Dear Beginner Woodworkers

Dear Beginner Woodworkers

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.





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  • Pete,
    I can relate to this post 100%. I started my try of wood working when I was in need of a coffee table and some end tables for my apartment. I found the plans off a post on Pinterest (I know, I know). They came out nothing like pictures from the post but did the job. Time went by and I made an Instagram to gain inspiration and look up to you and other top notch builders because your work is so crisp and clean. I started trying new projects with new tools and loved seeing videos on my feed on how different stages of projects are completed. Through DM’s and commenting on posts, I’ve come to realize the Instagram wood working community is incredibly helpful in the building process. I learn something new every day by looking up to any builder out there no matter if they have 100 followers or 100k followers. Keep doin’ what your doin’!

  • Ashley | Handmade with Ashley September 22, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Great advice Pete! I love the 4 don’ts.

  • Thanks for all you do Pete. I have been building coffee tables for 2.5 years and I just started building farmhouse dining room tables this last March. Business is growing and I am excited about the future. Thanks for writing this post, and all you do!

  • Great post Pete i think many of us that care feel the same way you do. I tell my wife all the time nope this piece is not good enough and she usually says what do you mean it’s great. Now coming from her that means alot because she is not afraid of sharing her true feelings with me about pieces i build. I do find myself doing exactly what you said when you went to that woodcraft show. You know will always know were the little imperfections are but no one else will ever notice. Keep up the great work brother.

  • Wow! Thanks this is great advice. I’m glad I came across your blog


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