My Woodworking History and Why This Will Always Be A Hobby...

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Blog entry by RobH posted 09-08-2007 03:29 PM 1810 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When I got into woodworking I got into it for relaxation and a means of self-expression. It was something that had always interested me, but something I had never done. Although we could have probably afforded it, my father never set up a wood shop or anything like that at home.

One day I found myself graduate from college 600 miles from home. Newly married to the woman that I dated for 6-1/2 years. Working at a new job where I sit at computers all day. I would then come home and sit at a computer most of the night. Needless to say it was frustrating at times and I would get upset with what I was trying to do.

One night while sitting at the computer, pounding my head on the desk trying to get something to work, my wife came in the room and said. I have been wanting a wooden trash can for a while, why don’t you go to the shop and make me one? (We had a nice wood shop on the Navy base where I was working that the civilian employees could use too).

Well, that trash can led to living room tables, which led to a bed, and I imagine you can guess the rest of the story. I had a really good hobby started. Something I enjoyed. A nice gentleman at our church offered me space in his back yard garage for a shop until we found a house. The only payment he wanted was to be able to use the tools if he wanted to. As far as I know he never touched any of them. When we bought our house, the shop moved into the two car garage. That is where I stand now.

Over the past few years I have found people like the work I do and want me to build things for them to put in their house. They all pay me what I charge and that is well and good. I enjoy doing things that make people feel better and make people happy. One of my rules for taking a job was that I would never agree to a deadline for the job to be done. No one has ever had a problem with that. For the most part I have enjoyed building projects for other people, but I never enjoy it as much as I think I should.

Now imagine three months ago when a little extra money would have been nice, a contractor friend at church asks me if I would like to build some bookshelves for a house he was building. I talked it over with my wife and we agreed to take the job. After all, how hard could bookshelves be? The only thing I did not like was that I had a deadline to meet.

Fast forward to now. This has been the absolute worst project I have had to date. I think something has gone wrong in every stage of the project. Now I am 2-1/2 weeks from the deadline and I am wondering if it is going to be done in time.

All of this had taught me a lesson. Woodworking is not something I want to do for pay. As far as commissioning a job from someone in the future, NO WAY!!!!! Every time I take a job, my hobby turns into work. I get burned out and do not want to do anything in my shop for months afterward. To me that is not what it is all about.

It is about fun and relaxation. It is about having a place to go after a rough day at work and lose myself in a totally creative effort. It is about being a hobby.

So, I have decided no more commissioned jobs. If someone wants to buy something I have already built I will consider it, but I will not build one for them. I am done WORKING at my hobby. I will be glad when this stretch of days is over and the shelves are installed in the house. For me it will be good riddance and a little money in my pocket. However, for all the trouble I have had, not nearly enough money.

The moral of the story is that if you love woodworking as a hobby, be very careful about turning it into a job. It turns from a hobby into a lot of WORK. As long as you can keep it enjoyable, it is good. As for me I cannot keep it enjoyable and get paid. From now on, no more woodworking for money.

Everyone have a safe and productive weekend. I am off to slave over these bookshelves yet another day.

-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

7 comments so far

View mot's profile


4926 posts in 4515 days

#1 posted 09-08-2007 03:47 PM

I feel for you, Rob. I’m not sure if it will make you feel any better, but read my comments on a built-in I did, here.

I will also leave you with words from my Grandpa, (F. M Smith, 1912-1980), “If you make your living at it, it’s going to have some drawbacks.”

Stick with it!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4639 days

#2 posted 09-08-2007 04:08 PM

My mom says the same thing about her quilts and paintings—she won’t make a quilt by order; it ruins the whole process for her. She will sell it after if someone wants to buy it, but she won’t make something by order. I never understand that when I was younger; but I get it now.

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

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4806 days

#3 posted 09-08-2007 04:08 PM

Oh this sounds just like me. I don’t mind picking up a project, but deadlines… ugh, I have plenty of those at the day job – and enough self imposed ones working on the house (usually due to holidays or the weather).

I just hated working on that Creche last year – kind of soured my birthday weekend doing some post delivery modifications to it.

I was offered another commission for someone at my grandfathers church, and I am so back and forth about taking it. (money a small plus, the stress not so much) Probably going to pass, as I have quite a bit on my plate already. Finding the time to squeeze in some time at the lathe – Doing up a bunch of pens for a craft show however – that’s another story… meditative, relaxing, with the potential for some cash…

Knowing you want to keep a hobby a hobby is good thing.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4576 days

#4 posted 09-08-2007 04:18 PM

I work all day and night with computers as well. This is and will always stay a hobby.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View douginaz's profile


220 posts in 4481 days

#5 posted 09-09-2007 06:37 PM

I have often been asked why I don’t do woodworking for a living. My answer has always been that I didn’t want to turn my fun into work. Good luck on the shelves, I hope you make through with your self esteem and energy.

Doug in AZ.

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

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4566 days

#6 posted 09-10-2007 02:19 AM

To make a living at woodworking I’d have to work at someone else’s pace, not mine.

I agree with your thoughts.

I generally make enough to write off all my expenses so that suits me fine.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View mark's profile


36 posts in 4640 days

#7 posted 09-10-2007 04:55 AM

I feel for you as well, I took a commission to build a couple of wooden ducks for a friend. I have one complete and the other cut but still in pieces. The summer heat and humidity has kept me away from the shop lately. When the weather is nice I think about all the things I would like to build other than the duck sitting on my workbench. I suppose I need to get off my butt and finish it so I can move on to bigger and better projects.

Norfolk, VA

-- Mark, Norfolk, VA

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