12 Tips for getting things done and having fun in the workshop

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Special thanks to Chad McClung, Art Director of Woodcraft Magazine, for contributing this blog story. 

It’s great to have a workshop. But some workshop days are more productive and more enjoyable than others. If your workshop time isn’t as rewarding as you’d like it to be, the issue may have something to do with productivity – your ability to work efficiently, without wasting time tracking down wayward tools or fussing over a disorganized work area. I’ve certainly experienced this frustration, and since my job can make it tough to carve out workshop time, I’m really motivated to improve my productivity.

Here are a few tips that help me get things done, and have more fun.


1. Keep your tools sharp

A dull tool slows you down and makes your work more difficult. Ironically, it can pose more of a safety hazard than a sharp tool because of the excessive force or feed pressure required.

2, Reorganize for efficiency.

If you spend more time searching for the tool you need than actually using it, take this as a sign that your shop needs reorganizing. Make sure your most frequently used tools are most accessible. Store infrequently used stuff where it won’t get in the way.

3. Think about it first. 

It’s painful to start a project only to realize that you don’t have enough material or the right router bit or other tool. To avoid this frustration, it’s smart to build your project in your head first, before you head out to the workshop. Take note of what you need in the way of tools and materials. Then you can make sure you start out with all the right ingredients.

4. Fill in the blanks.

Where at the gaps in your woodworking abilities? Make a list of the skills you’d like to learn, then prioritize your list based on what skills would yield the most enjoyment. Great. Now you know what goals to set.

5. Create a shop schedule.

Handling your shop time in a haphazard fashion isn’t very satisfying, especially if you’re in the middle of a project. The smarter strategy is to block out your shop hours well ahead of time, and let your family and friends in on your plans.

6. Stay on task.

Sure, you can take on several projects at the same time. But that doesn’t mean that you should. Whenever possible, get one job done before jumping into another – including cleanup and any necessary replenishing of supplies (like sandpaper or finish) and tool sharpening.

7. Adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Projects don’t always go as smoothly as we’d like them to. But that’s OK. When mishaps come your way, don’t let anger or frustration take over. Every mistake is a learning opportunity. And it’s important to remember that plenty of folks would love to have the workshop and woodworking abilities that you enjoy.  


8. Ask for help.

When it’s time for a large complex glue-up, two heads are better than one. When you’re unloading several sheets of plywood, or need to move your tablesaw, call your built-in-back-saver – a buddy. Just be sure to return the favor.

9. Don’t rush. 

Rushing means mistakes, or worse: injuries.

10. Don’t push it.

Rushing to get something done can quickly take the fun out of any project. And pushing yourself to keep working even when you’re tired is an accident waiting to happen. For safety and enjoyment, avoid the rush and the punishing completion agenda.

11. Prepare for your next shop session.

At the end of a shop stint, spend at least 10 minutes cleaning up and getting organized for the next phase of your project. Write down any materials or supplies you need, so you’ll be able to take up where you left off.

12. Reward yourself.

Don’t forget to celebrate when you finish a project. Take some photos of the finished project so you can share the news with family and friends. Maybe this is a good time to acquire a new tool that will play an important role in your next project.

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