Enjoying woodworking

I skipped Pennsbury yesterday and spent the day carving instead. When I began my Chippendale chair project, I under estimated how much I would enjoy carving. Sounds a little funny to say out loud (but isn’t that what blogs are for?) but I’m surprised I’ve done as well as I have. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe that’s why I like woodworking. I have low expectations!

Speaking only for myself, I focus on the end product when I work wood. I like the processes, especially the development of new skills, but often not while I’m in the learning stage and sometimes not even in the doing stage. It’s work that I need to get done. But a few activities I can think of, woodturning and carving chief among them, I find really fun. I’m not good at either one. But I enjoy the work and am generally pleased with the results.

We talk a lot about how to do this or that. And there’s a general assumption that the work we do is enjoyable. But obviously not all of it is. If you have a minute, let me know what aspects of woodworking you find enjoyable.

Adam

12 thoughts on “Enjoying woodworking

  1. Routertabledepot.com

    I enjoy the woodworking, and love the new design and offering. How great when I finish my own projects and expectations. And join the the clubs of woodworking, to learn with each other how to build more great projects.

  2. Shannon Brown

    Thanks for understanding Bruce. I work with both power and hand tools as well. When I started I was a power tool only kind of guy. Then I got on this hardcore, hand tool kick and ended up selling all my power and machine tools. Well after spending several hundreds of dollars later to replace said tools, I now take enjoyment from both. Some projects I build all by hand, others I use machine, power, and hand tools for. It’s all good, as long as you’re having fun.

  3. Greg

    Adam, this is my first post so I must tell you how much I enjoy your writings and your style.

    I have been using my hands for over thirty years making all ranges of “things” from plastic models to boxes to houses. For me, time can stand still when it is just me, the tools and the project I am working on. So the short answer is I really enjoy the process. Even so the process can become work that you want to get through because something more interesting is within sight.
    Specific to woodworking, I really enjoy taking a rough board and making it square, flat and smooth with a hand plane. One of the primary reasons I decided to move towards the finer aspects of woodworking was to give me a reason to buy a hand plane or two. I wasn’t (and even now) sure what I wanted to build but I knew I wanted to make boards flat and smooth.

  4. James Watriss

    Oddly enough, I like finishing.

    Ordinarily it’s finicky, obnoxious, and it’s very good at showing all of the flaws in anything I’ve done. On the other hand, it means the work is pretty much finished. The patches, scrapes, dents, that are more clearly visible in the unfinished stage disappear somehow, as do all of the moments where I was frustrated, and had to take time out to make something right again.

    The colors change, the grain shifts, and somehow, the whole thing looks a whole lot better.

    I still remember being furious after oiling down a step stool I’d dovetailed together out of QS white oak. I was so ready to never work with oak again, but the insufferable stuff had the nerve to look SO good when it was oiled.

  5. Stanley Bell

    Adam,

    I always enjoy reading your articles. I have been an amateur woodworker since I was 12 years old, (30 years ago) when I carved my first hickory hammer handle with a "spokeshafe and a drawknife" as my late grandfather pronounced them. I enjoy reading about the history of the methods you present. I really enjoy the joinery part of woodworking but a close second would be when the finish is applied and all the splendour of the wood is revealed. Whomever the first woodworker was that discovered how to preserve the wet look must have smiled for a long time.

  6. Wayne Miller

    Adam,

    My interest seems to be opposite of your’s. I love the process. Sure, I enjoy it when the finished project meets or exceeds my expectation, but the process is what keeps me coming back for more.

    Carving, dovetailing, mortise/tenon, dado, it makes little difference to me. I rarely use power tools, so I am able to bring all of my senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, even taste when I don’t keep my mouth shut) into the work.

    My love of handtools began when I was a boy. I would rub popsicle sticks on the edge of the curb until they took shape. It didn’t matter to me what the shape was, I just loved sitting on the curb, grinding away my popsicle stick.

    Regardless of the tool (curb or handplane), or project (popsicle stick or rocking chair), it’s the process of woodworking that I love.

    Thank you for your Arts & Mysteries column. It’s my favorite read.

  7. Rob Porcaro

    My favorites are sharpening and difficult glue-ups… Now seriously, for me, the enjoyment of woodworking comes when there is little or no gap between intention and result. This can be sawing a joint, planing a surface, even dimensioning boards. When the work flows and I see my ideas inexorably becoming reality, all the processes are enjoyable. At other times, well…a bad day woodworking beats a good day for a lot of other things.
    Thanks for the thoughtful posts, Adam.

  8. Bruce Jackson

    Actually, Shannon, you do make sense. Although I’m a "blended" woodworker, there is nothing in particular that I really enjoy about woodworking – except maybe designing my projects. On the other hand, I tend to smile whenever I find something that works really well for me. So I keep trying new things – for example, wiping on (not brushing) several layers of thinned shellac to smooth out recycled plywood before I topcoat the piece made from same recycled and weatherbeaten plywood – which I scraped by hand because I’m not too fond of the vibrations from my "mouse" sander – and found out I actually like the way the stock looks better when I scrape than when I sand (yep, you guessed it, another smile).

  9. Shannon Brown

    This might seem wierd, even contradictory, but I don’t enjoy anything about woodworking, but I enjoy everything about it. I can’t really explain it any better than that. I can’t point to any one thing I actually really enjoy, but I can find pleasure in just about all of it. If that makes any sense (which it probably doesn’t).

  10. The Village Carpenter

    I agree with Bob. Pretty much working with any handtools, but especially carving knives, gouges, and chisels, is a meditative experience. The only thing I don’t like about ww is gluing up a large project–it can be very stressful.

  11. Bob Tinsley

    When I’m carving I go into a kind of zen state wherein I don’t hear anything, see anything other than what I’m working on, and the mental noise is at a minimum. Doesn’t matter whether I’m hogging off waste wood or working on details. I can go for hours without acknowledging the passage of time. It’s very restful.

    Bob

  12. Don B

    Adam, I really enjoy your postings. You have such a down-to-earth style, and reading your story about the chair in Pop Woodworking is really fun. I love that you just dig in, and admit your inexperience in something, and share what you learned. I have also just started getting interested in carving, and I am also surprised at how much I enjoy it, and that the basics were easier than I thought.

    I enjoy whatever woodworking I can do. In fact, I’ve started just practicing things like dovetails or carving for the fun of it – I do have a few small carving projects going on (making magic wands for my kids) but I’m not even that concerned about what I’ll finish or when it will be done.

    Keep up the good work, please.

    Don

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