortunate to make s living on a 7days on/7off schedule. Even then life gets in the way. Exponentially so with kids

    • billlattpa says:

      I worked a similar schedule at one time, which was 4 on and 4 off. I found that it didn’t leave as much free time as it seems it would. After doing four twelve hour shifts, not including commute time, it didn’t leave much in the way of getting things done on those days, so I would have to cram everything into the four days I had off. And at that time I didn’t have kids yet.
      Thanks
      Bill

  7. Art Watson says:

    Absolutely. I also find that I need to be in the correct state-of-mind to enjoy my shop time. My best work comes when I can rise up early and know I have a full day to get my Mojo spun up.

    • billlattpa says:

      Yeah, you can’t feel rushed. That is the main reason I’ve been considering scheduling time, even for just a few hours a week. That way, my wife and daughter will know exactly what I have planned, and I can work things around it accordingly. I don’t think it’s a whole lot to ask.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  8. bloksav says:

    Sorry, I have to vote no.
    My problems in locating time for woodworking is mostly because there is something else that needs to be done before going back to the sea.
    Out here it is a question of the weather and how exhausted I am after a days work.
    My work schedule of 4 weeks on 4 weeks of does give me some time for woodworking, if I choose to do so while I am at home. But it is down to my own responsibility to make sure everything else is in prime condition before I choose to start hobby woodworking.

    Your schedule seems to offer precious little time for gym and woodworking. So I am amazed how you manage at all.

    Brgds
    Jonas (Who actually can’t complain now that he has caught a glimpse of the real World)

    • billlattpa says:

      My wife thinks I go to the gym a little too much, not in the sense that I am avoiding her, but in the sense that it does take up my free time during the week. But I told her that I’m not getting any younger, and this is the only way that I’m going to stay looking half decent, as at least part of my work day is spent in an office. I don’t mind office work, but it doesn’t keep you in good shape.
      I’ve seen where woodworkers claim that using hand tools will keep you fit, but unless you are doing it every day, or as a professional, it’s not even close as a substitute for the gym.
      I can’t complain about my working schedule a whole lot because most of the people I know do just about the same thing. I have to think that most amateur woodworkers in my age group are doing the same things I do every day.
      I’m also like you in the sense that home projects always take precedence over woodworking, or any hobby for that matter. My hope is to make a schedule for woodworking, where I can set aside just a few hours per week to dedicate to either making something, or maintaining my tools. Hopefully it works out.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  9. dzj9 says:

    Judging by the photos from the gathering in Amana, most folks there are retired. Or maybe unemployed.
    When kids go to college you have some more time. Years go by pretty fast…

    • billlattpa says:

      At every woodworking show I’ve been to most of the people there were nearing or at retirement age. I’m unfortunately no kid (41) but most of the time I was one of the youngest attendees excluding some small children. It sucks, but I may just have to wait a few more years before I have the time I would like.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  10. Jeremy says:

    I am definitely in the boat of not enough shop time, but have found things have eased as my kids have gotten beyond the very young phase. I have found scheduling time, say Thursday evening, as dad’s shop time to be very helpful to feel that I really am making progress in the area, even if there would never be enough or it often gets superseded, if it’s on the schedule then I’ve made it a priority.
    Unfortunately my big issue is that currently I have a major kitchen/house remodel underway, which means that ALL of my “free” time for the next few months will be wrapped up in trade work, which I don’t really enjoy anymore… Another thing that I need to fight against is discretionary work time with my employer, it’s often easy for me to end up spending an extra 1+hr every day at work that I may not absolutely need to do, which has a trickle down effect into family, life, and woodworking time. This time of year is usually when woodworking goes onto the backburner in the interests of yard work, outdoor activities and time with the kids. I still long to be in the shop, but have no problem trumping it with fun family time.

