AW #014 – Finding Wood-Life Balance – In and Out of the Shop


In Episode 14 of the Avid Woodworker Podcast, I wanted to discuss woodworking balance.  I don’t know about you, but my order of priority in life is faith, family, work, woodworking, health, and podcasting.  There are sometimes that I wish I could either move woodworking above my work in priority or actually make woodworking my work.  But without the work part, I don’t have the money for woodworking.

There are times where I have put woodworking above everything, only to hear about it later from the family.  You heard in an earlier blog that I have been putting woodworking above my health, which contributed to me getting to sick last year.  I am working on that, but for now, woodworking has still been ahead of my health.  I need to find a better balance here.  Or, perhaps combine woodworking and health by using only hand tools.  

To set the stage for this topic and what was the inspiration for this subject, I have to give some background.   For the past two months I have not been able to get to the woodworking like I wanted to for the following reasons.

1)     The cub scouts’  ‘crossover’ bridge has been in my shop for past two months.  So, while I have been working with wood, it has not been doing what I want to do.  In case you do not know what a crossover bridge is, it is the ceremonial bridge that the cub scouts cross over to become boy scouts.  We had been repairing it and refreshing it as part of the Webelos II project they had to do to cross over to boy scouts.  Part of the refreshing the bridge involved paint, so I had to put away my other projects because I did not want scouts to get paint all over my ambrosia maple or my slabs of walnut.

2)     The cub scouts have also used by shop to work on their arrow of light and plaque that will hold their arrow of light.

3)     We had snow here in Georgia not once, but twice.  These two weeks of snow put us seriously behind at work.  At one point we were so far behind in revenue, I was going to have to lay off half the law firm.  I even had to skip a paycheck.  Fortunately that is behind us and things are ok now and we made up for the lost weeks of work.  Needless to say, for past 2 weeks we have been killing it at work, leaving no free time for woodworking.

4)     I have been spending some serious time into trying to set things up at the office so I don’t have to work like a madman anymore, which would give me more time for family and woodworking.

So, now you know, I have not been able to woodwork.  I have been itching to make something, build something, and create a useful work of art!  So, last weekend, my shop was still a mess with items from crossover bridge.  My podcasting set up was a mess.  Months prior, I had thrown it together with scrap MDF to hold the mixer, computer, monitor, microphones Limiter gate, etc.  It worked ok, but it was not finished and wires were laying everywhere.

On Saturday, I decided to strip down my podcast station with the idea of fixing it, hiding wires, build the electronics into the table itself, and finishing the station.  I only had a few hours to work on it on Saturday, and had plans to finish it on Sunday.

Sunday came around, and my oldest son said, “I want to do something with you outside and turn off the TV and Video games.”  Wow!  How often does that happen?  But, I reeeaaaaalllllyyyyy wanted to finish my podcasting set up.   So I said, “You must be bored of your video games.  Let me buy you a new one so you can play all day and I can keep working in the shop on my podcasting station. “

I am totally kidding.  I, of course, set my project to the side, and we went outside.   How often does a 11 year old choose to go outside with his old man rather than play video games.  You have got to jump on that, no matter where you are in your woodworking.

What was even more amazing than my son coming to me to do something with me, was the confirmation I later received that I had made the right decision.

All the rain, snow and ice the past 12 months have destroyed my back yard.  I convinced my son to work with me on cleaning up the back yard by telling him we can build a huge bond fire in the fire pit with all the branches and leaves we pick up.  Bingo.  Boys love building fires.  I actually experienced several other learning lessons that day, and I know that this is a woodworking, not a parenting podcast, so I won’t go into those here.  It turned out to be an awesome day and we made a huge dent in cleaning up the back yard.

Here is where it comes full circle back to the woodworking. We had gotten the fire going really good.  So good, we just decided to cook dinner right over the fire.  So while cooking, my son said, “Today was awesome!  We need to do this more often.  I just wish it weren’t so muddy out here.  Why don’t we make a wooden platform out here so we don’t have to worry about the mud when it rains. “  Wahoo!  Back to woodworking, but with the son now.   Now I can combine two of my priorities together, woodworking and family.

All set up because I set my woodworking aside for an afternoon to spend time with my sons in the back yard.  We turned what would normally be a chore into something fun and now I have a spring woodworking project.

The Episode Quick Tip – Don’t miss opportunities to practice your finishing techniques

Ok, so I am going to try and add something new to the podcast. For lack of a better term, I will just call it the Episode Quick Tip.  It follows the same balancing theme, but inside the shop . . . balancing woodworking projects with woodworking skills and shop projects.

Recently, I have been struggling between devoting my entire time to making one heck of a workshop and getting back to certain furniture projects that I started or promised to build.  But, I cannot devote my entire time to shop improvement because, frankly, that would not be fair to my Wife.  She has made it clear in a loving way (and I do not disagree with her), that if I am going to spend time in the shop away from the family, it should be to benefit the family with a useful work of art the family can use.  The reasoning is, after all, what partially drew me deeper into woodworking in the first place.

In the past when I worked on shop improvement projects, I rushed through them so I could get back to my furniture projects.  This past weekend, however, I realized how this can really be short changing me as a woodworker.  The following paragraphs explain what I am talking about.

As I indicated above, I decided last weekend to work on my podcasting station and improve it.  I was unfinished, had electronics stacked on top of each other, and wires were everywhere.  I originally started with idea that I would just re-organize the station and move some of the electronics to under the table, where I would also store most of the wires.  But then I decided that I could paint the MDF and seal it up.  It was already getting stains and marks on it.  I decided to use paint because I have way too many cans of paint my basement and I need to get rid of them by using up the paint.

So, after I had painted it, I decided that I wanted the top to feel silky smooth.  I grabbed an old can of poly and began to wipe it on top of the paint.  But, between the cold basement and the age of the polyurethane, the finish did not sit well and there were all kinds of brush strokes on the top.  It looked terrible.  I started to say, oh well, nobody will see it anyways (which is what I said the first time I put the station together).  It was then that it hit me.  This is an opportunity to practice . . . an opportunity to try new ways to finish a project without worrying about screwing up because nobody is going to see the station but the family.  Yea, I am going to spend more time on each individual shop project, but I can practice certain techniques and ideas so I do not try them for the first time a project that really matters.

In summary, use your shop projects as an opportunity to practice your finishing techniques.  For me, finishing is my biggest weakness.  It is obvious to me now why.  I never practice.  I practice woodworking techniques when I make my shop improvement projects, but I never finish them.  I am going to start now.

Until next time, I hope everyone can get into their shop and build useful works of art.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “AW #014 – Finding Wood-Life Balance – In and Out of the Shop

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