Confessions of a Lazy Woodworker

sleeping-on-woodSometimes at the beginning of a project, I sit in my shop for hours staring at the wood pile. It’s just sitting there, waiting to be worked. I have no excuse NOT to start the project, yet I continually find things to do that distract me from the inevitable. I pry small pebbles out of the treads in my sneakers. I check to make sure my camera battery is fully charged. I haven’t filmed anything yet so obviously it is. I check Facebook to see if anyone finds my latest comment funny, they don’t. So the only thing left to do is stare at the massive pile of Western Red Cedar.

Perhaps it’s a little bit of uncertainty because I haven’t worked out every little detail of the project. Maybe it’s just a time-management issue. If I make one cut, then that leads to another cut, which then leads to a glueup. Do I actually have enough time for all that?

Of course you do you lazy #*&$^! Put on some lively music and get to work! It’s procrastination at its best folks. Fortunately, once I do make that cut my entire mindset changes and I’m in the groove. Happens on nearly every project. And the more time-sensitive the project, the more difficult it is for me to start. It’s the curse of the highly-motivated lazy person. Am I alone here?

Category: Musings


  1. No Marc, you’re not alone. But when I do it, it’s not out of laziness – it’s about focusing my mind.

    (It’s also these moments where I take out my camera and take a picture to document the process.)


    • I’m pretty sure “focusing my mind” will be my go to excuse from now on!


        “Shannon, you’ve been in the bathroom for an hour now! What are you doing???”

        “Focusing my mind dear. Focusing my mind.”

        • Rhett Brown July 18, 2013

          About a week into “starting” a custom gun-rack made of walnut I find myself hovering like a needle above a spinning record. However, it won’t be long and I’ll fall into a groove. Maybe it’s just a craftsman’s form of mental preparation…..or maybe laziness. Woodworking+working=tired

  2. Stop reading the comments and get to work!

    I have this problem with my home construction projects. Everything else for customers I start just fine but when it’s something for me and my wife paralysis sets in.

  3. You hit the nail on the head on this one. Great read and so true :)

  4. Martin July 18, 2013

    Totally understand you Marc… In fact I’m currently procastinating my work by reading your posts!

  5. I can sometimes find this at the beginning of projects , but i have also several times found myself procrastinating towards the end of the project. Especially if there is no deadline to have the work completed by…

  6. Carl Olsen July 18, 2013

    Oh your are not alone, I’m like that but 10 times worst ;)
    “A little game before I start” turn into 5 hours of gaming, then “i’ll start tomorow, there is not enough time left” !

  7. No, I haven’t done hardly anything since we decided to do shoji type panels in the bathroom. I’ve had all sorts of excuses not to work in the shop. Although, that has to come to an end soon. My last excuse stems from waiting to start up the business officially. I don’t want to buy anything else until I have my financial and legal strategies worked out. So I putz. I do have my first of who know how many meetings to get things rolling.this Friday.

  8. John Pinto July 18, 2013

    [- insert obvious “putting-off procrastination” joke here -]
    No, you’re not alone, Marc. In my case, a lot of it is because I still consider myself a neophyte woodworker and I get a bit blade-shy about making those first cuts. I’m absolutely SURE I’m going to ruin the board.
    Eventually, I have to put on my big-boy pants & tell myself something motivational (and excessively cheesy, – like out of an ’80s movie) like “the surest way to ruin a board is never to use it!”

  9. Bill Akins July 18, 2013

    I only get Saturday’s and Monday’s in the shop, working 4-10 hour days. I can go weeks and months without missing a beat but then something comes up or we go out of town for the weekend. Then next weekend I get sick. Then the quicksand pulls at me. When this happens I struggle to get to the shop. Eventually I get down there, make a pen or a home repair and then I’m ready for another good project.

  10. Jeffrey July 18, 2013

    You aren’t alone. At the end of the day in the office I am just worn out and while I know getting started/continuing a project will be uplifting for me, I just want to sit and watch tv or play a video game. If I can get myself out in the shed (weather permitting) and get started I realize how enjoyable this hobby is and how much it lifts my mood. In your case the woodworking is your job and can’t lean on the same excuses I do but I still think I understand where you are coming from. Saturday’s are different. Those days I can’t wait to get out there and get to work.

  11. Thomas July 18, 2013

    I understand this completely! I have this issue each time I start an individual piece of a project… I put together some a simple shelving unit for our laundry room and the shelves took me all day to do, the top and bottom were a whole other day, as well as the sides, joinery was about 2 days and the glue-up took about a week. Finishing, however; that somehow managed to get done in 3 days!

