Taking Charge In One's Own Shop

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Blog entry by BarbS posted 10-15-2009 05:18 PM 5699 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I had an exciting day yesterday when a very talented local woodworker contacted me through LJ and asked to meet. If it hadn’t been for LumberJocks, we wouldn’t have known each other (username: Autumn).

I arrived at her address to find a beautiful little studio in back of the main house, airy and light, in good order and with a ‘homey’ feel to it that told me instantly she spends a lot of her time there. A high-quality box commission was on her work table, with a very complicated inlay design set into the box top. it was an enjoyable visit, and as woodworkers, we found a lot in common. I am downright envious of her full lifetime supply of exotic hardwoods stored in a separate shed.

After visiting, we headed to my house so she could view my shop. She envied the room I have for an assembly table, and the spreading layout for my machinery. I confessed to her I had an ongoing project just sitting, that I had lost interest in, and she said something startling: “Well, take it apart and don’t finish it.” Heresy! I had cut all the parts, gotten a good start on the joinery and worked out my design plan. It had been sitting for over a year, and the guilt of not completing it was a burden. This wise woman said, “It’s Your shop. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.” Again, heresy!

She got me thinking. I’ll be 60 this month, and that number is really doing a number on my head. The seasons are passing faster than ever. There are many things I’d rather be doing in my shop than that old project that seems to be holding me back from getting any work done at all. Taking apart those pieces and stashing them for other work might be quite liberating. I’ve met another LumberJock..and it has led to an ‘Ah-ha!’ moment. Now, to get out there and do something really fun before my birthday strikes at the end of the month! If I can get a head start on something worthwhile, maybe I can thumb my nose at that number coming up, and get used to a productive new decade.


20 comments so far

View lew's profile


13272 posts in 4722 days

#1 posted 10-15-2009 05:27 PM

Good For You!!!

I love the new attitude!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5185 days

#2 posted 10-15-2009 05:34 PM

A wise man once told me “The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.” So don’t let yourself be stuck in a rut. Sometimes that applies to both thoughts and actions. :-)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4544 days

#3 posted 10-15-2009 06:13 PM

Hi Barbs
It’s nice to hear from you. Your Thoughts about completing a project has been totally foreign to me. I was always brought up to finish what I start even when I don’t want too. I too have more than one project that has brought my personal work to a halt. Like you this idea of putting it away and getting on with more interesting projects never occurred to me. This is a totally inlighting Idea, my only fear is that once I start on this path that my shelves will be full of unfinished projects. I will have to look on the positive side and anticipate the new projects I wish to make will be completed and of great value.


View patron's profile


13716 posts in 4308 days

#4 posted 10-15-2009 06:24 PM

barb ,
i have found that if i don’t finish what i started ,
the tap shuts off ,
and no more gifts from God .

once i get the problem project out of my hair ,
it’s clear sailing !

good luck with your decision .

as far as 60 goes ,
it scared me too ,
thought i was all washed up ,
well i’ll be 65 next month ,
and still standing .

so it’s back to work ,
with gusto this time !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Dano46's profile


86 posts in 4136 days

#5 posted 10-15-2009 06:53 PM

I spent my 59th year worring about turning 60. What a waste of time. I’m retired now, with grandchildren, and a 2 month old great grandson. He will be in the shop before long. Life is good, after 60.

-- You can't trust a dog to guard your food.

View Gary's profile


9416 posts in 4400 days

#6 posted 10-15-2009 06:57 PM

60’s nothin. Pooh on it. I had a project laying around for 2 years. Part of it fell apart and I even walked on it a few times. Last spring, I thought I would complete the job. I did. It didn’t give me any pleasure at all. It’s just a “thing” over there that got built. Maybe it’s a good idea to put aside what no longer holds your interest. I know I didn’t do my best work on it. I just wanted it finished. I’d rather feel good about what I’m doing….otherwise, it’s a job

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4141 days

#7 posted 10-15-2009 07:29 PM

What a great story…..

I firmly believe that age really IS nothing more than a state of mind.

Sadly … my state of mind usually has me about a dozen years older than my mother swears I am ;-)

You’ll finish … when it’s time to finish. That’s what I remind myself.

