Day 14,731 – You Can Do Anything Well – If You Are Willing To Work At It

table-saw2It seemed like a big investment for an untried hobby. But I promised my wife I would start with just the basic equipment, and would only buy more if I progressed enough to warrant it. Besides, a table saw would come in handy for some of the projects that need to be done around the house.

I had done some basic woodworking before. Nothing too complex or precise. I had done a lot of set construction for plays involving mostly stairs and platforms. Stuff that was simple and square and allowed for bent nails and cuts that might not have been exact. I had built a grandfather clock from a kit – but everything was pre-cut and it was a matter of lining things up, drilling holes, and placing screws.

While I considered the purchase, I also considered the first project. An entertainment center for the basement. My wife had taken it upon herself to buy a 32″ TV – pretty big at the time – and it didn’t fit into the space where they old TV sat. So I modified the K-Mart case that was there and began measuring and designing for the new case.

There were errors. There was wasted wood. There were a couple of sessions of taking pieces apart and re-assembling. Each hour was about learning to master these simple elements. The importance of measuring exactly. The relative value of different approaches to joining pieces together. Designing the drawers and compartments in a way that held the game systems and the wires that went with them.

When all was said and done, it fit exactly in the corner of the basement it was designed for. The television fit perfectly in it’s space on the shelf. The stained wood complemented the rest of the room. And I knew where every flaw was and how I would build it differently the next time.

I made a few more pieces over the next 5 years. But between soccer practices, work, and life in general it was hard to make the time to create the next project.

The lesson was simple. You can learn to do things well. You have to want it, you have to make the time for it, you have to study. I could try and learn each technique as though I invented woodworking, but there are lifetime masters who have shared their learning in books and video that are too valuable to ignore. At the same time, I could watch the New Yankee Workshop every day for five years and not improve if I don’t practice. I learned to choose what you want to be good at, and not to regret when you’ve tried something and learned it well enough to meet your needs. It’s OK to not have passion for everything you try to accomplish.

It’s probably time to put some of that stuff on Craigslist.

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