    Some of it is just the small size so each new operation requires a lot of changing of settings and moving items around since I don’t have a dedicated work bench yet, just a couple of saw horses with a torsion box top. The majority is just good ol’ procrastination.

  12. It’s just you, Marc. I personally never procrastinate, never read woodworking blogs in the middle of the day instead of writing code. Or watch woodworking youtube videos instead of fixing bugs. So you should feel ashamed and start working on that project of yours immediately so I could continue not reading about it on your blog and not watching the very detailed videos you post to youtube.

  13. I blame Isaac Newton….
    An object at rest tends to stay at rest….
    An object at motion will eventually come to a state of rest due to gravity….

    See there is scientific theory backing us up Marc.
    You are not alone. Perhaps there is a support group out there we can go to….if we can stop watching the woodpile and get out off the shop stool.

  14. Chris July 18, 2013

    Not me. I’m about half done with a jewelry cabinet for my wife’s birthday which was three weeks ago.

  15. TylerW July 18, 2013

    For me the lack of motivation comes when I hit my first major snag.
    For example, right now I’m working on a tack trunk, and I just glued up the front/back and side pieces together. After gluing them up I’ve found that the boards I’ve cut for the top and bottom of the trunk are maybe 1/8″ smaller in length and width than the glued up assembly. I’m sure I’ll find a way to overcome this issue, and there’s going to be a solid wood trim piece at the top and bottom, but it seems like as soon as I mess something up I get analysis paralysis trying to decide how I’m going to fix it!

  16. Me too .. sigh. For me its more of a feeling of being overwhelmed. I think I get hung up (paralysis through analysis) on not having every little thing worked out and
    worrying that, if I don’t, it might screw something up down the line.

    Or I try to start seeing all the steps and just get overwhelmed by all of it.

    That’s why your making a daily list idea helped me so much.

    Have you made your list for today? :D

  17. David July 18, 2013

    Happens all the time to me. Some days I’m full of energy and dive right in, while others i kind of wander around aimlessly and move piles of scrap to different spots in the shop.

  18. Dave July 18, 2013

    That sounds all too familiar.

  19. Joe July 18, 2013

    You are certainly not alone! I tend to spend more time thinking and visualizing about a project than actually finishing it. Like a comment above, if it’s for my home or something my wife wants me to do I feel extra pressure to ensure I have everything “just so” and done perfectly. Don’t know if it’s ADD or procrastination or what but that “first cut” is always the hardest…

  20. Steve July 18, 2013

    My problem is I procrastinate making the messes. But once I finally start choppin, I can’t hardly stop untill either I fall with exhaustion or I finish the project.

  21. Procrastination isn’t all together bad. I find it gives me time to think things through, and to develop perspective.

    I do find that when I have something I ‘have to do’ vs. something ‘I want to do’, I procrastinate a lot more.

    Also, when I stop learning while I do things, I procrastinate more.

    So for me, I have to focus on learning new things while I make things I want to make, or procrastination sets in and things take forever to finish.

    Doesn’t bode well for ‘work’, but it’s great for a ‘hobby’!

  22. Martin R. July 18, 2013

    It’s always like that. When you’re in the zone in a project and then you call done, it’s hard to let it go and start something new. You’re starting from scratch. You have to pick up the pace to get on the cruise control. The same thing happens when you are reading a book. When you’re done with one and you know the characters, starting new is difficult.

    In addition, I hate the finishing part. Espacially after the first coat. Did I mention I hate the finishing part? I then convince myself that I can’t find time to do it. Can’t stop in the middle of a coat, etc. etc.

    My shop is my garage. Sometimes it is used as a dumping zone. Everthing gets to be thrown in there. It gets very, very messy. To find the energy to clean it up and rediscover my tools, that is tough and discouraging.

  23. I just realized something else! When someone with a huge Web following starts to procrastinate by writing posts, etc. they are enabling thousands of others to do the same thing!

    Procrastination… the virus!

  24. Mike July 18, 2013

    Lets play a game. Which one of these does not belong here?:
    a) Wenge
    b) Bubinga
    c) Western Red Cedar

    Has the wood whisperer gone native? :)

  25. Hey, could you keep it down?! I’m trying to sleep over here. Geesh!

  26. JOSE VARELA July 18, 2013

    It is incredible, is not to be true, equal to what it goes on to me to my! They say that we have a double to another side of the world, and it is to be true, among other things besides carpenter I touch drums, which if I have two children El the first a child and the second one a girl, capture notices for what could spend Regards of another side of the world.

  27. Lane July 18, 2013

    I believe I have the definitive argument on this subject. Let me start by quoting Lord Chesterfi SQUIRELL!!!!!!!

  28. Doug July 18, 2013

    i’ll have to get back to you on this, tomorrow, no maybe next week.

