Keeping the Passion

In the 24 years of professionally building furniture, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching classes, giving lectures, doing demonstrations, and sitting on a board of panelists discussing the topic of woodworking. In each of those settings, I’ve been able to talk to hundreds of people at any given time. It’s fair to say, I’ve probably met thousands of people. But sadly, after about 3 or 4 years, some people just give up on woodworking. When I’ve had the chance to ask them why they stopped, typically I heard one of two reasons.

 1) “No one would buy my work”, or 2) they felt they learned everything.

Part of me can understand the first reason, “No one will buy my work.”

 In the beginning, we just love woodworking so much that we can’t get enough of it. We quickly want to make something and then we are so proud of it. We first show it to our family. They, of course, are very proud of us. Then we get online and post pictures to our social media friends. Our friends will give us some encouragement by either a “thumbs up” or an uplifting comment. Since we just got great reviews, we decide to make another one, and the plan this time is to sell it!

But in most cases, our dreams fall flat. Once our second project is posted for sale online, our friends like it enough for a thumbs up, but not enough to open the wallet up. Then we get the idea of joining a group and maybe we can sell it there. But again we realize, “Why would anyone buy our project when they know how to make it themselves?”  And if that isn’t bad enough, if someone does inquire and ask us how much, they quickly point out they can get one much cheaper on Amazon. Frustration, disappointment, and even anger set in. So I completely understand because I have been there myself.

Reason two, “I know everything.”, is a little bit harder for me to understand. Whenever I hear someone say that, I know it can’t be true. I spend a minimum of 40 hours a week doing woodworking. Take that and times it by 24 years, and you get almost 50,000 hours of doing woodworking. Besides the actual work, I have over 300 books in my collection that are packed full of information.  Even with all that knowledge and experience I know I only have scratched the surface of the topic. With the experience I have, I only have some knowledge in all the different realms of woodworking. Any one particular subject could be decades to master. For example, I like to carve and have been doing it for many years, but I am by no means an expert at it. In fact, I was just in AnnArbor Michigan this past weekend. There was a used book store in the downtown area. I found a wonderful book on carving that helped explain not just how to carve but how to draw a curved line with tension. I never heard of this before!. So I just can not believe that someone doing woodworking as a part-time hobby for 3 or 4 years has learned everything. This is not the reason why they quit. So what is the reason both groups of people quit? Well, I think I have the answer.

In both cases, each group of people lost the focus on why they started woodworking in the first place. That reason is the ability to learn. 

When we were back in school, every day we learned something new. Of course, the subject or topic may not have been something we enjoyed, but we still were learning something new. Then when we finished school and started a new job we were learning new things but then it slowed down. Maybe we learned something new once a week, then once a month, maybe once a year. Eventually, we learned everything in our field. We then can become bored with our field and now it’s just a day in day out job. 

Then we find something like woodworking and we are learning many new things every day. And to top it off, it’s a subject we are truly interested in! If you were to read a woodworking book. in the beginning, every page had something new to learn. But now at my level, I’m happy if I learn one new point out of the whole book. 

People quit because finding new information becomes harder. We have to dig for it. Most of the time we come across the same lessons and tips over and over again. And so many people fall into a comfort zone and stop digging for information because they got bored. 

The people in group one lost the focus of learning woodworking and jumped ahead to making money with woodworking. The joy was the experience of learning and making something. They didn’t decide to learn woodworking because someone said you can make money at it.  If I told you you can make money cleaning toilets I’m sure not a lot of people would get excited about learning everything they can about toilets!. Woodworking is not about money, it’s about working with wood.

The second group of people stopped because of boredom. They learned woodworking to a certain level and then said, “that’s enough.” Maybe getting to the next level was harder and they didn’t want to put the practice in. Maybe they could only work from plans and didn’t learn how to design. Maybe they just stopped getting attention from others because they always make the same things. No matter what the case was, they tell themselves they know enough. In any of these cases, it’s clear they just stopped learning.

It’s true climbing the mountain for new information can get tiring. But it’s also the challenge of hunting for new information that gets me so excited. I always like it when woodworking challenges me. It builds my self-esteem, boosts my self-confidence, and most of all, it reinforces my knowledge and love for this craft.

Chad Stanton, Stanton Fine Furniture 6-28-22