WT255 – Are We Proud of the Things We Make?

On today’s Wood Talk “Weekend Edition” we’re talking about the early days of our woodworking careers and how long it took before we were actually proud of the things we made.

This topic is inspired by an email from Nathan:

I’ve been woodworking for about two years now, and I’ve built maybe four or five major projects, including a desk, a workbench, a tool chest, and several other smaller ones. I am yet to be fully satisfied or “proud” with anything I’ve built. My wife and other family members marvel at my abilities, but all I see when I look at my projects are all the flaws and things I could have done better. Am I just being too hard on myself, or is this a usual feeling when starting out? I know that I could rebuild the projects I’ve done and make them even better, but time and money won’t allow it for now.

How about you?

Do you think you suck? Are you proud of the things you make?

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5 replies on “WT255 – Are We Proud of the Things We Make?”

Nathan, I haven’t been wood working that much longer than you. We all make mistakes, even long time wood workers. Knowing how to repair them so they are less obvious is one of the differences between a newbie and an experienced wood worker. Even if you’re a wood working prodigy there is still a learning curve. When I make something I usually try to incorporate something I haven’t tried before. Sometimes it turns out good and sometimes, not so much. It’s good that you can recognize the mistakes that you have made and can then work on improving on them. Be kind to yourself and have fun.

Thanks for answering my question! I feel so much more motivated to woodwork now. Gonna try not to be so hard on myself. Thank you!

2 things:
1. the Schwarz had a blog post where he said he makes something and focuses on everything that’s wrong with it. Then the family starts living with the piece and he comes to accept it as is. That helped me accept the stuff I build as it is.
2. I quit asking myself if I’m proud of something. Now I ask if I’m happy with it. That doesn’t leave me competing with the entire world.

Even with the help of WT I still have problems (related to wood working). Marc recently helped me understand how to “pop” the grain on some tiger maple I was using in a hall table. I thought about the advice and my experiments with it as I watched the legs burn in the fire we had over the 4th. Oh no… not that, it was a planned camp fire. I screwed up the legs so bad, kept going, screwed up the aprons and joints, kept going, screwed up the finish..stopped. Cherry and maple make great fire wood. Between Marc, Matt, Shannon and my own mistakes I learned so much my head hurt.

Experience can be the best teacher but it can also make one gun shy about expanding your world, something I’m trying to get over. That is another way the WT trio helps.


I certainly experience this issue. I’ve been woodworking for about two years as well, and I’m often horrified by the number of errors I make in building projects. Toward the end of a build, as the flaws have accumulated, it’s sometimes tempting to throw the thing in the scrap pile! But then friends and family always say that the pieces look great.

One piece of wisdom that seems relevant is something I learned from Jim Heavey: shut up. That is, when someone sees something you’ve built and says, “Wow, that’s beautiful!” resist the urge (which seems to be second-nature for woodworkers) to say, “Well, it’s OK I guess…” and then point out each and every mistake you made in creating it. Instead, just say thanks and then shut up. I find this helps me to see my work from the perspective of the average non-woodworker, who truly is amazed at what we can do as hobbyists despite our shortcomings.

I agree with the advice offered in the episode–the fact that we are aware of our mistakes and become more able to notice and possibly fix them is part of our becoming better woodworkers. But we don’t need to dwell on them. If I focused only on the flaws in my work, everything I’ve built would be in the scrap pile or fireplace and I’d be knitting rather than woodworking.

Thanks guys for doing the episode on this topic!

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