Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Isn't Just For Resolutions.

New years is the traditional chance to be reborn with new convictions that are meant to make you a better, more ideal person. While I like the idea of deciding to do something that you believe will be an improvement, I dislike the tradition of making empty promises to yourself once a year. Real resolutions do not come from big grand announcements, they come from small personal decisions. Those are the resolutions that really last.

Several years ago when I finally quit smoking it came from finally deciding that I was just finished wasting my money and feeling like crap every morning. I didn't make a big announcement to my wife, children, or anybody. I made the decision, weaned myself down and eventually stopped. This time it worked or has worked for the last three years. I had quit before, one time for almost a year, but this time seemed to work because I was making the change for myself and deeply personal reasons. When I quit in the past it was because I was supposed to, this time around I wanted to.
The HMS Resolution (1771-1782), James Cook's ship, watercolour by midshipman Henry Roberts*
I think that the most important thing about a Resolution is not the completed goal, but instead the smaller victories gathered along the way. The manageable chucks of accomplishment that equal completion of the idea. It's like the old logic question "How does one eat an elephant?" and while your mind races ahead of you, trying to come up with complex solution to the problem, the answer is the most simple one possible. You eat an elephant one bite at a time.

The overall resolution for me is to be able to make a living building furniture by hand. I don't have to sell to the world, I don't have to have a president use one of my rockers, I don't have to sell a book about my work and ideas, though all three of those things would be awesome, they can be the next resolution beyond. Now this is not something I am sprinting towards. I'm not buying into anything that remotely tingles of "Start Your Own Woodworking Business Now!" I am taking my time and building the foundations of something I want to last. I am not naive enough to believe in overnight success, I will take this problem one bite at a time.
*
I love the story of the tortoise and the hare. I remember it being read to us in kindergarten, and I remember wishing the turtle would punch the rabbit in the mouth. As an adult I am smart enough to see the nap the hare takes not so much as a show of his bravado and over confidence, but of a sign of his feelings of burn out. A state of emotional exhaustion and loss of interest. It is a subject that comes up from time to time among the woodworkers I follow on Twitter, and I can understand it. I have struggled with the feeling several times in the past. I don't have all the answers to help with burn out, but I do have one.

The best way I know to combat burn out along the path to a bigger goal is to make sure to celebrate the accomplishments made along the way, to remind yourself of where you started and see the distance you have come. That is the ultimate purpose of this post.

I started this year working inside a small shop, a very small shop, a space roughly 5' X 9' and sharing floorspace with a stairwell. 
I have since been able to upgrade into a bigger shop (thanks to the generosity of my father) I am now in a 10' X 30' steel building that has allowed me to take my work closer to the level it can be. It has allowed me to start to take my shop closer to the level I want it to be at. I realize that once I start to get busy building pieces for other people, I will have less time to work on the things I need and want for my own shop. So I am trying to take the time now to make some things for shop to get it to feel like the shop I have always wanted. This is reflected in things I've built this past year like the Saw Till or the Sandpaper Storage Chest. Of the big things planned in the next year is a storage shelf for my hand planes and a joiner's tool chest in homage to the Old World Tool Chest given to me this year by my Father in Law.
In the past I have judged my shop by the big tools I had, my goal was to always add one big thing a year. 2010 was no exception with my ability to bring a lathe back into my shop. But overall I have seen the shop grow in so many ways this year. I have added a couple of nice Saw Benches and a specific Joinery Bench designed to be taller and make cutting joinery easier. Beyond the lathe, I have been able to grow my hand tool collection nearly exponentially. I started the year with a small collection of planes. a total of seven, through the past year I have picked up and rehabbed several pieces and now I have just under twenty. I'm looking to add a set of hollows and rounds, a wooden plow plane, and a set of blades for the Stanley #45 I picked up earlier this year but haven't had a chance to rehab at all yet.

But planes are not the only area my hand tool collection has grown, from hand saws to chisels to braces and bits to marking tools. It has been a very satisfying year and I fear I may have to start to slow down that trend soon or I may find myself drowning, but then again what a sweet death that would be. I think the trick moving forward will to become a little more discerning.

What am I on the look out for as far as a bigger tool in 2011. Most likely, a full size bandsaw.

And here on the blog I had one personal goal that I was sure would pay off. I wanted to manage to write at least one hundred blog posts in a year and I did make that accomplishment. Following behind that has come other great things, including the chance to get to meet and trade ideas with many other woodworkers, from comments left on the blog to getting to know some folks via media like Twitter. (I still can't get over the ridiculous name, but the people that I get to know there are well worth putting up with it)

All in all 2010 was a tough and challenging year over all, but as I look back at some of the accomplishments and steps forward towards the better, I have to admit I am not unhappy and infact I am looking forward to 2011 with a good deal of curiosity and anticipation for things to come. I hope that you are all doing the same!

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Oldwolf

*"HMS Resolution" and "The Tortoise and The Hare" photos were used from the Wikipedia Commons website

3 comments:

  1. Happy New Year!

    Long ago I resolved to not make any resolutions for New Years. If it wasn't important enough to do NOW, its not more important on January 1.

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  2. Did you mention stanley 45 in your article? Here are 2 (45 and 55) on the Tulsa, OK craigslist with a few of the blades.
    http://tulsa.craigslist.org/clt/2084782657.html

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  3. Derek,
    Sound like you've had a wonderful, productive 2010. I hope that 2012 is a great a year for you too. Keep up the great work.

    ReplyDelete