And when you DO … I’m sure it’ll be beautiful!

-- -- Neil

View Lisa Chan's profile

Lisa Chan

147 posts in 4117 days

#8 posted 10-15-2009 07:33 PM

I’m new to woodworking but have been knitting for 25 years (which is a long time for me considering I’m only 33)... and us knitters… we have this start and finish-itis issue too.

I’m starting to feel “age” for the first time in my entire life… and a day flies by like nothing. I remember when I was younger that being asked to wait for 15 minutes seemed like an agonizing amount of time. Now… even just at this age, I’m starting to value my time and my joy more.

I used to try and slog through knitting projects that gave me no joy. I refuse to do it any longer… I’ll now give my yarn away in a de-stash rather than waste the material and time on sore, resentful feelings.

Think I feel this way because I also have chronic pain issues and I want to spend as much of my life with a smile on my face.

HOWEVER… I don’t drop something if it’s troubling me because it is a challenge. Just drop it if it is a bore.

It’s your shop! It’s your time!

Happy almost 60th! My aunt is 65 and divorced for her pain in the butt husband (still great friends), got herself a new FUN beau, built her own wooden kayak, and she goes anywhere and does anything she likes. She’s my awesome female role model.

-- Lisa Chan, custom cafts and yarn accessories,

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4131 days

#9 posted 10-15-2009 08:11 PM

I am 68 and just starting woodworking as a hobby, although I have done a lot of utilitarian woodwork and shop stuff over the years (see my home and blog). Never too old for something new. I still work, because I have to fund my hobbies!

In the big scheme, life is a grand tragedy, we are born to die, life is ephemeral. So it is always about attitude as Neil pointed out.

I have dismantled projects before also, in fact I have one partially cut out I think I will discard because I have a better idea how to do it now. I am in a rapid learning phase, since I am starting out. Even my utilitarian planned projects are benefiting from the hobby involvement. So I don’t hesitate to abandon a particular approach to a problem or creation, but usually I go on to solve the situation in some other way. I think that may be the key. If we have a project we have lost interest in, it may be that our approach was wrong. Complex area with many issues and solutions. I am one who is willing to permanently abandon something and move on, and feel no remorse. I am sure others feel differently.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2659 posts in 4493 days

#10 posted 10-15-2009 08:12 PM


-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Gail's profile


44 posts in 4925 days

#11 posted 10-16-2009 12:32 AM

What a great story, I just disassembled my first project a few months ago, it had been sitting in my shop for over a year and I kept thinking, I have to finish that before I start something new. Once I realized I had no interest in finishing it and took it apart, it broke down that hurdle and I just started building something else. Thanks for the story, it is nice to hear others experience the same thing.

-- Gail, White Wood Kitchens

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 4680 days

#12 posted 10-16-2009 05:53 AM

60 ??? its just a number. when you wake up on that day you will have only aged 1 day from the day before. Don’t let the numbers bug you. I’m 66 and really am getting more out of life than before. Some projects are like wine, they need to age awhile before becoming complete. don’t let either one get you into that rut that Charlie mentioned.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 5052 days

#13 posted 10-16-2009 09:32 AM

What a great group! All your comments are very encouraging. I know the numbers are all in the head, but it still is a wake up call.
And thanks for all the advice..I have to admit it seems quite liberating to think of just dumping on a project.
I’ll probably put it aside for now and just do something else I’d rather do.
It’s fun to hear from you folks who have ‘crossed the threshold’ before me. I guess I’ll look forward to my sixties the same as any other decade.
Fun to read all your posts…thanks.


View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 4362 days

#14 posted 10-17-2009 03:41 PM

Barbs, You should get to know my wife who is a professional knitter/designer/shop owner.
She has things she calls UFOs.
That means – Un Finished Objects.
She teaches students how to use yarn they’ve lost interest in for other projects!

That’s the difference between knitting and woodworking.
We can’t uncut wood.

Sixty is just the beginning.
I’m seventy-six and going on.
They tell me I can’t take it with me, so I won’t go!

Best regards,


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 5052 days

#15 posted 10-17-2009 05:53 PM

;-).... Don-
and I wish I knew Where I was going to die, then I just wouldn’t go there.


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