Extremely Average #16: I Will Continue To Practice

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Blog entry by Ecocandle posted 01-18-2010 03:40 AM 1804 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 15: I have just two questions Part 16 of Extremely Average series Part 17: My Inconvenient Truth »

What drives your woodworking?

I just want to be great at it. I have no idea if I will make furniture, turn bowls, chisel sculptures, or build tiny pieces of art. Each time I see something beautiful that is what I want to do. Woodworking has so many paths.

It is easy to recognize that dabbling in everything will lead to a mastery of nothing. The importance of focus keeps me on my path of discovery. When the temptation to stray pokes its head out of a magazine article, I give it a pat on the head and send it on its way. As the temptation hops off into the distance, I take a moment to fix its cute fuzzy image in my mind. I think about why those adorable little ears almost convinced me to leave my path. Almost convinced me to stop practicing and jump into a project.

I want to mark this possible diversion on my mental Google Map. One day I will stop practicing and head off the path to explore.

While I waited for my mushroom and Swiss cheese burger, I read the winter 2010 issue of Woodwork: People, Ideas and New Work. It is the sort of issue that one keeps forever. The articles are so well written that each time I feel unmotivated; this is where I will turn. The articles are so well written that they tempted me to run home try other stuff, to skip practicing, to leave the path. Patrick Downes has written an article about a woman named Yuri Kobayashi. Her work reminds me of one of my favorite artists Maya Lin, who is best known for creating the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. I read of her life, I stared at the pictures of her work, and I wanted to try to learn her style. She has a piece called passages II, which is a bridge made using 4,000 mortise-and-tenon joints. To date, I have cut 11.

No sooner had I dismissed this temptation, when another popped out of the next page. Terry Martin told me all about David Ellsworth. He turns bowls. He turns magnificent bowls. The tale of his life, dedicated to the pursuit of his craft, filled me with wonder. He has a book, some of you probably have it sitting on a shelf; it is called, “Ellsworth on Woodturning, How a Master Creates Bowls, Pots, and Vessels.” I thought to myself, “Find this book, devour its secrets, and learn to turn, buy a lathe, take bite of cheeseburger and a few fries, Oh, the Vikings scored…” I was reading the article at a bar and watching the Vikings vs. the Cowboys, while a washing machine sucked the sawdust out of my clothes. Had the Viking not scored, I might not have snapped out it. I might have wondered off the path. A pat on the head, one last look, and the temptation was gone, but it was a close one.

Though I choose not to follow either temptation, their work, stirs my creative juices. It makes me remember all of my own ideas, which I want to pursue. I returned home after the game, and opened up Photoshop. I dusted off a few of my designs, an art deco pattern, a chair and bathroom I created in sketch up, and I get my mind back where it belongs.

Wood is such a special medium. The soft feeling after it has been sanded, the stunning patterns that the years have woven into the grain, and the limitless possibilities that woodworking holds, all make this the most exciting time of my life. So I will continue to practice. I will continue to practice. I will continue to practice. Ok, now off to put the sawdust back in my clothes.

-- Brian Meeks,

8 comments so far

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 4045 days

#1 posted 01-18-2010 05:00 AM

Keep in mind, sawdust does have other uses.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Chuck 's profile


88 posts in 3531 days

#2 posted 01-18-2010 05:14 AM

I want pics of your latest dovetails.

-- Chuck, Washington D.C.

View stefang's profile


16665 posts in 3666 days

#3 posted 01-18-2010 11:36 AM

A good way to practice is to make shop accessories, much as you are doing with the project you have been showing in the blog. They don’t have to be perfect, and you will not only get the joy of making them, but also the satisfaction of using them. They will also serve as a reminder of your progress.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3657 days

#4 posted 01-18-2010 01:37 PM

I enjoyed this entry. For myself, it is the process of learning over and above the final accomplishment.

Recent prime example: I wanted to cut decent box joints. I tried on the tablesaw. They were fair. I built a first jig based on examples I saw here. The jig sucked. I found a plan in shopnotes. I built it. I tried it on pine. Things were getting better. I learned how to adjust the jig to make it do what I want. I finished a project with decent box joints. I have not used the jig since then.

If I were doing this for a living, I would certainly go for the repeatable model. For now, the joy of learning carries me through.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4492 days

#5 posted 01-18-2010 01:55 PM

Hi. My name is Debbie – and I am a dabbler. And proud of it. The trick is to also to apply some energy at becoming a master at something at the same time :)

Some day I hope to be a Master as well as a Dabbler

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3440 days

#6 posted 01-18-2010 02:35 PM

Pleasant reading as always Brian -

Much of my motivation is kind of a rebellion against the plastic, chip board, and poor veneer items that are force fed at the big stores in my town. I grew tired of watching items get set out to the curb and I pretty much knew that the only cure would be to just make it myself. I get a kick out of accompanying friends when they are shopping these days and when they stop at a table or cabinet, I can point out the structural problems and why that pretty table will fall apart within a couple of years. I will be getting more vested in projects this year and will be working with a higher grade of wood.

As far as practice goes, I am with Mike on building shop items. I would never dictate to another on how to practice (especially since I am a novice myself) but there are some gains to small projects that provide more advantages than the practicing of cuts. Projects give you that full dimension. Each board has a relationship with each other, the mortise and the tenon, the pins with the tails, etc. Success is hard to gauge until you establish the relationship with those pieces. If you think you were in error when you made a pin, you might be able to fix it with the tail. Same with the other joinery. To paraphrase another commentator of your posts, a cut is only in error if both board don’t allign correctly.

Keep us posted on your successes. Your cuts are looking very good and it looks like the saw and chisels are becoming very familiar to you. I am glad you are finding yourself so immersed in the practice and that love for the hobby will carry you far.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3727 days

#7 posted 01-18-2010 04:45 PM


I, too, take inspiration from reading about the works of others.
I wouldn’t attempt to reproduce their work for two reasons:

1. I don’t think my skills and tools wouldn’t make the grade.
2. I don’t like copying.

In high school there was a great deal of copying to improve one’s grades. I grew to hate it.
What I failed to understand then was that reading what my fellow students wrote is good.

Well, let’s define “good”. In this case the good would have been to allow their thoughts to stimulate my own.

These days, a few years later (Harrumph, cough, er- perhaps many years), I like to read and see what others are doing so my brain can absorb, digest and assimilate.

I only took up woodworking seriously since I retired at age 70, so I’m still making the climb on the learning curve. So, it helps to hear what my fellow woodworkers (I dare to call them my fellows) are thinking and doing.

Reading your blogs encourages me that you too, are making that journey as many others do.
Sharing thoughts as you do helps.



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

View douginaz's profile


220 posts in 4334 days

#8 posted 01-18-2010 04:56 PM

Hi gang, loved the post as always. I can appreciate the time and trouble you are devoting to practicing your new found hobby. I should probably have spent more time doing just that but I took a different road. I jumped in with both feet and paid the price for doing so. I just sold the first piece of “furniture” I ever made, a seven foot long oak book case that I used trim to hide my mistakes on over sized dado’s, darker and darker stain to hide my inability at the time to tone wood. I made that piece in 1994, I hated to see it go, I enjoyed looking at the flaws, they actually brought a smile to my face. The memories it brought would bring out the fierce pride I took in achieving what at the time seemed like a great many challenges. How to cut dado’s with an undersized and cheapo router, the wrong size bit, working on the patio with little more than saw horses. Trying to keep every thing square and tight, using tape and bungie cords for clamps. These memories are cherished, I hope you don’t practice yourself out of any.
Doug in AZ.

-- If you need craft books - please visit our small business at

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