A Strategy for Woodworking #2: Good Enough

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Blog entry by Gary Rogowski posted 06-19-2014 01:51 PM 2923 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Joinery Details Part 2 of A Strategy for Woodworking series Part 3: The Fit »

As a furniture maker of a few years time, I realized something important about my work. Oftentimes my clients wouldn’t notice the extra work I had put into pieces. Some times they noticed things that were just so automatic for me that I barely thought of them and they missed the really fine work I had done somewhere else!

My realization was that I had to pick my moments on some pieces. Sometimes I needed to do the extra work to make it just so, whether or not the client would see it. Other times, I could do very good work and the client would still be blown away. Good enough wasn’t a diminishing of my standards but an understanding of what I would and would not be paid for.

Sometimes I just had to fuss over a hidden detail just because. The deal I made with myself was to say it’s okay to be this obsessive/ compulsive craftsman as long as you know you won’t get paid for it. Except by yourself. No bitching about how much you’re making or losing on this piece. If you want it to be good enough for your high standards then this hour is free. So that was the bargain. No complaining about not getting paid for time that the client hadn’t asked for but that I had to give. And at other times, I would be just good enough to fool everyone, but me.

The Northwest Woodworking Studio

-- Gary Rogowski...follow my podcast at and twitter @garyrogowski

8 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4588 days

#1 posted 06-19-2014 02:32 PM

Those are very good points ,being a furniture make myself(not on your level) I’ve come to a similar conclusion . People seldom notice all the time and effort you put into a piece.


View Dabcan's profile


255 posts in 3682 days

#2 posted 06-19-2014 02:44 PM

Agreed. I find the same with my work, nobody notices the little imperfections that bug me till it goes out the shop door. My wife is a pastry chef, and she’ll throw out fine pastries that look perfectly fine to me, but to her discerning eye they are imperfect. But if we are the only ones who notice or care, then you are doing yourself a disservice and wasting time/money by labouring on something the customer doesn’t care about.

-- @craftcollectif ,,

View sb194's profile


197 posts in 4029 days

#3 posted 06-19-2014 02:55 PM

Well said Gary. It eases your mind, and make life much more enjoyable, when you can except that.

The one saving grace, is that if another woodworker looked at your piece, they would notice the extra effort that you put into the details.

View shipwright's profile


8678 posts in 3809 days

#4 posted 06-19-2014 04:27 PM

Bravo Gary!
I have said for years to all who would listen that the term ” good enough” actually has a literal meaning and it isn’t “I’m giving you less than the best”.

Depending on the craftsman, the situation and the utility of the piece the term can cover quite a range but the unarguable truth is that “good enough is in fact good enough”.

In some cases it means “good enough not to break” and in others it means “good enough to pass the most discerning eye” but it makes me crazy when people equate this essential concept with shoddy work.

When I built yachts “perfect workmanship and finish” on every part would have driven the cost far beyond the value of the finished product. Seaworthiness came first. Finish quality was weighted toward areas where people would spend time and have the opportunity to let their eyes wander. If there was a paint run under the fuel tank, I didn’t lose a lot of sleep.
I apologize for the rant.

Thanks again.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4345 days

#5 posted 06-19-2014 08:11 PM

Couldn’t agree more Gary. Professional woodworkers in the past usually left parts unseen pretty rough, but they didn’t skimp on the joinery and the visible parts. I think the urge for most of us is to finish every part to the same quality, and many hobbyists do so for their own satisfaction, but for professionals like yourself it can be a costly and unnecessary luxury. I have found an exception to that rule though, and that is small light work. People like to see the bottoms for some strange reason, probably because they are easily turned over, especially lathe work, but it is a lot more difficult and not so interesting for most folks to look underneath furniture. Knowing when to quit can also be important. I have ruined or at least devalued some pretty nice projects learning that lesson.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Texcaster's profile


1293 posts in 2684 days

#6 posted 06-19-2014 09:26 PM

Interesting perspective Paul. That’s probably the hardest thing to learn. In the beginning most people don’t do enough or do too much.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4158 days

#7 posted 06-20-2014 12:20 AM

You make some great points. Definitely something to think about!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1335 posts in 2946 days

#8 posted 07-24-2014 11:25 AM

Great point. I have done three commission projects over the last year or so and have started to learn what is “good enough” on each project. It definitely takes some thought, and one must consider the client, the price, the wood, and lots of other factors. I have wasted a lot of time doing too much, but I am now learning when to stop. Great post.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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