Why Woodworking?

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Why Woodworking

Ever wonder what attracts people to woodworking?  You can buy finished goods made of wood more cheaply than you can make them yourself. You’ll need a lot of tools to get started and it takes years of practice to master the craft.

Most woodworkers would tell you that they just like working with their hands.  Or that they like the satisfaction of seeing things they made themselves.  Or that they can make it better and just the way they like it.

University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would say that it actually goes much deeper than that.  In his book, “Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience,” he wrote about these “elements of enjoyment” that seem like they were written about woodworking:

1) It’s a challenging task. If it was too simple and took no skill to accomplish you would likely be bored.  On the other hand, it’s not rocket surgery.  Who needs a hobby that’s so complex that you get frustrated and want to quit?  Woodworking has just the right balance that makes it challenging and engaging.

2) Merging of action and awareness. This isn’t something you need to overthink, you just get to it.  Your hands and your mind are perfectly in sync.  You get lost in the process and the woodworking is the outcome.

3) Clear goals. Whether working from plans or building as you go, you know exactly what you want to build and how you want it to look.  Life doesn’t always give you the opportunity to have clear goals that you can visualize.

4) Immediate feedback. Unlike many things in life, you know immediately whether you have done well or messed up.   Ether the parts fit together or they don’t.  Either the finish is smooth or you have more sanding to do.  You know right away whether it’s done right or not.

5) High degree of concentration. It’s easy to get lost in the project and the process.  You don’t need to concentrate – you just get immersed in the work.

6) Altered sense of time.  Have you had that happen?  You get into your shop and the next thing you know hours have slipped by without you noticing.  That’s called ‘flow.’  A Formula One race driver once said that when he is racing and experiencing ‘flow’ it’s as though everything happens in slow motion.  He has time to think, check his mirrors and the gauges all while heading into a corner at 180mph!  In your workshop, it’s when you get so engrossed in the work at hand that everything else slips away.

You will notice that these six ‘elements of enjoyment’ apply to many other hobbies and activities.  But I know from my personal experience that this happens to woodworkers all the time.  I think it means that woodworkers love getting lost in creating.  Whether a beginner or a master, it gives woodworkers immense satisfaction to give physical form to the idea in their head.  Try woodworking – you will love it too.

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