I’ve received a lot of comments this week that prompted me to write this. It wasnt so much the amount of comments as it was the content that stuck out. On nine occasions (yes, i counted) via public comment or private message someone said something along the lines of “Someday I want to build just like you.” While that’s one of the greatest comments I can receive, and I’m incredibly grateful, my response is always the same: “Dont build like me; build better.”
When I first started building 10 years ago I said the same thing to people I looked up to. As I got more and more into building my mindset shifted to “I want to be better than them.” It became a great motivator for me. I started paying close attention to every single detail of my work. It had to be perfect. If it wasnt, I wasnt satisfied. The problem- I WAS NEVER SATISFIED.
One Saturday I went to Woodcraft and met Tommy MacDonald, a local furniture maker and host of Rough Cut, a tv show sponsored by Woodcraft. We started talking and I was telling him how I took everything so personal and how I kept seeing every little imperfection in my work. He laughed and told me to head over to his shop where they film and he’d meet me there. While there i saw all the finished items from the show. “How to you get them so perfect?” i asked. “Are you kidding me? They’re not perfect” He said. “I can see every little spot and screw up.” So I got up close and i couldnt see a thing. He said thats the same for everyone outside the mind of a true craftsman. When you care about your work, no one will ever see those imperfections you see.
When I left it started to make sense to me. I saw what i saw because I cared and wanted to be better; which was a good thing ; a natural thing. Suddenly that never satisfied feeling shifted to pride. I started getting more and more comfortable with my final product. My clients loved it, I loved that they loved it, but deep down I wanted the next to be even better.
That’s really what it’s all about. The best thing about woodworking is we’re always getting better and always learning. No skill level dictates how much pride you take in your work and no skill level eliminates mistakes. If you care, then you’ll make some incredible items. Remember, we all started out as beginners and have all gone through the same learning frustrations. We all make mistakes and we’ll all continue to make them.
All I ask of you is the following DONT’S: Don’t rush, Don’t skip steps, Don’t overlook a blemish and say “its good enough,” and lastly, Don’t build like me…..BUILD BETTER.