  29. Glen July 18, 2013

    Procrastinators unite! …tomorrow…

  30. Tim TAN July 18, 2013

    Marc : in the time you took to write the post, you could have taken a bunch of boards to the saw and cut them

  31. Tim TAN July 18, 2013

    But having said that, I spent all of last weekend sitting around doing nothing, knowing I had a boatload of boards to sort out for my next major project – a castle bunk bed for my kids!

  32. Don July 18, 2013

    Marc, Don’t feel too bad. I was going to take a class on how cure
    Procrastination, but I just keep putting it off.

  33. I do my best work when under pressure and actually enjoy crunch time. So, I wait as long as I can before starting, so the project will turn out great and I can get that rush. Yeah, that’s it.

  34. Luke July 18, 2013

    Right there with you, but once i get started its hard to stop.

  35. Brady July 18, 2013

    In my short woodworking career I suffer from the same problem. For me it’s a fear of commitment. If I have a stack of uncut lumber my possibilities are still rather limitless – I can still change the dimensions of my plan, or hell, I can even change the piece I’m going to build altogether. However, as soon as you start cutting you start committing and that’s scary.

  36. Dave July 18, 2013

    If I don’t start I don’t have the fix the mistakes. :)

  37. Richard July 18, 2013

    I have to overcome the fear of screwing up as much as the dislike of starting…

  38. Starting a new project is a best time for:
    – Re-thinking of the workshop arrangement
    – Making new shelfes for old tools
    – Making order in scrap wood pile
    – General cleaning in the workshop
    – Considering workshop lighting change
    – Reading about new sharpening techniques
    – Finding a tool I’m missing to start the project
    – Digging the net asking “what would Marc Spagnuolo do”
    – Learning about twiter and trying to discover new (rather any) ways of using it
    – Having a beer (never drink and use power tools)
    – …

    Marc, you are definetly not alone :)

    Best regards

    — Andrzej

  39. Steve Timmis July 18, 2013

    WOW, I thought it was just me…..

  40. Franklin pug July 18, 2013

    Haha, this is a great article. I have sat and stared at lumber in my own shop many a night.

  41. Franklin pug July 18, 2013

    Haha, this article is great. I have spent many an hour sitting and staring at lumber in my own shop!

  42. John Fitz July 18, 2013

    I have a hard time even getting to the point of having a pile of lumber, so you’re at least a set ahead of me!

  43. jHop July 18, 2013

    For me, I have a couple other issues to contend with. first, with an outdoor shop, the weather dictates my schedule to me. (today’s heat was 104, and tomorrow’s forecast is about the same. last week we had the 17th straight day of rain…)

    Secondly, income just ain’t what it used to be. So I’m in agreement about not screwing up, because I can’t afford to replace the mistake. Sure, I know i’m supposed to measure twice and cut once, but I’ve still screwed up doing that. So sometimes my procrastination is terror from financial worry, and sometimes it’s indecision about design, and sometimes it’s about using the available time to the best utilization available (and I’m not that… particular … about charting out every single second.)

    Then there’s the college class schedule, and the homework I’ve got… so even on good days to be in the shop, I’ve got a full load of stuff that has a deadline. (And since I paid for the classes but am not getting paid for the woodworking… priorities get rearranged.)

  44. Steven July 18, 2013

    I don’t know why but the calm serenity of my wood shop is a warm cozy place to nap. I bought a couch cheap and covered it with moving blankets I stare at my wood pile, get my mind right, take a great power nap and then tackle my project. Life would be perfect if thats all I had to do. It will be my retirement one day.

  45. Eric Rusch July 18, 2013

    Man, it’s down right scary how that describes me.

    Too funny.

  46. Marcus July 19, 2013

    I worry because my motto is ” failure to prepare is preparing to fail ” after thinking that I go over and over thinking am I ready to take tool to wood. It tends to make me a little capricious (especially with the family) Cost as mentioned before is huge factor I agree.

    As soon as that first cut is made though, we are rolling and it all gets going on fine. The fear falls off and excitement takes over.

  47. Danny A. July 19, 2013

    I share the same hesitation at the start of every project. I think it’s because I don’t have all the details worked out and I don’t want to screw up, or I’m still working the design out in my head and waiting for divine inspiration to materialize and make it perfect. It’s certainly not the weather, because I live in Southern California and the weather is perfect everyday. Once I get started, you can’t stop me. I get possessed. If I make a mistake, I call it a design change. Remember this, you don’t have to go get more wood, just make it smaller. I have a single car garage dedicated as my shop, nothing else goes in there. I am considerate enough to let my wife keep a second refrigerator in there, that’s the least I could do. Never let it be said that I never did the least I could do.

