Bit By Bit | Popular Woodworking Magazine

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Do you want to see what I do every day in the store? I keep myself honest on Instagram. You can follow me @andrewzoellner and # 365daysofwoodworking.

If it were up to me, I would be able to divide myself in two parts.

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the April 2020 issue of Popular Woodworking

One would focus on my family, health and career, and the other would focus on making great furniture. Unfortunately it is impossible. So, I did the best thing to do: I publicly stated that this year I will be working wood every day, all those other things be damned (see number 251). And it really works (so far).

A lot of woodworking is learning new skills, trying things, failing, learning from failure, trying again and succeeding. Yes, reading and learning about woodworking is important. You can really learn a lot about how to approach projects and what to look for when starting out. But it doesn’t get real until it’s you, in your shop (or back porch or guest room or driveway) with a pile of wood, some tools, and an idea.

And that’s where I spend at least part of my time every day since the beginning of the year. The first few days were surprisingly the hardest. A flurry of gifts at the end of last year had left my shop in a mess. But simple cleaning and organization didn’t qualify as woodworking (at least in my mind). But making plans for the store, yes, and that’s where I started.

After a week, my shop was better organized, cleaner and I was able to try some ideas that I was thinking a lot about. After cleaning up a corner of the shop, I rewarded myself by twisting a leg or a spindle. After 10 consecutive days of in-store time, I started having revelations on how to move things around and make it a nicer place to spend more time. Most days, I didn’t even care about the January chill (improved slightly with some radiators).

With the shop in better shape, it was time to start doing things without excuses. Thankfully I have plenty of home-related projects that take some time to build in store – a built-in pantry with a set of drawers, frame and colorful panel sides to match an old oak buffet, some jobs too of precision finishing to make them new the windows look like part of the original construction.

I also rediscovered that many projects have downtime (waiting for the glue and finish to dry, milling and acclimating the lumber to the store, etc.). And there’s no reason you can’t have more projects running. In fact, forcing myself to be in the store every day has helped me downplay projects that once seemed overwhelming. Having time between phases to think about what happens next, or being able to simply walk away when things aren’t going as planned is an advantage. It’s all progress, working to become a better carpenter every day, little by little.

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