Great Expectations - an alternative to Charles Dickens' Novel #1: Today's theme - Patience

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Blog entry by stefang posted 03-10-2010 06:57 PM 9929 reads 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Great Expectations - an alternative to Charles Dickens' Novel series Part 2: Todays Theme - MachineTools »

I really enjoy woodworking now much more than I did in the past. I started thinking about why this was and came to a few conclusions that I’d like to share with my fellow LJ’ers. It might be just boring or it might strike a chord. I will try to find a suitable theme for each blog in this series. If there isn’t much response I will just close it down. I thought it would be interesting to hear your take on each days theme, so I hope you will join in with your thoughts.

”Patience is a virtue?
I’ve read so many times that, this or that project must have taken a lot of patience. I interpret this to mean that the person commenting wouldn’t be willing to take the time themselves to tackle this kind of work, that they were more interested in the result than the process or perhaps just impressed with the person being able to focus so well on his/her project.

From round to rectangular
I used to think exactly that way. I started with woodturning because I could get a quick result and instant satisfaction. After branching out into general woodworking I found that a lot more planning and a lot of new skills were needed to turn out even relatively simple projects.

Turning big projects into little projects
As time passed and I became more proficient I began to appreciate the fact that projects were usually composed of a multitude of smaller projects requiring different skills, and that I had to do a good job on each “little” project in order to have a successful result with the main project. After quite some time I finally learned to take these “little” projects as individual challenges.

The devil is in the details, but so is the joy
When I finished each stage successfully I found a lot of satisfaction with each well done “little” project. I soon started looking forward not just to the final result, but also all the interim results. I no longer felt frustrated that the work was going too slow and the quality of my work improved simply because I was paying greater attention to details and showing much more “patience” while doing so. I also got a lot more fun out of each project with my many small “triumfs”

So what is the point?
We don’t need to cultivate patience. We need to show more interest in all those “little projects” associated with our main projects. Patience will follow automatically and we will become better woodworkers, more satisfied people and get a lot more enjoyment out of our woodworking.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

16 comments so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3588 days

#1 posted 03-10-2010 07:29 PM

Great theme Mike and I think these bits of wisdom will be anything but boring.

You broke this down quite well. In the beginning, I would perform “one day” projects. Something quick and dirty to complete a specific task. In the end, of course, the results were less than satisfactory. So I moved to those step by step projects so that I could identify a good spot to stop and consider gradual progress. Lately, though, I have been thinking that this doesn’t work for me either. The reason being is that steps as outlined by most project plans do look at the project as a whole instead of your view of multiple small projects making one larger one.

Take cut lists for example. Some plans identify all the boards that are required to be cut for a project as one large step. I used to cut all the boards at the start, but then would discover that everything didn’t fit as neatly as detailed in the plans. But, I have discovered over time that if I only make the cuts for the pieces of the project I am working on today, then I can concentrate on only the pieces I am working with, set my cuts, and everything comes together more nicely.

I believe this matches somewhat to your insight. In the beginning, I believe woodworkers look at that large project, but the experienced woodworker reads and understands the project as a whole but concentrates and exerts their energy to a solid task that can be started and completed in that session and produce the nicer part of the whole.

Or in football talk – Spring training – Think about the Superbowl, Before the game – Think about the Superbowl, at the huddle – Think about the play.

Thank you for starting this series and I will look forward to the wisdom shared in the future,


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

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3615 days

#2 posted 03-10-2010 08:31 PM

I think you’ve struck a chord.

I’m heading down the same path you are on, Mike. I’m also finding woodworking more enjoyable than before, and apparently for many of the same reasons. I also find that even simple projects can have quite a few parts, and I focus more on getting satisfaction out of each part of the project as I work it – even when that “part” involves transforming (cleaning or reorganizing) “garage” space into “shop” space. Now my projects have a lot of “parts” that involve acquiring new capabilities – buying a tool, building a jig, or learning a skill – even when I select the project to keep this to a minimum!

-- Greg D.

View Alan Young's profile

Alan Young

149 posts in 4200 days

#3 posted 03-10-2010 08:32 PM

Very good thought process-thanks for the post—BTW “Great Expectations” is a novel by Charles Dickens.

View patron's profile


13650 posts in 3820 days

#4 posted 03-10-2010 08:45 PM

thanks alan for that ,

i was worried i was going to have to read ,
all those romance novels to keep up with mike (LOL) !

thanks mike ,
as usual your insight if to the point ,
and very refreshing .

i can see why the wife has kept you around all these years ,

and sent you into the shop periodicaly !

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

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3813 days

#5 posted 03-10-2010 08:56 PM

Thanks Alan, but I had that “nagging” feeling and I already changed it. Now I’m glad I’m used to being embarrassed by my mistakes.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3813 days

#6 posted 03-10-2010 08:59 PM

Thanks David. I always wondered why she kept me around. I’m 100% sure it isn’t my woodworking ability!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View patron's profile


13650 posts in 3820 days

#7 posted 03-10-2010 09:16 PM

we all see things from by-gone eras ,
and marvel at the skill and patience required to do these things .

i suspect many things that survived weren’t made by master craftsmen always ,

some were just as here were made by aspiring woodworkers ,
and cared for by the family and passed on through the years .

your work will be among these things too .
cared for by your great, great grandchildren ,
not everything made needs to be a Stradivarius , or a Chippendale , or a Michaelangelo ,
to be cherished or cared for .

