Woodworking Projects: Who’s a “Starter” and Who’s a “Finisher”

In last issue’s eZine editorial, Rob queried our readers about which of the “two kinds” of woodworker you are: a “starter,” who gets most excited about starting on a new project, or a “finisher,” whose thrills come from a completed project.

We’ll start, as seems logical, with the “starters.” – Editor

“I am more of a ‘Start’ kind of guy. Sanding and finishing are low on my excitement meter.” – Mark Aldrich

“I tend to get into a project only to stall out. I think it’s partially a confidence issue, and I can get distracted by other things, too.” – Jim Smith

“I’m definitely a starter. I get all hyped up about a project and get material and get started only to get distracted by another project I get interested in. I guess I read too many magazine articles and look online for projects that interest me. I just finished a small mantel clock I cut out 6 months ago. I was cleaning up a workbench and found the parts. When I got it finally all together, I couldn’t find the clock insert. I finally realized I had put it in another clock that I started but did manage to complete! Thanks for the eZine. It is always a good read.” – Kerry Girolamo

Six months for a project might be nothing to this next “starter” … – Editor

“As I was reading your question, the Arts and Crafts dresser I built for my daughter came to mind. I bought the wood, started in on it with fervor, then it languished in my garage/shop for two years! My dad would ask me about it from time to time and see it covered with dust. Heck I even bought a JessEm sliding table at one point, but told myself that I wouldn’t put it on my saw until I finished the dresser. Well, after sitting for over two years, while my daughter was at summer camp, I finally finished the project. My wife and I carried it into her room so when she got home from camp, she would have a new dresser waiting for her.

“My dad told my daughter at one point before he passed away that she would be getting that dresser as a wedding gift. I’m pleased to announce I finished it long before that! (Sorry dad, had to prove you wrong… wait, that was a setup wasn’t it?) So, I guess put me down as a starter. I will say that I have gotten better about certain jobs (although the missing baseboards in my house from when I put in the wood floors won’t back that up!), but I still love the idea of projects, it’s sometimes finding the time to finish them that I have issues with.” – Wayne Brisette

“Well, Rob, I fall into the class that has projects all over the shop and then have a hard time finishing them. Must be a family trait or left over from my working days. Like to start , but have trouble finishing. You know the thrill of something new.” – Wallawalla Bob

“I’m a starter. I get an idea and then get started and eventually it gets done; usually after several more projects get started and a few finished. Right now, I have a trestle dining table in the works that I drew up from a picture in a woodworking showcase book. I work on it in fits and starts around my other current project which is building shop furniture at the moment. On deck are some projects for gifts and perhaps to sell for more $ for the shop, a side table, and I’m really intrigued by a wooden band saw I recently read about.” – Jeff Jaekley

For some, the idea of starting a new project is appealing not only for the project itself, but for the “start” of a new tool acquisition. – Editor

“I get most excited about any new project that requires that I buy a new tool. I spend more time studying the tools and tool options for the project than I actually spend designing or studying the project. Trouble is, I am out of room in my shop for new goodies.

“I currently have a full kitchen cabinet project in the works (3 years running) as well as a bathroom vanity top redo (different house) and mailbox post. My biggest hurdle is time at the house with the shop; due to mother-in-law passing 2+ years ago, we are spending all of our time at my wife’s house to be near her father — 93 miles from my house. When I get time, my next ‘fun’ project (not remodel driven) will be to build my wife a nice curio cabinet to display all of her Mickey Mouse collectibles. I have to figure out a building method for that project that will require some kind of new tool. :)” – Rick Martin

“I’m using my garage as my shop for now, and room is limited. Projects are mostly completed before going on to the next, but that will change when I have more room again. My excitement is probably the planning and starting phase as I really get into drawings, plans, figuring and making sure I’m prepared to start. The in-between time I relax and enjoy the fun of putting it all together. The feeling I get at the end is not so much excitement as it is satisfaction. There is a little ‘letdown’ when it’s all finished, but that passes quickly as planning for the next project begins.” -Dave Morgan

As for the “finishers,” some find motivation in a project done well. – Editor

“I am one that looks forward to the finished product. Even after 30 years of woodworking, I still find it hard to be patient and pay attention to the details it takes to do fine woodworking. I just want to get it done so it can be enjoyed by me or others. Woodworkers are a proud lot, and we should be for the effort and skill it takes to make our projects and have them turn out perfectly.” – Mike Stine

“When I start a project I tend to see it through to the end without beginning a new one, although when dealing with drying time for glue-ups, I may put thought into my next project and cut the pieces I would need to get started when I finish the project I am currently working on.” – Marianne Dawson

