A couple of months before the summer of 2015 my wife and I decided to start homeschooling our then three children. Due to my lower earning potential and my wife’s greater desire to work, I was selected to be the one to stay home and oversee the education of our kids. I suddenly had more downtime on my hands as I couldn’t fill my days with activities because I had to be available in case my kids had questions. I inevitably found myself on YouTube.
On YouTube I discovered a “Maker” named Jimmy Diresta. His videos were sped up, thus taking less time to watch them, but he still made his process clear. He would create mallets out of wood, shop aprons from leather, carve wooden knives on his bandsaw, and build just about anything he could think of. I was watching him when I first thought “hey, I could do that!”. I immediately went out to my garage and, using what few tools I had, made a rectangular shelf that now hangs on the wall of my sisters apartment. I of course failed a few times before I succeeded. I was originally trying to cut 45 degree corners on the pieces of wood so that I could make the corners of the shelf. However, I failed to properly cut them with my circular saw…my shelf kept getting smaller as I tried again and again. I eventually just tossed up my hands and declared I would use “butt joints”, simply gluing the end of one board against the face of another. This would foreshadow what was to come all too often…
Many times during woodworking projects I have planned to do one thing, only to have to settle for something else. Most of the time it is because of my lack of skill, I simply am not good enough to hand plane a tabletop smooth or make a straight crosscut with a handsaw. However, my lack of skill often derives from my lack of patience. I want to build a wonderful keepsake box with dovetail joints, inlays, and handmade wooden hinges…but don’t want to practice, I want to build it now. Historically, I have only undertaken hobbies and interests that came naturally for me and that I thoroughly enjoyed. I played basketball almost every day for a few years because I was better at it than most kids my age. Physically I was faster, stronger, and could jump higher than most of my peers. I didn’t need to force myself to do the harder things associated with basketball practice. This was the case with other areas of my life as well, but it was most prominent with basketball. Now days I have interests in, and desire to do, things that do not come naturally to me. I find myself losing patience and getting angry with myself for attempting to do things I have not practiced before. I have thrown mallets in frustration and broken project boards because I just felt angry and hopeless…and then even angrier for feeling hopeless! I know I should take the time to practice, I know I should take the time to sketch out plans and make a cut list, or prepare my tools and workspace in advance. Yet, often times I don’t do these things because I am so busy wanting the final product that I forget all about the journey. I forget that, even though practice can be tedious and boring, it is ultimately for the best. If I want my marriage to be healthy I need to put work and effort into it, the same is true for woodworking. I can’t just walk down the aisle, say “I do” and then have a happy marriage the rest of my life. Well, I can’t just pick up a board, plop it on my workbench and turn it into a shelf without knowing what I am doing first.
So, take your time developing your skills before you attempt to put them to the test. Don’t be afraid of the tedium of practice, keep the endgame in sight.