’ grandpaws tool box ’ or ’ bread basket ’ ,
can hold more love than a footstool that Jefferson made !

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

View NewPickeringWdWrkr's profile


338 posts in 3492 days

#8 posted 03-10-2010 09:21 PM

Very interesting Mike. Indeed struck a chord. When I mentioned to someone that I was taking up woodworking, they said “Now there’s something that will teach you patience”. I found that if it’s a labour of love, patience has nothing to do with it. I find myself at peace and enthralled to transform a rough board into something of substance that others may – or may not (afterall, still working on my first project) – say is beautiful or interesting. Either way, the wood has a story to tell and I listen to it every time I pick up a board and a sander, a hand plane or a chisel.

Keep it up!

-- Mike - Antero's Urban Wood Designs

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18657 posts in 4155 days

#9 posted 03-10-2010 11:17 PM

I think you pretty well summed things up Mike. Having been in the trade working with my hands since I was 19, I don’t really remember going through that process any more, just seems natural. Maybe one of these days I can get from rectangular to round when I get the lathe set up ;-)) There is progress on the warehouse!!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3813 days

#10 posted 03-10-2010 11:52 PM

I’m glad to hear you are getting closer to using that new lathe Bob. Once you get started it will be hard to quit! From what I gather of some of your previous posts, you have a good supply of green wood available. That is the best wood for turning. The wood rolls off in nice long strips that look like ribbons. Sort of like peeling an apple at the speed of light. It also means your tools will stay sharp longer and you won’t have to contend with saw dust. You might get spattered with water occasionally though!

The first green wood I turned was from a Sycamore tree cut down by a neighbor. I naively cut it up into about 7” sections with my little electric chain saw and put it in the garage storeroom. A day or two later they had all split to pieces! What a disappointment,but a valuable lesson. I find it strange that something so inanimate as a cut up tree can deal out such punishment.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18657 posts in 4155 days

#11 posted 03-11-2010 02:56 AM

I wondered why they didn’t just use round sections for bowls, but since joining LJ, it has become obvious ;-)) Probably saved me the same trouble!!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4267 posts in 3644 days

#12 posted 03-11-2010 03:15 AM


Mike…..did you write this because of me, or for me?..........(-:

......just being silly….........(-:

Mike, you stated this theme so succinctly, and so refined, I suspect you have lived it for a long time.

My sled must be an object lesson for this theme.

Earlier today, writing a PM to Neil (nbeener) about an ongoing topic of ours…I noted…..

’........I take a very long term view on projects and the hobby, perhaps learned as a part of the elongated training necessitated by my profession.’

I am very much into enjoying the process. Learned that in my last hobby, now essentially abandoned, but I enjoyed my time there.

My sled, currently in use, is still not finished, because I have to use it to do other little projects, which in turn are used in the sled construction. But every step is a mini-project…....starting with the design. This project, I looked back on my blog….......yikes…....started 95 days ago with my first design blog. The only thing that survived the the give and take was the miter rails.

In this case, even the design was a process of learning and give and take on LJ’s. And it was a mini project.

Once the fences and rails were installed, it was a functioning jig, even though only about 2/3 done.

Actually, this is a programming concept. As soon as possible, make a working program to test, so that each addition can be demonstated as feasible and functional, meeting the requirements of the project.

I guess I learned this in my professional education, and yet another hobby, programming. Of course jigs are different than furniture.

My blog about the travel stop, the most recent sled entry, illustrates my solution to a problem I envisioned in the design phase. I thought of a trailing hook, a solution fraught with problems.

But my solution was different than I expected, because the reality of the sled, working on the table saw, suggested other possibilities and a better solution.

So, I am having fun with every step, enjoying the little triumphs, the process, and now have a functioning sled, but it is far from complete.

You have stated in a most elegant and concise way, an orientation to woodworking, which is perhaps a touchstone to enjoyment of the hobby.

Thanks Mike, well done.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3813 days

#13 posted 03-11-2010 01:17 PM

Thanks much for those kind words Jim and everyone else too. It’s good to know that I’m not alone!

Bob Green wood end-grain turnings have one big one big advantage. You can turn an end-grain piece finished in one go without any cracking. You do have to keep the walls and the bottom an even thickness though or differential drying stress will break it apart. This is not possible with side grain pieces. The normal process there is to rough turn it, also to an even thickness, say 1” and then let it slowly dry out for a 3 months or so. That is unless you have a kiln.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1588 posts in 4044 days

#14 posted 03-11-2010 02:19 PM

Interesting topic Mike, I remember when starting out wanting to hurry, go faster, do more, quicker and along with that came frustration, and disappointment. Now I to seem to “enjoy the process” and look for opportunities to use hand tools and even thoughts of making some of my own tools.

Thanks for this post, it is a good read.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3804 days

#15 posted 03-11-2010 02:43 PM

I used to get frustrated because to do a project I would have to build a jig. Now I realize jigs are their own projects.

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