This week in the shop: Project Paralysis

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Blog entry by Woodbutchery posted 11-17-2017 03:49 AM 863 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch

So I’m working on Christmas presents and making progress on that, and I’ve finished several small projects that keep the wife happy and make living just a tiny bit easier.

With all that productivity and project finishing, where does the paralysis come in?

Four years ago, almost to the day, I received several board feet of what I thought was mahogany but might actually be sapele. It was my first (and so far only) wood gloat . It didn’t take me long to figure out what I wanted to do with all that wood; make a mission style desk.

Until today, the furthest I’ve got was to glue up and mill the legs. Everything else was a very rough idea in my head, one picture I’d found in google images, and a half-hearted attempt to put it together in Sketchup.

why, with all that wood available, did I wait?

A large part of it had to do with project paralysis; that moment when you start to work on a project, get some things done, and realize that your next steps could really cause a problem with the whole project.

Four years ago, I had no idea how to accomplish putting together the desktop. I don’t have enough wood to do the whole desktop, but I’ve got more than enough plywood, with enough wood to go around the edges. But my knowledge base was small at the time, and it didn’t occur to me to use this group for the knowledge base that it actually is; a large number of woodworkers, many of whom have years of experience and are willing to share that experience. During this timeframe, I was also suffering from a slight aversion to the hobby because I’d come up against a set of projects that were at that stage where the next cut, if I make a mistake, causes serious issues because I don’t have the financial wherewithal to just go and get another piece of wood to replace the particular one I was cutting on. Looking at my blog list, there’s a 2 year gap from 2014 through 2016 where there wasn’t a post one. Project paralysis.

And I write this stuff for the folks who are starting in the hobby as I did, with anticipation that some of you may hit that same aversion; not wanting to go into your shop because there’s a project in it, waiting for you to fail. Kept me not really doing anything in woodworking for two years.

I got better.

My plan for the desktop is to use a breadboard style with the plywood as the center, two boards glued to the side pieces (simple tongue-and-groove using 3/8” notch on the edge of plywood and board), then cut the tongue on the end of the assembled pieces and mortise the end boards to go over the notches.

So yesterday I consulted the wife, who has a better eye at some things than I do, and she agreed with the choice of board that I had made for the desktop. I’ve spent some time lately on Sketchup doing more work on getting the final plans for what I’m going to do, and I’ve got the dimensions for the desktop pieces.

Today was just ripping the pieces to width. The board was JUST wide enough for the cuts I needed if everything was perfect, and it was already not going to be perfect because the edges were rough, so my first cut had to take that into account. I did a re-measure of the board, went over the dimensions of the pieces I needed, and set up for the cut. Put the board onto the table, and there was that moment that, once upon a time, would have just stopped me, where I asked myself, “what happens if I got it wrong?”. I just chuckled and thought to myself, at some point you have to open the door and take the first step.

Amazingly enough, the cuts came out just as they should have, and after finishing the rips I cleaned the rough edges with a second pass for each of the boards with the rough edge. I’m always tempted to do more, and under other circumstance I probably would, but I’m currently recovering from an argument with my sciatic nerve and don’t want to press the envelope too hard, so I stop earlier than I want to.

But that little pause right before the cut reminded me of the wall that it used to be, rather than the mental equivalent of “beware of ice” signs in Houston that it is now. And if you’ve hit that stage (many won’t, some will), just find some simple projects with cheap wood to put together jigs in your shop, or a drawer or box for someone, or simple gifts. Something easy, something that you can do once to learn, twice to improve, and more to practice. Sharpen chisels, Sharpen plane blades, heck, go buy some old saws and look online for how-tos on sharpening them. Build a mallet, or a bench hook, or a box to hold things. Use this site, and these wonderful people who are willing to share their knowledge if you’re having a problem, a question, or trying to find the best way to …. Usually looking in the search will take you to forums that often are on the very thing you might be having a problem with.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

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91 posts in 884 days

#1 posted 11-18-2017 03:46 AM

Though a noob woodworker, I can definitely relate to project paralysis, for me it’s usually a case of paralysis due to over/never-ending analysis . I can over-think anything – yes, even going to the grocery store. So, I definitely relate to this post.

Oh, and you mentioned fear of failure – yep, yep, yep. That’s definitely me – even with things I know I’m good at.

Congrats on moving forward and actually accomplishing something.

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