“I might procrastinate a little at the beginning of a new project, until I know just how I want to do it. Once started, I like to finish as soon as possible, but I really don’t like to do the finish work. I guess I think my flaws show up too much and I don’t like to see them.” – Thomas Jones

“I get excited at the start and end. The end gets me excited because I know I will be starting on another project soon.” – Bob Mayfield

Others find motivation in other aspects of project completion … – Editor

“I just jump in and get her done so I can relax and have a beer (or ten).” – W. Perreira

And then there were woodworkers who just couldn’t make up their minds … – Editor

“I am the type that falls in both categories, slow to get started and steadfast through the finish. Thanks for a great mag.” – Jack De Laney

“I probably fall into the both category. If the project manages to make it out of my tiny little brain, it has been worked to death already, and then it has to be really interesting or challenging to make it to the finish line. The harpsichord I built around 1980 still has a couple of things that should probably get done someday …” – Riley G.

“The answer to your question for me is I’m both. When I have a small, single-purpose project I’ll run down to the shop and knock it out in a couple nights. Bigger projects, especially dealing with the house itself, I’m long on getting started, like: I should make those new cabinets for the kitchen. Well, If I’m going to do that, I should move the sink so I can get a dishwasher in. Well, if I’m going to do that, I’ll have to wire in a circuit for it, actually I need a couple circuits, maybe I should just gut the whole thing, then there’s the back room, that would make a nice extension to the kitchen …” – Bill Koski

For several of these woodworkers, it’s the journey itself that’s most important and fulfilling. – Editor

“What about the third type like me? Excited to start and excited to finish, but it is the doing in the middle that is the most important. That time when you are in your own world not worrying about anything, where time almost stands still. The satisfaction in doing may be more than the satisfaction from the end result. By the way, I consider myself a woodturner rather than a woodworker.” – Mike Peace

“I am definitely a person who loves the start of a project and enjoys every moment of the journey. I design and create carved and sculpted boxes and never go buy any printed plans: just the design I envision in my head. When the piece take shape, with each progressive step I smile because it is evolving before my eyes and is not a pre-planned step-by-step process. This is what keeps me excited about what I do with woodworking. Sure, it’s nice to sit back and feel the satisfaction of completing a project…but is also good knowing that my next project is just about to get started.” – Greg Little

“I am a woodturner and I like to do different things. What I most like is to decide what I feel like working on when I get into my shop. I like to have a bowl blank handy, or hardware for a spindle turning project (example: ice cream scoop, or a pen) available, and then decide. Once I decide, I like to finish it. But I then have to keep reminding myself to work slowly and carefully.” – James Yarbrough

“I enjoy the planning stages of the project. I will actually even draw a simple rectangular box on the CAD program before building it to make sure the joints are all the right size. I have detailed plans for everything I do. I guess that partially comes from being an old shop teacher, and I had to have the kids detailed plans for whatever I wanted them to do. I enjoy the finished project, too. I really enjoy a nice-looking piece with a smooth finish on it. I walk by a clock and slide my hand over the top of it and just admire the finished project, but I also see a drawing from a previous project in the shop and remember the fun I had building it, too. I guess to sum it all up, I just enjoy my woodworking.” – Charles Buster

And this woodworker had a request that most likely resonates with both “Starters” and “Finishers.” – Editor

“Sadly, I have two or three (low estimate) projects unfinished. On the other hand, I have several projects finished that were small but very important. Instead of embarrassing what may be a pretty wide selection of woodworkers, could you please concentrate on how to squeeze more hours into a 24-hour day?” – Richard Coski

Dutch Elm Disease for a Drinking Vessel?

Richard also had something else to say: in response to the question “How to Treat Rot in a Wooden Drinking Vessel” in last issue’s eZine,  he shared this cautionary tale. – Editor

“Tongue-in-cheek, I wish to caution fellow woodworkers with a story I heard tell many years ago. It involved a three-pack-a-day smoker who was advised by his family doctor to quit the habit for obvious health reasons. Pretty tall order for a guy who habitually had a cigarette hanging on his lip all day long. To compensate for cigarettes, he tried chewing gum, candy, etc., but they eventually cost as much as his cigarette habit and were causing weight gain. So he switched to chewing on a toothpick, and that seemed to handle his stress pretty well. His doctor even commended him for the cigarette substitution. Things went fine. No cigarettes. No stress. All he had now was a habit of chewing toothpicks. But a few years later he died of ― what else? ― Dutch Elm Disease!” – Richard Coski

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