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Project Taking Longer Than Expected?

How many times have you heard a fellow woodworker say that they are behind “schedule” on a project or, “I can’t believe how long that took to make!”

I am plagued with this all the time. I did a podcast many months ago on organizing yourself when working on multiple projects. In that episode I was talking about combining like tasks with like tasks like doing all your milling at the same time, etc. Lately I have been building task lists for my projects. I have had a list for my Roubo bench stuck to the wall of my shop for the better part of a year which is great since I dip in and out of the bench so often that it helps me to remember where I left off.

Lately though I have been frustrated with my progress on a few projects because I can’t seem to get even a single task on my list completed. For example, on my Roubo list was the item, “leg vise”.

It seems I have been working on that task for several weekends now and have not been able to gain the satisfaction of crossing it off. It is such a little thing but the act of crossing something off a list gives us OCD types a real warm fuzzy feeling. I think the problem here is not that I work slow it is that there are so many little parts within that one task. I’ll break it down and I think you will see that this applies to just about everything you make.

Workbench Leg Vise

Mill chop stock true and square
Cut chop to final size
Layout for hole for vise screw
Drill hole for vise screw
Layout for internal garter mortise
Cut garter mortise
Cut garter stock to approximate stock
Fit garter into mortise
Mill parallel guide stock
Drill parallel guide pin holes
Finish guide with decorate profile, chamfers, etc
Layout through mortise for parallel guide in chop
Cut through mortise
Flare outer mortise walls to allow for wedges
Cut tenon on parallel guide
Fit tenon
Cut wedge stock
Install wedges and glue up parallel guide
Drill peg holes
Hammer in pegs
Layout chop taper
Cut taper
Layout chop bevel
Cut bevels
Finish plane/sand
Install chop and go to work

This list doesn’t even include installing the vise nut into the leg but you can see that all of these steps go into the single line item of “leg vise” on my list. If you really want to be picky you can break down the above steps even further. Think about all the step included in cutting a tenon. Layout, cut shoulder, cut cheek, smooth and fit, possibly undercut shoulder, etc, etc. Now careful on this slippery slope because you will quickly get into list building and no woodworking. I think the point it clear. If you feel like you are getting no where, don’t get discouraged; but rather, sit down and break down what you have to do. Each one of these tasks can be done with minimal shop time and you feel like you are getting somewhere when you leave the shop after crossing off 1 or 2 of these items.

Maybe you are the type of person who doesn’t need this level of organization, or just doesn’t make lists to keep on track. I still think this post contains something to think about. All of these steps take time and time is money if you are a professional so being able to gauge how long it will take you to build something is your life blood. So next time you feel like you are making no progress and have a customer, spouse, conscience, etc hounding you for results take some time to plan your build so you can really estimate how long it will take and build in some milestones. Remember though, whether you are a hobby woodworker or a professional, don’t forget to have fun. These milestones keep you on track but they should not be a burly bald man with a dog collar beating on a drum in the stern of your shop shouting, “stroke, stroke!”

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