Woodworking Projects: From Big to Small

In last week’s eZine editorial, Rob mentioned that he’s seen the size of his woodworking projects decrease with his advancing years. He wondered if eZine readers had noticed a similar trend. (And we had at least one who sympathized with the “aircraft carrier” size of a project from Rob’s younger days.) – Editor


“I will tell you what I managed to do. About five months ago, my daughter bought a ferret. It was from the pet store and not very old. I did some research on custom ‘cages.’ I wanted more of a habitat of sorts. I figured this rat would be active and want something to do when my daughter is unavailable to play with her. I took to the iPad and looked up some pictures of what others had done. I saw a lot of people that took crappy knockdown faux cupboards and bookshelves, threw on some chicken wire, and life was good. So, not wanting to redneck something together, I thought ‘I can do it better.’ I took some measurements of the ferret. Side note: have you ever tried to measure a young ferret that cannot stay still? I still don’t know why I measured it, it’s just long and low. So I decided on 4 feet wide, 5 and ½-inch tall and 2 feet deep, and it will have three levels with each level having an obstacle course-like play area. So off I go for some plywood. Two: 4x8x3/4″ sheets and 1 sheet of 1/2″ for the back. I got the pieces home and broke down per my cutlist and dry assembled it on the floor. That is the first time I built anything this size and decided it would be good to dry assemble first. Once dry fitted I stood back and thought,  that seems big enough fora gaggle of ferrets. So I left it alone until my wife woke up for work (thridrd shift) to take a look at it and give her input. So I ended up splitting the whole thing in half and making it only one foot deep. I guess the good thing is I now have enough to build the carcass for a second cage. Maybe I will make it a vacation spot for her ferret.” –  Kevin Hanes


“I began woodworking and woodturning with small projects, because I did not want to ruin a large piece of wood. As a result, I learned the importance of accuracy and attention to detail.  Although I have completed larger projects, I still prefer to work on small items, where avoiding the smallest errors makes the difference between a good finished product and a great one.” – Jennifer Wilson

“I understand the moving of plywood around the shop.  There was a time when I would be able to have my wife stand at one end of the arm saw and balance the wood as I pushed it through. Now, at age 73, it isn’t as easy. I love building furniture, I have a great time doing it and giving it to the family. I have furnished the wood furniture for two daughters and a son.  A few years ago, the art of building a desk was easy. I didn’t have a problem lifting and moving around one of the pedestals from workbench to floor and back again.  Now, if there is something that size, I need to call my neighbor to help. I have taken up the hobby of turning small items like pens and bottle stoppers, but it is not the same.  I like the small objects as they are completed in an hour or less.  The problem is I now have about 40 pens and 20 bottle stoppers without a home.” – John Schelby

“My project sizes around my house tend to be small at this point. I built a pot rack for my daughter recently for her new apartment. I’m a new beginner to woodworking, so small is nice right now. I will eventually graduate up to bigger projects in the future with more skills and tools that I acquire.” – David Drier

“Years ago, I got my first lathe, driving it with an old refrigerator motor. I immediately became addicted to turning.  I have moved up a few lathe generations now.  As an almost exclusive turner I don’t need much ¾-inch plywood.  Why not do more turning?  Even relatively large bowl blanks can be handled easier than a sheet of plywood.  Besides, every now and then you get a chance to harvest some wood when trees are being cut nearby.  That gives you a chance to use your chainsaw.  All that power, what fun!” – James Yarbrough

“My projects are definitely getting smaller. When I was younger, I renovated and restored old wood yachts and sailboats, some as large as 60 feet. Afterwards I built a lot of furniture – much easier on the back. Building furniture is now strictly reserved for my home. When I started doing shows, my focus was creating much smaller projects, primarily wood sculpted boxes. My philosophy now is creating work I can easily pick up and carry. With 30 to 40 boxes, some moving quilts for protecting them, and a bunch of Rubbermaid containers, I am off to have fun at the art shows.” –  Greg Little

“As I grow older (I’m a child of the Great Depression), I tend to think small, but seem to fall into snares that require larger dimensions. Because of that, I resort to using wheels and whatever else will help me hoist the big stuff. When all else fails, I call for help. That said, I do prefer the small projects whenever possible.” – Don Butler

“I started with a full wall cabinet and Murphy bed, one big project. I switched to building floor clocks as they were much easier to handle. With my age increasing and my strength decreasing, I switched to mantle clocks. With the development of Myasthenia Gravis, my strength decreased greatly, and now I have switched to bird carving. I guess the only place to go from here is making toothpicks, but I am not giving up woodworking.” – Mark Woodcock

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