Ponderings #29: Taking setbacks in stride.

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Blog entry by Tomcat1066 posted 09-05-2011 03:13 PM 1737 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 28: An Open Letter About Safety Part 29 of Ponderings series Part 30: The path to enlightenment »

Almost three years. That’s a long time to walk away from something that had consumed so much of my time, money, and desires. However, that’s what frustration will do to a man if you’re not careful.

Since there are a lot of people who joined after my disappearance from this site, let me recap. I was trying to build a book case for my mother. I saw how it would go together and had the tools. The dad-blamed router was kicking my butt. Power tools are supposed to be easier, right? I stepped away for a day or so, then my “shop”, which was nothing more than a pop-up gazebo thing, blew over and was wrecked. We got gusts that day of up to 65 mph and I hadn’t bothered to anchor the thing down. Lesson learned.

As time droned on, my frustrations took hold and became “I suck at woodworking”. I have no idea why, because in my projects are a couple of pretty cool projects. They’re beginners projects but you know what? I’m still basically a beginner. I can’t build a highboy because I have no clue how to build a bleeding highboy. But I can make a coat rack that looks pretty good and no one can tell is store bought. I made a saw vice that worked. That’s got to count for something, right?

A couple of months ago, my wife said something about woodworking. I repeated that I sucked at it. She just glanced at that coat rack and said something to the effect of “that doesn’t look like sucking”. I prattled on like a whiny schoolgirl about how that was a simple thing, anyone could do it. She just said nothing, but the idea festered; the idea that maybe I didn’t suck and really could do this woodworking thing.

Then, a little over a week ago, I got the word. What word was that? Oh, just the one that I’m going to be a father for the second time. My first thoughts – I mean after the “OK, wake up, manly men don’t faint” that is – was that the baby was going to need furniture. That stuff is expensive after all. So why not build it….oh wait, that means I would have to build it. Time to get back into the shop…metaphorically anyways.

So now, I’m back. Lumberjocks was always a fantastic resource. Folks here are notoriously supportive of one another. Even the controversies here are small fry compared to what I run into in other aspects of my life (I run a political blog for one…talk about nasty :D ). This was the one place I knew I could return and find familiar faces and new friends as well.

Now, I need to get back to work. I have tools that have gotten rusty and I need to repair. At least I always enjoyed that part :)

The thing I think folks should keep in mind, that I most certainly didn’t, was to take setbacks in stride even when they seem to lump one on top of another. Looking back, it’s kind of pathetic that I let that get to me, but I remember at the time that things were horrendously bad and I just couldn’t continue for the time being. Setbacks happen, both in woodworking and in life. It’s how we deal with them that defines our character.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

18 comments so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 4566 days

#1 posted 09-05-2011 04:04 PM

I can relate to your feelings, I often have felt that I have two left feet and unfortunately transplanted to where my hands should be…

I can tell you from experience that I left more than a few projects unfinished because I couldn’t bear to deal with the lack of progress. I have since learned that not finishing the project leaves that confidence roadblock that prevents further ones from being developed. Good to walk away when frustrated, not good to leave it so long :) Glad you are back to it, good luck on the furniture.


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

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4798 days

#2 posted 09-05-2011 04:18 PM

happy days are here again !

congrads on the ‘new addition’
to the family

and welcome back to the woodworking

we are all beginners every time
we walk into the shop

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View woody57's profile


650 posts in 4884 days

#3 posted 09-05-2011 04:28 PM

congratulations and welcome back

-- Emmett, from Georgia

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 4111 days

#4 posted 09-05-2011 04:35 PM

We missed you. You can get good at woodworking. Build simple to start, and upgrade a bit each time, you will get better and better.

Thanks for coming back.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View rrdesigns's profile


541 posts in 4643 days

#5 posted 09-05-2011 04:46 PM

Looks like it’s time to do a search for cradle ideas. Best of luck with your new addition and welcome back to LJ’s.

-- Beth, Oklahoma, Rambling Road Designs

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4765 days

#6 posted 09-05-2011 04:51 PM

Congratulations on the futur new fmily addition. Your son or daughter will be a great wwoodworker and will therefore need your help to learn stuff. How is that for a reason to start practicing?

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 5542 days

#7 posted 09-05-2011 04:51 PM

Very good advice! Thanks for your story, and I’m glad to hear you’re back at it.


View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 5534 days

#8 posted 09-05-2011 06:31 PM

So what kind of wood are you going to use?

I used spruce for a table and chairs that I built for a friends kids. However I had to use a planer to get it into useable form. So I’m guessing pine or poplar. I would recommend poplar as it is generally less aromatic and it takes paint well.

-- BLOG -

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4572 days

#9 posted 09-05-2011 07:16 PM

congrat´s with the future event :-)
and welcome again we need all the help we can get to move the next several hundred roadblocks
so start working :-)
but remember to go easy and hurry sloooowly


View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 5130 days

#10 posted 09-05-2011 08:18 PM

Congrats, and life can be full of problems.

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 5253 days

#11 posted 09-05-2011 09:10 PM

Thanks folks. I’m tickled to death with the new addition. It wasn’t planned, but I suspect the big man upstairs knew what we needed. That’s how our first one came along. He wasn’t planned either, but he was what we needed.

Zuki: I’m looking at just that, pine or poplar. I have yet to find a source for lumber besides either of the large home centers, so that’s what I’m going to be using. I’m leaning heavily towards poplar because, like you said, it takes paint well. I’ve come to grips with painted furniture. It definitely has its place.

Beth: Yeah, I’ve been looking at some, and will continue to look. We’ll see how far I can get :D

It’s great to be back folks. The people are what always made Lumberjocks so special, and I see that hasn’t changed one bit! :D

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4615 days

#12 posted 09-05-2011 09:19 PM

Good to meet you!

I think too often we become too fixated on the end result and aren’t willing to do all the leg work to become really good at something. I think this is the reason why everybody seems to suck at (or hate) finishing. There’s so much science and art and methodology and practice and failure and success that is required before you gain some confidence in it. At that point you begin to truly enjoy that aspect of it. Not only finishing, but tool sharpening, or perfecting a joinery technique, or tool setup, or whatever.

I’ve been working on my kitchen for well over two years now, but I took it as an opportunity to really learn certain things along the way. While it’s frustrating that progress is slow, I do manage to mix in enough variety so that the tedium of things isn’t paralyzingly.

I think it’s too easy to suffer paralysis by analysis in this hobby. You encounter a road block and then impatiently seek quick solutions because you feel like you have to maintain a certain pace. Truth is, certain things take longer than others…and certain things require more money than others. In other words, it’s quite normal to make lots of firewood.

Hang in there. I think we are always better after learning a lesson or two.

-- jay,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4615 days

#13 posted 09-05-2011 09:20 PM

Oh, and congrats on the newest baby!

-- jay,

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 5253 days

#14 posted 09-05-2011 09:37 PM

Thanks Jay, and you’re right. A lot of the time it was the leg work, for a lot of folks anyways. For me, I knew the theory on building all kinds of stuff, but not the muscle memory of actually doing it. That’s the next step :D

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View clieb91's profile


4267 posts in 5392 days

#15 posted 09-05-2011 11:19 PM

Tomcat, Congrats on the coming addition!!! Good to see you pondering here again, look forward to seeing what you come up with for the furniture.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

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