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Struggling With Motivation

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Nigel Burden

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That reminds me of a situation at work about forty odd years ago.

One of the young girls was doing some cleaning and making a bit of a meal of it. Someone suggested using elbow grease, to which the reply came, "Oh, do we have any ?" "No, but the local hardware shop Browns might. Take a quid out of the cash tin and go and buy some." Fortunately she came back laughing, exclaiming, "How could I be so stupid to fall for something like that."

Nigel.
 

D_W

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Right so I had to put my almost daily efforts in my garage (I'd love to say it's a workshop, but it's a corner of the garage) and got through quite a few projects and thoroughly enjoyed them. However I've had to start university work again, and the concept of doing everything at home has made me feel a bit lethargic as I sit thinking "I'm meant to be working on my assignments" whereas in fact I am ahead of where I need to be by a fair way.

I'm halfway through making a box, which has dovetails, which I dread with a passion. I have also made a massive pig's ear of virtually every piece of wood that's meant to make the damned thing so I know it'll look absolutely terrible at the end. Now part of me thinks "it doesn't matter, just finish it and it's good practice. You can always set fire to it." but at the same time I really want to start something else, except I don't know what. And I've not much timber lying around.

Anyway - I need some motivation!!!
I follow your thought pattern here - there are some cognitive traps, though:
1) studyer's guilt - I took exams as part of a profession here for the better part of a decade after college and had the same thing ("if I don't stay alert about study stuff, is this forbidden shop time going to be what causes me to fail?"). The answer to that is that you have to write down your assignments, goals and then stick to them without only feeling like any potential free time has to be used to supplement more to the studies (unless you like that).
2) you're probably better at something other than woodworking. Nearly everyone here is, we're professionals or training to be or something along those lines and forget what it's like to learn something you're not an expert at. It sounds like you dread the dovetails because of the potential outcome. Instead of dreading the the outcome, consider what you can learn if you make mistakes. Almost everything we do well is made better by making mistakes and then learning how to eliminate them. Starting from a low point and expecting perfection doesn't really happen, and even if it does, you lose the value of making mistakes and will probably just make them later instead.

I can make a few things well enough that I could sell them. I have no desire to, but I've noticed over time that the things that I could sell professionally are those things where I was bonkers about working through making mistakes to eliminate them. They are also things that I can do with less thought now and be more productive (they're more enjoyable to make than doing one unfamiliar project after another and standing and thinking more than working).

All that said, when I get really busy at work, or when something isn't going well at work, I often don't feel like going to the shop. I go less or I take that time to sell things or clean things up so that when I finally feel like going back to the shop, it won't be a huge mess. The key to enjoying time in the shop is:
1) view things that are difficult as a chance not to make the next perfect item, but to use the making of the items to find out where you'll have trouble and then solve one problem at a time (not all problems at once) and get incrementally better
2) find something that you want to:
- ultimately make at a high level
- want to have the result of (or want to make to sell), and would be interested enough in the outcome of to be motivated to make said item well

If #2 doesn't pop out at you, wait for it to. Something will come along. Nothing sucks like starting a big project that you sort of want to make and sort of don't want to make, and then you find halfway through it you're not interested in completing the thing.
 

Peri

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£1.00 a bottle - yes, you can buy it :)

27-10-2020 16-29-04.jpg


But why are you making a box at all? Given you can buy them so cheaply from [insert retailer of choice] it can't be just to have one.
So I'm going to guess that its for the pleasure of making things, and to get better at making things, so you can make more things, which give you fresh challenge, so you can continue to enjoy that pleasure of making things without getting bored...
Remember, a hobby is something that costs £300 and 4 weeks of time to make something you can go and buy now for £10 :D
 

MusicMan

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It really is just method and practice. I was taught to do dovetails at school and made a few joints. That was 65 years ago. Since then I've used dovetail jigs or box joints on a router. Recently I had a wide, deep but shallow drawer to make, and thought I must do the macho thing and cut the dovetails by hand. I set it out correctly and the first one was a toal disaster, 1 mm gaps all round (yes I sawed on the wrong side of the lines). I cut it off and shortened the drawer to start again. Next one wasn't too bad, steady improvement came and the fourth one fitted right off the saw. So I've shown myself that it is possible. Will I now do lots more? Probably not, I'll go back to jigs and lock router bits, but I feel better for it!
 

Ollie78

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I just mean that a mitre can show up any tiny mistake worse than dovetails.
 

lurker

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I made a box 40 years ago, the dove tails were a disgusting sight, but it made a solid box and I store my masonry bits in it. For the past 6 months it has been in almost daily use. To be honest, the boxes I make now are not much better :confused:

Regarding your assignments, print out a copy and pretend it's written by the group smug git ( there's always one!!) and you are marking it. Or give it to someone who doesn't know a great deal about your subject and see if it makes sense to them.
 

profchris

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Suggestions to motivate yourself:

1. Get a small stock of wood. Haunt your local charity shop which sells furniture, and when you find an ugly, but solid wood, table/bookcase which seems cheap, buy it. Break it down into usable bits.

2. From time to time, pick up a bit and muse. Does it seem to want to be an X? Would you like to have an X? If yes to both, you've found your next project. Now make it as well as you can.

