Looking for Inspiration

Everyone of us can fall into a woodworking comfort zone. Once we do, it will hinder our progress to advance as a woodworker. This is a four part series of the common comfort zones we fall into and how to get out. Part one, covered the comfort zone issue of time.  Part two, covered the issue of tools. This article will cover comfort zone #3, Looking for Inspiration.

Finding something to truly motivate and inspire us to strive to do something new does not happen often. I’ll use myself here as an example. For years now I have been wanting to build a Chippendale style lowboy. I have books, plans, and even the material to do it. But it is such an involved and challenging project that I have yet, been able to sacrifice the time to do it. I say this because I don’t think I’m different from anyone else. We can see pictures online, watch videos, or look through books, but it really has to be something we need (or have been repeatedly nagged about) before we actually take the necessary steps to push ourselves into doing something new and different. Human nature is we tend to put things off. (BTW, Notice i just used reason one for my excuse not to start the project.)

Another thing I discovered was back when I was a contributing editor for American Woodworker magazine. I worked for them for 4 years and noticed a lot of the projects seemed similar in many ways and felt like it was repeating itself. I was amazed to learn that the number one reason people bought the magazine was for the plans. It turns out that many woodworkers could not just look at a picture a figure out on their own the dimensions and the type of joinery to use. So although they might like, and mildly wish to make a new project, they may not because of the lack of information provided.

As I said, books, videos, online pictures they’re a great way to get ideas and get our juices flowing. But when we run into that problem of dimensions and joinery then what? I would suggest investing in a few books that teaches furniture design. There are some online videos out there that give some basics to furniture design, but i always like having a book that I can always refer to when i need a refresher point or two. I will give a list of my favor books in another article, but in the meantime I suggest first going to your local library and checking them out there. Once you found a book that you like you can probably purchase it at a Woodcraft store or online. I encourage everyone to build up a library (even online library of woodworking books.)

Learning some rules to basic furniture design is a good first step. Now drawing the piece is another subject. There are some CAD programs for the computer that can help if drawing is not your thing.  Sketchup is a free program and there are tons of free videos to teach you the steps to using sketchup. Sketchup allows you to rotate the drawing in any direction and allows you to view it in 3D. This is a nice feature that a pencil drawing can not provide.

However, I found that sometimes when I use Sketchup, it can look great on the computer, but when I start to build it, something looks off. To help refine the look, I sometimes like to build a small scale version of the project out of foam core board or scraps of wood. Nothing too detailed. Just something hot glued together. This actually helps me more than the 3D drawings. I think it’s because in the computer there is nothing else to compare it to. But when I build I can be compared to the surrounding objects in my life. Whatever the reason is, I trust my eye more than the computer. Furniture design is a whole other subject that I should cover at a later date, but this will be enough to get you started in the right direction.

My best suggestion for finding inspiration is talking with fellow woodworkers. Talk with woodworkers who’s skill and abilities are greater than yours. They will encourage you and teach you ways to improve your skill. Learning something new is a great way to get recharged and inspired again. It makes us feel empowered and once we accomplish something have a great feeling of satisfaction.

I started the Monday Youtube series, “What are you doing?” to help inspire people. It’s about not only what I am doing in my shop but what others are doing in their shops as well. I like to post pictures of projects in progress. It’s a way to hold ourselves accountable for what we start to see it through to completion. It’s to keep ourselves inspired the whole building process.

These are just a few suggestions that hopefully gives you ideas and keeps you out of that comfort zone. The next article will talk about ways to learn new techniques to further advance our woodworking skills. This last article will round out the reasons why we fall into comfort zones and how to get out of them and become better woodworkers.

-Chad Stanton