Sawdust is Therapeutic

The ultimate hand tool: The Stanley No. 8 Jointer Plane. 10 lbs of cast iron heft and hubris.

The ultimate hand tool: The Stanley No. 8 Jointer Plane. 10 lbs of cast iron heft and hubris. Seen here before I restored it to its original polished glory. Also seen here: The entropic hellhole that is the top of my workbench.

Over the past few months I’ve been doing a whole lot of work around my new house. Painting, putting up trim, installing towel racks. You know, those things you do after you buy a house to make it your own. On the plus side, this has meant that my house is now much more home-like and a lot less “all one awful beige color throughout.” On the minus side, until this past week I had spent very, very little time doing anything that I would consider “fun” work in my shop. Thankfully, that’s changed.

I’m a craftsman at heart. Sure, during the day I get paid to do math and write reports as an engineer, but my favorite days are those when I actually get to spend time in the lab or in a manufacturing plant actually DOING stuff. I’m the kind of person who needs to have their hands dirty and something tangible to show for the work they’ve done to be truly happy. That’s why over the last week I’ve finally made some time in my shop to actually get some real work done.

I have a large backlog of projects at the moment, something that I’m sure many of you understand. So many things to do, so little time, and all that. The problem I have is that when my backlog gets too big, I start to get overwhelmed by everything that I “have to” do. Suddenly, all those projects go from things I *want* to do to things I *must* do in my head. Since they’re things I must do, and obviously haven’t, I feel like I’m letting myself and my friends (who are inevitably the ones I agree to do projects for) down.

As anyone who’s ever been in this situation knows, that feeling of letting people down is the worst. Thing. Ever. Sure, there are worse things that can happen to you, and worse feelings, but when you’re in that black pit of why-did-I-agree-to-do-all-this-now-I’m-a-failure, it’s pretty hard to imagine anything worse. So what’s to be done? How to get yourself out of that funk?

Simple: Get back in the shop and MAKE STUFF.

No, really. It is that simple. The cure for the procrastination blues is to just. Start. Working.

Okay, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that, but not much. Start off with something small and manageable. Something that you can get done in an evening for immediate gratification. In my case, I had a blanket chest that I’d started working on almost a year ago for an old friend. It was supposed to be a wedding gift for him and his wife. The wedding was ten months ago. I had thought to get it done quickly and have it for them. I was wrong. The work took longer and was more difficult than I first thought. So I put it away for awhile. But as the pieces sat in a stack in my basement for months, mocking me, that chest became a symbol for all the other things I had yet to do. So I finally set aside three hours last week and just put the case together. Drilled the holes, drove the nails, and trimmed the ends of the case flush. And at the end of the evening? I was hot, sweaty, and exhausted.

It felt amazing. I was excited, happy, and wanted to stay up for hours to keep working. But I went to bed, because it was almost midnight. The next day I did more work, and then I’ve kept doing work in my shop over the next few days since. I’m still not done with all the work on that blanket chest, but it’s very nearly done. Since then I’ve worked on a few other small items that people have asked me to make (and that I’m even getting paid for!), and have a lot of them in the shop now. They stand as encouragement, and testament to what actually putting excuses aside and DOING something can do for your mood and self-esteem.

I’ve got a lot of work left to do, that’s for certain. And I need to make sure I keep working at it in small bites. Otherwise I’m liable to fall back into my funk of self-defeating self-loathing. So if you need me I’ll be in the shop, making some more sawdust. It’s the best form of therapy I know.

Until next time, happy brewing (and sawing!).

Skål!

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About Josh

I'm an engineer, brewer, vintner, gamer, hiker, biker, and many other "-ers" besides. I grew up in Connecticut, but now live and work in Delaware. This is where I put various ramblings and musings, as well as tasty recipes for beer. Yes, beer. I brew my own beer, wine, cider, mead, and other fun fermented beverages. It's fun, easy, inexpensive, and I love it. It's something I'd love to do professionally, but that's a plan for a future day. For now I work as a chemical engineer with a bunch of great people that I'm never going to talk about here. Have a great day, and good brewing to all!
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