Great Lakes Woodshop Home

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Start Before Stop Against Stop Before Start: A Blind Cohort Study of Woodworking Projects

First, I must apologize for the title.  It will (somewhat) make sense by the end of this post.  The purpose was to confuse Google to see if I'll ever be indexed in a scholarly article search.  Call it my intellectual rage against the machine for 2016.

The question posed is valid:  why do we, as hobbyist woodworkers, often start the next project before the current project is done?  To make matters worse, there are often several starts, before the first stop!

In a production environment it only makes sense to have all assets utilized to their fullest potential.  The constant flow of projects requires constant management to get all the square pegs confused with round holes (dark, cylindrical, 1 ech.) on the widget line.  Let's call that sentence my second intellectual rage against the bureaucratic machine for 2016.  Moving along.  The hobbyist is supposed to enjoy the process, not the product, or so the conventional wisdom says.

Too often I find myself getting into ultra efficient production mode (that's what it looks like in my head--the shop, not so much) when planning shop projects.  I recently had another one of those moments causing me to be more reflective on the approach I take toward this 'hobby'.

My main project is currently a Jefferson book stand, like the one appearing in the Woodwright's Shop.  The project has about eleventy-gazillion mortise and tenon joints; I'm closing in on about half of them.  So, to celebrate that milestone, I went and purchased more material:  Ambrosia Maple to do a modern version of the book stand, MDF to do a giant shoe box to store shoes (duh!), Cherry to do a high smallish side table, and some regular maple to do a large bookcase.

I had to save a draft of this post for 'later'.  In the interim I also bought some Poplar to make another six board chest because there is enough Ambrosia Maple left to make a cool lid for a chest.  As of right now the first Jefferson book stand is where I left it, but in the interim I did make the giant shoe box, the six board chest (sans lid, because, you know, the 'real' project with the Ambrosia Maple is not done yet), a glockenspiel, and several other little things.

Back to the original point of stopping, read finishing, projects before starting other projects.  I have to wonder if I'm alone in this, or is this behavior germane to the subspecies of human known as woodworker?

I have re-re-re-resolved to finish projects for which the material is on hand before starting other projects.  Right now that includes two Jefferson book stands, a large bookcase, the lid for a six board chest, step stool, a high smallish side table in Cherry, and containers to transport and store miniature figures.

If you stumble on this blog post in your net quest for better woodworking, please drop an opinion on the best way to handle projects in hobby woodworking.  Maybe someday we'll accumulate enough anecdotes to qualify as data, and thus a real study.

1 comment:

  1. From my uncontrolled experimentation, this condition stems from these causes:
    My woodworking time is limited to say a rate of 0.5x (X being the rate at which a project is completed)
    Media (social or otherwise) giving me projects I'd like to duplicate at a rate of say 2X.
    New ideas from say a napkin sketch occurring at a rate of 1.25X
    Desire to duplicate a previous project with lessons learned 0.5X
    Projects outside of woodworking naturally occurring at a rate of 0.5X some of which become urgent either out of necessity or from a desire to avoid alienating others.
    All of this adds up to projects piling up, getting re-prioritized etc.