The project from hell!

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Blog entry by Jim posted 09-16-2012 09:54 PM 6233 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Have you ever started a project that you absolutely despise? For me the answer is yes absolutely! In fact every time it’s been the same source. It’s always been a project where I’ve opened my big mouth and said “No problem let me make that for you!”

I’m a hobby woodworker and anytime someone has approached me with “Would you make one of those for me?” My response is always a very polite but firm “No, absolutely not, under no circumstances, not on your life!” You see I learned a long time ago that, for me, the fastest way to kill a hobby is to turn it into a job where there are expectations from someone else that I have to meet. As a result I’ve restricted my woodworking projects to those for myself or more often for gifts … where the other person does not know … or expect … it to be coming. I really enjoy working on projects like that because there is no pressure, I can work at it at my leisure and enjoy the process. All that goes out the window when it’s a commissioned project!

I’ve now got one of those “I can do that for you” projects sitting in my workshop for several months. There was no deadline given just a promise to get it done, sometime. Now every time I go out to the shop, it taunts me and I glare back at it with contempt. Let me clarify, the project (a counter for an office coffee room) is going just fine. No major problems and the design is very simple. I just despise working on it, so it’s taking forever to complete. Each little stage has as much joy as a prostate exam. No other projects have been happening because I’m the type that cannot move onto a new project while one is not yet finished. As a result the shop sits unused from week to week.

One side of me says to take a sledge hammer and put this project out of my misery but another says, it’s not that far from being finished so just get it done. Yet here I am, it’s Sunday afternoon, my wife and the kids are out, perfect workshop time. I even ventured out there and glared at the beast before returning to my den to knock out this blog entry. Anyone else ever been in this situation? How do you push past and get the beast finished?

-- Jim in Langley BC Canada ---

8 comments so far

View Gary's profile


9402 posts in 3947 days

#1 posted 09-16-2012 10:40 PM

I’ve done that more times than I can count. You’d think I’d learn. What finally gets me off my duff and working is coming to the reailization that it’s my character that’s at stake. I’ve made a promise, I have to fulfill it.

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

View RCT's profile


89 posts in 4265 days

#2 posted 09-16-2012 11:04 PM

For me it’s never have only one project. That way when your normal project gets frustrating you can work on the beast. Or while waiting on glue to dry its there but if you only put one minute into it that’s a minute you wont still have to do on that dam thing.

-- "Ya but what does he know anyhow?"

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3805 days

#3 posted 09-16-2012 11:09 PM

I came to the same conclusion, and I’m not a “prolific” woodworker by any stretch of the imagination. I just finished a cabinet for my parents’ bathroom, and after I got it hung, I stated flatly, “no more commissions”. More recently, though, I inherited an old desk that belonged to my mom before my parents were married. It’s seen better days, and she told my brother he was free to do with it as he liked, so I took it and lopped it in two to make a router table out of the cabinet half. My mom seemed a little shocked when I told her what I’d done to it, even though she had earlier said it had no more sentimental value, so once it’s running, I’m going to use it to build her a blanket chest like she wants. THEN no more commissions.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View greg48's profile


616 posts in 3271 days

#4 posted 09-16-2012 11:36 PM

Jim, You said yes, so get it done and move on. Next time, consider the words of our ex-first lady Nancy Reagan when she said ”....just say NO”. Practice it a few times in front of the mirror with your “I really mean it” face.

-- Greg, No. Cal. - "Gaudete in Domino Semper"

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 2704 days

#5 posted 09-17-2012 01:45 AM

i’ve done that several times.i found a bookcase plan i liked and decided to build it for mysports collectibles i HATED building it.soon as i got done my better half wanted one.i started and stopped 2-3 times then one weekend i said i got to get it i have 3 people wanting one.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View douginaz's profile


220 posts in 4516 days

#6 posted 09-17-2012 12:07 PM

Hi Jim, I feel your pain. I don’t often “volunteer” anymore. If I am approached about doing a project for someone I tell them I will put as much time into it as they will. To me, the most frustrating issue with non woodworkers is they do not have a real feel for what it takes to even accomplish the most elementary projects. I turn all non/low skill work over to the person wanting the piece. All the sanding shop clean up etc. I have found a few things happen with this approach. #1-I don’t feel guilty putting the project on hold until the comissioner comes back to the shop. #2. I enjoy the work much more because I get to share a little knowlege. #3. The expectation of the project is kept in check when the work is shared with the person wanting it. #4. The drudgery of sanding is shared and only half as bad as it could be. #5. No foolish expectations of form or fit are expected when the expector is involved in the details. #6. You instantly recover money spent on sand paper because that stuff is on the expector.
The list goes on…... The last project I did with a neighbor turned out great, he was much more apprceiative of what it takes to get something done.

Doug in AZ.

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

View Tom Godfrey's profile

Tom Godfrey

488 posts in 2689 days

#7 posted 09-17-2012 12:39 PM

I too have been thinking a lot lately about the same subject. I have been doing wood work for almost all my life but mostly for repairs or things that need to be fixed. Have built a lot of things but there again for me.
I got this great idea since I am retired and have plenty of time why not start a custom wood working shop. Make a little extra money. That isn’t working manly because I am not sure I want to deal with someone other than myself when it comes to wood working.
My plans now are just work on what makes me happy. If someone happens to want to buy it then that’s fine, if not that’s fine also.
After getting a wood lathe a few months ago I am as happy as a dog in a pile of bones every minute I spend turning wood. That makes me happy and plan on making things I want to make list them on etsy, which is a site where you can sell your work. No fee for listing so that’s good. Think they get 2% or something like that if it sells.
Long story short. Going to change the wording of my shop and web site to just simple wood working.
I like you, don’t want to turn my hobby into a job. Once you lose the pleasure of what you are doing then its a job. My two cents worth

-- Tom Godfrey Landrum South Carolina ([email protected])

View jacob34's profile


465 posts in 2778 days

#8 posted 09-17-2012 06:05 PM

Jim as a beginning woodworker who is married I completely feel your pain. My wife comes up with projects she wants that well aren’t exciting in my opinion. I find that the best way to keep my interest is to put some design element into my project that is new to me or that I want to do differently. I also like someone else mentioned have more than one project going at a time. I also design everything I make so that each project is mine from start to finish. I am better at the design than the execution at this point so this keeps my interest better. I will admit though that my mind builds projects in my head over and over until they are finished looking for the little things I can do better so that drives it too.

You could also do projects that take a new tool that you would haft to use on that project. Good luck man.

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

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