I find that making something as an exercise is dull and uninspiring. Making something I want (for me or as a gift) motivates me.

And if you have spare wood, you can discard mistakes (that piece might become something else later) and remake it better.
 

Trainee neophyte

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There are some great life lessons in this thread.

From someone who doesn't know what he is doing, my less than valuable contribution:

1. Have a plan. By that, I mean an accurate drawing of all the parts. I'm in the middle of making a bird cage, which I can't see the point if, for birds I dislike, but it is (so I have been told) very important. I built and glued the frame together, only to discover that the ply base wouldn't fit inside the frame. Doh. Back of a fag packet, "it'll be alright on the night" bodges are my specialist subject - one day I may learn better.

2. If you can't get it together to make something, tidy up. It's a loathsome job that doesn't involve making anything, and serves no useful purpose, but it always puts me in a better frame of mind afterwards. I should do it more often. If you are the proud owner of more storage space than tools, and of a tidy disposition, this may not apply to you. If you are like me, you can't see the bench for random stuff, or the floor for offcuts.

3. Respecify what you are making. If it goes well, you made a box/towel-rail/Arc de Triumph or whatever. If half way through it all goes to pot, then you are actually making a prototype. You can then afford to treat it not just as practice, but as a method of learning where the problems are for when you make the real one. If it is a complete dogs breakfast, then your prototype becomes a "proof-of-concept". It may actually prove to be impossible to make, or you may need to experiment, and try different things. Because you are just playing at this point, you can do anything you want to it, and it doesn't actually matter. You may actually chose to start with a prototype, but where's the fun in that? What if it goes well? Besides, it's only a box - how hard could it be? I always start with enthusiasm and a naieve belief that all will go well. Reality often sets in with a vengeance.
 

Peri

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Fully behind point 2 - also, if I'm struggling on the day, I'll sharpen my plane blades, then maybe my chisels, and then might clean and wax the table saw top. Just doing 'anything' often helps get you in the right frame of mind.
 

Mark Karacsonyi

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Dovetails, that brings back memories. Sat in the shop cutting and chopping them, developing muscle memory. Then putting the nosings on stair treads via the dreaded spoke shave.

Endless hours sharpening chisels and plane irons.

I used to go to bed dreaming of such things, when younger.

Now I do the same, I seem to have found my zen, as it’s now therapy.

However, stick with the box, benchmark it for further endevours.
 

SteL

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Right so I had to put my almost daily efforts in my garage (I'd love to say it's a workshop, but it's a corner of the garage) and got through quite a few projects and thoroughly enjoyed them. However I've had to start university work again, and the concept of doing everything at home has made me feel a bit lethargic as I sit thinking "I'm meant to be working on my assignments" whereas in fact I am ahead of where I need to be by a fair way.

I'm halfway through making a box, which has dovetails, which I dread with a passion. I have also made a massive pig's ear of virtually every piece of wood that's meant to make the damned thing so I know it'll look absolutely terrible at the end. Now part of me thinks "it doesn't matter, just finish it and it's good practice. You can always set fire to it." but at the same time I really want to start something else, except I don't know what. And I've not much timber lying around.

Anyway - I need some motivation!!!

I was thinking about this earlier. The one time that I'm almost guaranteed to follow through with something is when I have some pressure to actually finish. In work, the pressure is my boss, at home say with DIY projects it's my other boss. When it is in other areas it is very easy to not finish and keep swapping to shiny new things.

If you do decide to start something new, why don't you choose something that you'll be inclined to have to finish because of an external pressure? You'll know your motivations better, but for me, if I tell people I'm doing something, it tends to motivate me to finish it - especially if they keep asking how I'm getting on. You could post a WIP on here and then people will see your progress and you won't want to leave it half-finished. Or you could tell someone you're making a gift for them and then you'll have to come through - especially if it's for an occation because you'll have a fixed date to work to.
 

billw

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Fully behind point 2 - also, if I'm struggling on the day, I'll sharpen my plane blades, then maybe my chisels, and then might clean and wax the table saw top. Just doing 'anything' often helps get you in the right frame of mind.
Yeah I quite often do this just to keep me busy! I'm off to the garage now.....
 

johnny

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I'm halfway through making a box, which has dovetails, which I dread with a passion. I have also made a massive pig's ear of virtually every piece of wood that's meant to make the damned thing so I know it'll look absolutely terrible at the end.
You have my sympathies. No matter how careful i am I still end up with pieces of wood that are not perfectly square and consequently cannot get any joints looking neat and professional.

I decided to make a 5x drawer tool chest like the Engineers tool chest . After numerous attempts to dovetail some drawers accurately I gave up an bought some really cheap ready made whitewood drawers from an ebay box Company. The dovetails were perfect and all the drawers were all exactly the same dimensions and I build my case around them. It got the job done and its been a useful chest but it niggles me every time I pull a drawer and remember I couldn't make them myself.
 

Spectric

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Hi

One good tip that I have learned is to use templates which can be any offcuts laying around. Make the cuts and check the fit, if it is wrong then find out why and correct. It could be a saw is not aligned perfectly or you are not being accurate enough with your marking up. If possible never make the final cut on line, cut extra and try the fit, then take several smaller cuts until it does fit. What I can say is that wood is harder to master than metal and seems to require many more tools.
 
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