The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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The times that try woodworker’s souls.


When you’re an amateur woodworker, this, that, or the other thing can easily take precedence over your hobby. That’s life, and not too long ago I finally came to the conclusion that it isn’t worth complaining about, even if complaining is a form of catharsis.

Unfortunately, for my love of woodworking at least, I’ve had very little free time over the past month. The good news is that the weather is breaking and spring is approaching and it just so happens that spring is my favorite time of year to woodwork. The bad news is two-fold. Firstly, on Saturday afternoon I did manage to get in a little woodworking, and all of it was basically wasted time. Last week I cut the pin boards for my ‘Paul Sellers’ dovetailed shoeshine box, which also happened to be the moment my daughter took the ‘Old Guy’ photo of her old man. On Saturday morning I had a bit of free time, so I figured that I could get the pin boards sawn as well as plowing out the groove for the sliding lid. And if all went well, I would have completed the glue-up.

As some of you who read this blog at times may already know, only very recently I’ve begun to saw my dovetails ‘tails-first’ after doing them ‘pins-first’ for five years. I’ve jokingly said that pins-first is superior, but in reality there is very little difference, and it really just comes down to which side of the pencil mark you are sawing. So because Paul Sellers saws his boxes tails first, I’ve been doing the same thing, if for no other reason than to expand my horizons.  My first two attempts were disasters, but I’ve finally gotten the hang of it (or so I thought).

To be brief, on Saturday morning I sawed the pins for the back board and got a very nice fit (grudgingly I admit the fit was as nice as any fit I’ve ever had sawn pins first). I then cut the left side pins for the front board, had a great fit, and proceeded to mark the right side. A visitor stopped by, we spoke for 10 minutes or so, I went back to my box, and promptly sawed the pins on the wrong side of the mark, leaving a saw-kerf wide gap. So I ended up with a box with three perfect (near enough) sides and one gappy as hell. I couldn’t live with that, so I had to saw off the tails so I could re-use the board (the pin board is “special” as in smaller and cut a bit differently, so I cannot simply remove the pins or start over-it will be much clearer when I post photos of the completed box). Regardless, I was mad, but mostly at myself for allowing a minor distraction to mess up my work so badly. I’m better than that, but it is what it is as they say.

At that point I gave up for the morning; the wind was out of my sails and I had had enough. There is a school of thought in which a mistake should be addressed immediately, but I’ve found that with woodworking, a step taken back is the way to go (for myself at least). And while my mistake was enough to really frustrate me, Sunday morning was easily the most upsetting portion of the weekend.

As I said earlier, it appears that the weather has finally broken, and we decided that Sunday was a good day to start spring cleaning. To be fair, my wife was cleaning our living room and I was knee deep in my Sunday morning ritual of washing mounds of clothes. As far as my living room is concerned, there is a book case, a plant stand, three end tables, and a television stand all made by yours truly. Being that they are made of wood, they need to be dusted occasionally, and my wife wasn’t too happy about it (not that I blame her). As the cleaning commenced, m wife  proceeded to tell me that she really doesn’t care for my furniture because “we don’t need any of it”. Normally I am not a person to back down, but I didn’t say much. I can’t say that the furniture in my living room is perfect or even very good, but I think it looks pretty nice, and it certainly does the job.

I didn’t feel all that great about woodworking after that conversation, and at this point I am seriously considering giving away most of that furniture and just having my wife go to a furniture store to pick out what she likes, which is probably the easiest solution and probably the course of action I am going to take. In the meanwhile, I don’t mind making items such as small boxes, because I can use them in my garage for holding tools, or drill bits, and other miscellaneous items. More importantly, my wife won’t have to look at them. One more upsetting piece of this ugly puzzle is the fact that over the past few months I had been prepping some construction lumber in an experiment to make “fine furniture” from two-by stock. I had mentioned making a night stand for our bedroom and that idea was immediately shot down. Truthfully I didn’t have anything overly specific in mind, and I can always save that wood for if/when the day ever comes when my wife decides that my furniture doesn’t offend her anymore.

Most amateur woodworkers understand that a skilled hobby requires at least some dedication. That dedication requires a price, and the support of your family. It is abundantly clear to me now that I do not have that support, and maybe I never did. I can’t complain, however, because maybe it’s me. Either way, I have to find a way through it.



  1. Kinderhook88 says:

    Maybe you can still make what you want and just sell it. I know (very well, actually) that’s easier said than done, but it would be a good compromise.

    • billlattpa says:

      I’ve thought about that, and once I built a hall table that at least a dozen different people asked about purchasing, but I just don’t think I have the time needed to dedicate myself to the task.
      I was considering making all of the parts for the hall table so I could assemble them as needed, which would definitely keep me woodworking for a while, but it’s going to take a lot more thought and planning before I am at that point.

  2. The goal is to make something that she wants. I made a Pennsylvania Secretary years ago before I met my wife. She’s not too fond of it, but it still sits in a spare bedroom. Ever since then, I’ve made things she wanted me to make. I even had to get rid of some Windsor chairs I made twelve years ago because they didn’t fit the room’s decor. In the short of it, get used to it.

    • billlattpa says:

      My wife actually has pretty good taste in furniture, the problem is that it is very “expensive taste”. To use an analogy, my wife is the type of person to say “We should take a two week trip to Hawaii”, though there is no real plan on how to actually pay for it. And don’t get me wrong, she says it with the best intentions.
      You’re right though, I unfortunately have to just get used to it, because it will never change.

