A Strategy for Woodworking #57: The Battleship

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Blog entry by Gary Rogowski posted 08-03-2015 02:55 PM 1774 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 56: Chair Design, Please Sit Part 57 of A Strategy for Woodworking series Part 58: Liberal Arts Education »

Projects come, projects stay. I walked around the shop one day to count the projects I had started only to put down for one reason or another. I got depressed by the number 20. Unfinished for any number of reasons. I cut a panel too short on one. I wasn’t sure of the curve of another. Not hard to make a new panel, 0r try to mock up the curve. That logic does not fly in the face of a simple defeat. I just let the projects linger, go to your corner.

What is it that stumps me? Probably this doesn’t happen for you, this is probably just me. I think for me it is the battleship called focus. The work is never the issue, I am the issue. Getting me to focus long enough on the problem at hand usually solves it in such a short time that it’s embarrassing.

Get the battleship turned around and pointed in the right direction and it’s amazing how quickly I can knock out one of those unfinished jobs. So I’ll make another list and put a couple of these nearly complete pieces close by and see if I can knock one out today, in an hour or two.

Northwest Woodworking Studio

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

12 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118163 posts in 4742 days

#1 posted 08-03-2015 03:05 PM

It’s great to know that someone of your talents and abilities has a number of unfinished projects, now I feel a little less alone in the half dozen or so projects I have stuffed on shelves waiting for the last 10% of the work to be done. Your encouragement about just putting them on your “to do”list gives me motivation to move forward. Thanks for another super blog.


View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4032 days

#2 posted 08-03-2015 03:14 PM

Gary, that piece is so beautiful. It’s a wonderful design.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Andre's profile


4623 posts in 2971 days

#3 posted 08-03-2015 03:39 PM

I think it is called Life, too many times we start a project then there is a call or a knock on the door or an appointment and well the list just goes on and on! Good thing there is always time to come to this site and get some more inspiration!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View MrRon's profile


6092 posts in 4408 days

#4 posted 08-03-2015 03:39 PM

I have a history of unfinished projects and here is my excuse. Where I live, it’s hot and humid for several months. This keeps me out of the shop for prolonged amounts of time. During those hot and humid days, I will be at my computer dreaming up new projects. When I get the opportunity to get into the shop, I will start my latest project and put other projects on hold. This cycle of starting new projects and abandoning current ones doesn’t allow for much productivity. Maybe it’s because of my age (80). Although I have no shortage of ideas, I just seem to lack the energy to do them. I guess it’s just laziness.

View EastLake's profile


46 posts in 2703 days

#5 posted 08-03-2015 04:25 PM

It’s the same story here. I also have dozens of projects started that I haven’t been able to bring myself to finish, and it’s for a couple reasons:

1. The excitement of starting something new – beginning a new journey and trying something different.
2. The inability to detach – I just don’t want it to be over and so don’t prioritize it.
3. Oh, look at the kitty – ADD sets in and something else grabs your attention.

You are absolutely correct, finishing is about focus and discipline – two things you won’t find in abundance hanging in my shop.

-- Mark, Western New York, East Lake Woodcraft

View JayT's profile


6427 posts in 3376 days

#6 posted 08-03-2015 05:00 PM

Probably this doesn’t happen for you, this is probably just me. I think for me it is the battleship called focus. The work is never the issue, I am the issue. Getting me to focus long enough on the problem at hand usually solves it in such a short time that it’s embarrassing.

- Gary Rogowski

Not just you, Gary. One advantage to being a hobby woodworker is that when the focus is gone, I can lock up the shop and leave. Go do something else for a while and then go back when my mind is refreshed. The flip side is that there are times I’m so drained from work that I can’t focus enough to work on a project without screwing it up. That’s a good time for cleaning or organizing, but never working on the project.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View DocSavage45's profile


9053 posts in 4008 days

#7 posted 08-03-2015 05:11 PM


My projects are on my mental shelf. I can see them, sort of, and I can draw them, sort of. My friend Mark said that it seemed to him I’d rather work/play with tools than one of my unfinished projects. Partial truth in that although life, working for money, maintenance, and Me an Murphy get in the way.

Oh yeah, way to much EXTRA STUFF sitting around that gets in my way? Chaos or creativity? Depends…..LOL!

I have come to terms though. I am now using my anger to focus on completing one step at a time rather than the whole thing. I can say “I did that!” I also feel energy for the next step in the process. Hey I even checked out the woods available at the local specialty mill. Just in case I get off my mental butt!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Roger's profile


21054 posts in 3969 days

#8 posted 08-03-2015 11:34 PM

Thanks for being an artisan woodworker, and now, thanks for gettin in me head. I feel like laying on a couch and talkin to you for an hour or so… LOL…...........Seriously tho, you hit a nail on the head for me about what you said. As everyone can plainly see…........I am sooo, s l o wwwwww at gettin things done.. Oh well, it does bother me, but it doesn’t…. See what I mean…..........I need to go lay down… hahahaha

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View jim65's profile


1020 posts in 3098 days

#9 posted 08-04-2015 06:48 AM

I see all these posts of great FINISHED projects and I always wondered if it was just me with te 3/4 finished projects almost ready to post, glad to know I am not alone. As a hobby workworker, I don’t have the pressure to feed myself and mostly the 4 year old happily gets my time to learn to ride a bike or hike in the woods. And I loose focus with the next toy project more interesting than the chess set….

Thanks for posting Gary!

-- Jim, Marostica Italy

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4499 days

#10 posted 08-07-2015 01:50 PM

I have to admit Gary that contrary to yourself I always manage is to finish every project I start and except for whatever current project is underway I have nothing unfinished laying around. I do wish that was some kind of an indicator of excellence, ability, or quality or any other positive attribute, but I think not. It’s mainly because my shop is way to small to store any half finished items and I am therefore forced to finish them just to get them out of the way so I don’t stumble and break my neck.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26475 posts in 4270 days

#11 posted 08-18-2015 12:13 PM

Gary, I have unfinished stuff all around too but never dared to count it. After looking at some of them for a while I ask myself “do I really NEED to do this ?” If not, they get pitched right away before I change my mind!! Some get made into different projects if they have enough wood to them. Plans are another thing. I have made 3 clipboards full of them that never got to cutting wood. I surely won’t count them but I know they are there in case I need a starting point for a real project and some of the legworks was on one of those papers.

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View bearkatwood's profile


1835 posts in 2177 days

#12 posted 10-19-2015 04:05 AM

Having a long to-do list will keep you alive longer. I’d like to think that at least.

-- Brian Noel

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