    • billlattpa says:

      A kitchen remodel will definitely steal away any free time you may have, as well as the summer. I usually woodwork a lot less in the summer as well for the same reasons as you: yard work, being outdoors, swim club, etc. I’m toying with the idea of designating Wednesday evening as my woodworking time for the summer, as well as any free time I may have on a Saturday morning if I don’t happen to be working. Wednesday seems to be the best day because my daughter has no activities that day, I go to the gym straight from work on that day, and I’m usually home before 7.
      I think a schedule will help get me into a routine, as well as keep myself sharp along with my tools.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  11. Alex A. says:

    I’m lucky if I get a couple of hours during the week. On weekends I get shop time during “nap” time but those days are numbered.

    • billlattpa says:

      I remember those days! Most of the people I know have the same type of schedule/issues I do. Though they don’t share the same hobby, they still share the same stories. I’m thinking that a scheduled day and time will really help me get into some type of routine and let me have a little fun without detracting from other responsibilities I have. At the same time, there are moments when all of us feel inspired, and a schedule doesn’t necessarily account for those times, but now I will take whatever I can get.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  12. carter choate says:

    Well , you know you are`t supposed to wish your life away. While you are young look after your family, work , do good things. Because you are a replacement coming along and myself or another olde geezer will have to let you have our place in the shop ever day, seven days a week. Not long after that your children will tell you to not make anything for them, they have no room. This is for free stuff.
    While I am exceedingly poor, the lady at the sawmill looks kindly upon me with gifts of cherry, sycamore, oak, chinaberry, maple and real long leaf yellow pine. This kind of pine new is rare here. I make some furniture for her, she sales it I have more wood again for the wood shed. I leave you with two quotes. “wood is wonderful” Jennie Alexander .
    Make , fix and create, from the blog [wisdom of the hands]
    you will enjoy retirement and your wife will not send you out to the porch with no screen to kill flies.

    • billlattpa says:

      Wishing my life away is one of the things I try to never do, though this past winter it was pretty easy to count down the days until the spring. And as far as woodworking is concerned, I certainly don’t want to keep putting it off with the attitude that “one day I’ll have more free time”, because more often than not, “one day” never comes.

      I’ve always been of the attitude that you only live once; maybe that’s not true, but that’s a question that I, or nobody else can answer. In the meanwhile, I’m not going to keep putting things off until tomorrow until I have no more tomorrows. The time is now, which is why I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things any way I can.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  13. Nathan Simon says:

    My schedule looks a lot like yours Bill, I still get time in the shop nearly nightly even though I have 3 kids (5yrs ,4yrs, and 6 mos). Awhile back I decided to choose woodworking over tv in the magical time that starts sometime after the kids are asleep, the house is picked up, and before I go to bed. Even when I feel too tired once I get into the shop I find something to do and seem to wake up once I start moving.

    My advice to anyone looking for more shop time is.
    1. Shut your tv off – you’ll be amazed at your free time.
    2. Get a good clock or you’ll go to work on 3 hours of sleep if you start after the kids are in bed (I have done this many times)
    3. Bring your kid(s) into the shop – It’s great spending time with them doing something you love. Usually though mine get a rasp, hammer, cope saw, or old block plane and scrap of wood and they stay entertained.

    • billlattpa says:

      Most of the people I know have a similar schedule, so it’s hard for me to complain about it in that respect. All of my co/workers and friends are basically in the same situation I am in. I don’t watch much TV, especially this time of year, so that part is easy. I’m planning on making Wednesday evening my designated time for woodworking. I think that just a few hours per week (and maybe here or there on the weekends as time allows) will really help to keep me fresh as well as keep my skills from eroding. Hopefully it will all work out.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  14. Greg Merritt says:

    I leave the house a little after 7am and usually make it back a little after 6pm. If I’m going to get any shop time during the week, it’s immediately after I get home. Check in with the wife and kid, then straight to the shop for maybe an hour at most. On a good week I’ll get three evenings in the shop. Sometimes none. I never plan on getting any shop time during the week though. Just take it when I can get it.