  3. Jeff Whitaker says:

    Only one thing to do….. get a new wife! (just kidding)

    • billlattpa says:

      Now you have me thinking :). Believe it or not we actually get along pretty well. We’re like any other married couple and at times we have differences of opinion.
      I’ll tell you a brief story. For many years, long before I met my wife, I studied and played music. When we got married I was still playing in bands etc. and my wife would sometimes get upset when I would practice for hours. Eventually, I gave it all up and sold my instruments/equipment. My wife then asked me why I would stop doing something that I was so good at. I tried to explain to her that I was good because of all of the practice, and you can’t have one without the other. Needless to say, she doesn’t understand.

      The lack of understanding honestly does not bother me. What does bother me is the lack of logic. I can almost guarantee that a month or so from now my wife will ask me why I’ve stopped making furniture. At this point I really don’t feel the need to explain it anymore.

  4. Greg Merritt says:

    Dang! Admittedly, that seems a bit cold. Hopefully she was just lashing out over the house cleaning.

    • billlattpa says:

      I think that’s what it was, though I wasn’t too happy about it. I’m really not all that mad to be honest; there’s a lot worse stuff to fight about. I’m glad the truth is out when it comes down to it.

  5. Joe says:

    Dude, try ur best to take a step back and figure out if that’s really true. you do need the support but have to make sure you’re providing the same. Do you consult her on the design, etc.? They need a stake in the game. Best of luck

    • billlattpa says:

      We’re both strong willed, and I think where the contention comes from is that we have somewhat different tastes in furniture. Like many women, she wants what she wants when she wants it. I’m probably a little too stubborn to conform to that line of thinking.
      Believe me, this was not really a “fight”, no more than arguing about what movie to go and see. I was more upset that she insulted my furniture, not the fact that I spend hours making it. So for now i’ll do what I always do when this pops up: I’ll stick to the small stuff until it all blows over.

  6. Steve D says:

    Go furniture shopping with your wife to see what her tastes are. See what is common between what you each like and what you can do. Then you will know what you can expect.

    Make sure you tell the furniture salesman that your furniture need replacement because it requires dusting 🙂

    Steve D

    • billlattpa says:

      Well the furniture shopping part is inevitable. I actually have no problem purchasing furniture, but obviously I would rather be making it. I’m going to see if we can find the “dust free” wood I’ve been hearing so much about. 🙂

    • “Make sure you tell the furniture salesman that your furniture need replacement because it requires dusting”–OMG I am cracking up right now!

      So sorry to read your post Bill. There might have been a better way for that conversation to happen–if she even really feels that way. Dust though, that stuff is a bleeping nemesis to society and can bring out the worst in us all. I know this personally.

      • billlattpa says:

        The funny thing is that it has completely blown over like it never happened. I’ve been married long enough to know when to ignore, for lack of a better word, my wife. And I say that as respectfully as possible. I was a bit upset at the time, but I’m over ti. And I’m sure you can relate to what I’m saying.
        On another note, I hope that this doesn’t come off as me being a lazy husband who never cleans. The truth is that I’m sort of a clean freak, as my wife would have no problem telling you. I’m constantly cleaning and reorganizing things, probably to a fault.
        As far as that dust free furniture thing, I’m contacting Ikea as we speak to see if they can help me out 🙂

  7. Art Watson says:

    There are many reasons we all sometimes say things that we don’t really mean, even to t people we love the most. Take heart, your wife wants you to be you and that includes the part that makes you a furniture maker. 🙂

    • billlattpa says:

      Yeah, I’ve already gotten over it. I think it’s somewhat funny now, but I was pretty upset at the time. As I told Jeff, a few months from now my wife will ask me why I stopped making furniture 🙂 That I can virtually guarantee. Women, who knew they would be this complicated?

  8. Kees says:

    Doesn’t other furniture need dusting too?

    • billlattpa says:

      I’m guessing that my furniture, by virtue of that fact that I made it and it wasn’t purchased by my wife, somehow attracts far more dust than the furniture offered at a store. I can’t prove that theory but I’m sticking with it.

  9. Kees says:

    I have the same kind of problem. Luckilly I have made a bunch of stuff that we both like. But now I have a fancy to make some things a la Peter Follansbee, and she doens’t like it. We came to a compromise, I make them for the bathroom, and she doesn’t mind when it is in there.

    • billlattpa says:

      My wife doesn’t have bad taste in furniture, but her tastes are different than what I like to build. I don’t mind her input, but she seems to like stuff that would be quite expensive for me to make at home, and in that case I would rather her just go out and buy it because it would save quite a bit of money. Not that money is everything, but in some cases it can make a difference.

  10. Eric Key says:

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion including your wife. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing what you love. Do you really need her to love everything you make? Post some pics of the stuff you have online and I guarantee that you will have a lot of people willing to take it off your hands. Then find other people who do appreciate what you do and make stuff for them. The best part is that by making stuff for other people you will make a little money that you can use to buy more tools or take a class with other woodworkers.

    • billlattpa says:

      I agree, and I’m hardly going to stop woodworking because of this, but for the time being I will likely not make any large scale furniture. I am currently making 3 or 4 small boxes, and I had planned on making an end table, but that may get switched to another cabinet for my garage. And I enjoy making tools, and I had considered making some molding planes last year, so that may be back on the table.
      I made a few end tables that are pretty nice so I think I will give them to my sister. Other things I can get rid of here or there. I’m over it now, believe me, I was just upset at the moment.

  11. Curt says:

    Ouch. It’s painful to not feel supported by a loved one. Have you told her how her comment made you feel? (I know, that’s the other f-word, and I’d avoid it if I had my thesaurus handy). Kidding aside, I hope this can be resolved in a way you both benefit from.

    • billlattpa says:

      Truthfully I’m over it. We’ve been married long enough to not let our insults hurt (too much). That being said, if I never made another piece of furniture again I’m betting that my wife wouldn’t complain. At the same time, she would very innocently ask why I’ve stopped building furniture. Women, go figure 🙂

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