A few words on project stacking

Every single woodworker worthy of the title is guilty of this: stacking projects. What I mean by this is the natural tendency to start multiple projects without finishing the one you’re already working on. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but I think it’s probably the result of poor impulse control. Here’s how it works with me:

I may spend a day working on a project like my Spice Box. Things are coming along wonderfully. I glue up some panels and have to stop as I can’t go further until the glue dries. The day is only half gone, so I may make a couple spoons, or fiddle with my lathe. Plus I need to add new posts to the blog. That’s what normally happens – I get some productive work done when I can’t otherwise continue on a project.

When things go terribly wrong (the usual way), it works like this:

I have a Spice Box about 1/3 done, its parts sitting on my bench and side table – I’ve been dragging my feet on it a little bit because I’m a little scared of the next part of the job – hand fitting all the internal panels. I really do not want to screw up a bunch of stock so I’ve been putting the job off. I’ve got a few spoons and a number of blanks in various states of completion. I’ve got a Seller’s workbench about 1/3 done – the top has been laminated and is sitting on my garage floor where my wife used to be able to park her car. The lumber for the base is sitting there with it.

I’ve got an oak box about 2/3 completed – waiting on time to glue up a lid for it. There’s a stack of about 20 4′ bar clamps leaning against my shelves because I can’t get to where I normally put them because there’s a huge bench top and lumber pile in the way. Then there’s the knee pads. Don’t forget the huge stump I had a friend drop off so I can make a nice chopping block for my axe work! Then there’s the scraps, the shavings, the other detritus that litters every horizontal surface. It’s never ending.

It drives me nuts. It seems like I can never get my projects finished. I know for a fact my predicament is not unique. Too many other guys and gals I know have a similar backlog in their shop. The question I have though, is this the way it has to be? I know somewhere out there is a neurotic woodworker who refuses to leave his workshop with shaving on the bench, and only works on one thing until it is entirely completed – just like a New Yankee Workshop episode! But I live in reality. That said, there has to be a better way.

I think I may have to try a scheduling system – just like I’ve used at work – to lay out when exactly I will work on a given project. That may help – but it won’t end the problem. It’s not like I work in my workshop 40 hours a week. I cannot guarantee timely production on anything – too many things can disrupt my shop days. I’ve got to try, though. I can’t take much more of the project overload.

Thanks for reading my rant. If you have any good ideas on how to structure project scheduling for the hobbyist I’d love to hear them!

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By Charlotte M

Being able to laugh at the end of an “unsuccessful’” day and being okay with not managing to “do it all”. It rocks!

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