    On the weekend sometimes I get a few hours each day. Sometimes much less. I try to work in all of the normal “chores” as I work in the shop. Start a load of laundry, go out to the shop. Take a break and the clothes go into the dryer. You get the idea. As an example, we just had a three-day weekend. Saturday and Sunday I spent getting other things done and no shop time. Monday I managed to get in about five hours of uninterrupted shop time.

    I have several peripheral hobbies that tie in with my woodworking. Drawing, knot tying and writing this blog. All of those are done in the living room with the wife and kid. So we all can talk and spend time together and I still get to create as well as involve them in what I’m doing. They, in turn, can involve me in what they are doing.

    Long story long, but in summary. I rarely ever plan for shop time, but take it when I can get it. A few minutes here, an hour there. It all adds up.

    • billlattpa says:

      Unfortunately, I think my best bet will be to schedule a day. The problem with that line of thinking is that it leaves only a little room for moments of inspiration. At that, I’m hoping that a scheduled day will keep me and my tools tuned up and ready to go for those moments when I get inspired and I actually have the time to do something about it. One thing that I’ve discovered is there is a part of me that misses having a magazine subscription, if only because reading a magazine helped to keep me connected and allowed me to think about woodworking consciously while still being in my family’s company.

      As far as blogging, I usually write my posts either while I’m on break at work or late at night when I can’t sleep, so either way it usually doesn’t interfere with the rest of my life. I’d love to get my daughter more involved, but she has so much going (like we all do) that it’s not easy for me to justify it.

      In any event, I’m hoping that this scheduled day plan at least gets me back in the game, and in turn leads to more woodworking and more projects.
      Thanks.
      Bill

      • Greg Merritt says:

        I hope that you can find a workable solution. When I say “involve” my wife and kid you should read that as “bore them to no end”. At least it’s together time. LOL

  15. forbeskm says:

    I do contract work so I have more free time between jobs usually by choice. When I am working its always a challenge making the time. I have my own pilates studio so I only have to go the gym when I want to swim.

    I also have many other hobbies, from jeeping , chocolate, sugar, coffee, target shooting, etc. So I make sure when I am working on a project to break down the steps and be happy with steady progress the parts and pieces.

    • billlattpa says:

      I’ve found that going to the gym has become even more important to me than woodworking in the sense that I always feel better when I’m finished. Woodworking also is a stress reliever, but in some ways it can lead to anxiety in the sense that there is always something more that can be done while working on a project, and I always end up prying myself away from the garage rather than letting the natural course of the project dictate the time spent. When working out, I have a schedule that I follow, and when I’m finished the schedule I’m finished the workout, no ifs, ands, or buts.

      So I’m hoping that setting aside a specific day and time to woodwork will make it part of my routine again, keep me sharp, and eventually lead to more woodworking.
      Thanks
      Bill

  16. Matt says:

    I feel the same. I have been “stuck” building a bench for an embarrassingly long amount of time. I need to get it done so I can be reinvigorated by a smaller project. Like you mentioned in the comments, building shop time into my schedule is something I need to do. I just don’t want it to start to feel like a task.

    • billlattpa says:

      Scheduling woodworking time worries me as well. I don’t want it to become a chore, but for now it’s probably the only way I’ll get anything done on a semi-regular basis. For me it’s just a temporary solution, I just hope it works.
      Thanks
      Bill

  17. cmdr101 says:

    I have been moving more and more toward doing woodworking for a living so I am starting to spend more and more time there. But I do have problems getting projects for me done now. But I do love the challenges of creating what people want.

    • billlattpa says:

      I’m having trouble just getting in a few consecutive hours of woodworking. Thankfully, I have a few projects lined up that are needed, and will give me the excuse needed to get myself and gear and start woodworking on a regular basis again.
      Thanks.
      Bill

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