  48. Jonathan July 19, 2013

    Yep Me too. I have a chair that is taking valuable shop space but I cannot get rid of it because I love sitting and looking at my tools and wood. And yes I sleep in it every once in a while!!!

  49. There’s time to do what and a chair for whom? Ooh the lavish luxuries I crave. Unfortunately (and I am sure I’m not the only one) any time I get to spend in my shop usually has to do with someone needing something yesterday (usually my grandchildren though I don’t mind) and as for a chair, the only one in my shop is reserved for my wife as she likes to spend time with my catching me up on her daily activities.

  50. Thomas Kaiser July 19, 2013

    I always have a project going, so I stair at all my wood just looking for the right piece. It would be bad if I wasted a piece.

  51. yep. I’m in that club, too!

  52. Guilty.. Pretty much the reason I’m commenting on this post! Trying to avoid cleaning and staging for the next project that needs to be started (at some point) today :-)

  53. Scott Betz July 19, 2013

    Sounds like every college assignment I ever did….

  54. John Verreault (aka JohnnyVee) July 19, 2013

    Careful Marc my friend, the dust bunnys will cart you away to the land of Nod where King Listless will make you a government employee (swivil servant)–the royal chair maker.

  55. Brian Effinger July 19, 2013

    Sounds like my entiere life. Like you, I’m self-employed, and laziness can be a dangerous thing. In fact, I’m avoiding working on the drawings for someone’s addition right now.

  56. Ken July 19, 2013

    Your preaching to the choir…!

  57. Brian Brazil July 19, 2013

    That’s pretty much been my week, but with software instead of wood…

  58. Ray July 19, 2013

    I thought I was the only one. Now I’m off to stare at some wood.

  59. Had that with my latest solid maple bed project…once the bed was finished the maple got more comfortable lazying on it…

  60. Scott July 19, 2013

    I’m so glad I’m not alone in this, I really think that one of the worst things i ever brought into my shop was a tall stool to sit on. I find myself sitting there just staring around the room thinking about the project at hand. I don’t know if this is helping or hindering the process but that’s how I work, good or bad.

  61. Jerry July 19, 2013

    I would say that my problem getting started is one of over thinking. I’m afraid to start afraid I have not thought of something. So I’ll work the plan and sequence over and over, take more notes, and re measure something for the nth tome. Maybe spend a few hours on sketchUp to work through a detail (again).

  62. Eric July 19, 2013

    Right there with you.

  63. Claude Stewart July 19, 2013

    I find that if I put a project off for a while I generally think of something that will make it easier or smoother going.

  64. Terry Grimes July 19, 2013

    What a relief to hear my fellow brothers (and sisters) experience this same pre-project hypnosis. I thought I was alone and was slightly worried that it might not be quite normal. You guys make me proud!

  65. “And the more time-sensitive the project, the more difficult it is for me to start. ”

    That is me to a tee! I hate having deadlines! Good thing I’m not running some sort of websites that requires me to do instructional projects for people…

  66. Bill Batchelor July 19, 2013

    I’ve been lazy for two years now!

  67. yep, totally the same for me. it’s like, I have to sit there until some stupid on/of switch gets tripped and then bam! all out project mode-don’t bother stopping me till it’ s all done.

  68. Bill K July 20, 2013


  69. Andrew Pritchard July 20, 2013

    Yeah. I’m guilty of this too, and not just in the shop either. I do this in a lot of areas in my life. My degree was a shambles because of this. But like you, getting into the groove and focusing and I get a surprising amount done. Just got to learn how to focus earlier on, so I don’t then rush what I’m trying to achieve.

  70. Nick July 20, 2013

    I’m guilty of procrastination too. At work it’s probably not a good idea to have a bludge. Outside of work though, I’m often a right royal bludger. At a hobby, it’s entirely fine and reasonable to bludge a bit. In fact bludging is part of what makes a hobby a hobby.

    Although I’m not sure where that leaves Marc since his hobby is his work. :)

    For non-Australians: To bludge means to slack off.

  71. My father always told me, “Work fascinates me – I can look at it for hours.”

  72. Starting isn’t a problem for me. It’s in between almost ready for final assembly and ready to finish. First it means committing to the end of the work. It no longer has any more potential to be any better than it already is and it just is what it is. That can be sort of hard to get past. And then there’s all the tedious crap that you have to do before you can actually see what the darn thing is going to look like.

    But it’s alright, I haven’t got anything better to do so it will get done. It’s not like there was a Steam summer sale. I mean how much time could a person waste on Portal and Skyrim, anyway? No problem at all.

  73. Steve July 21, 2013

    Same happens to me.

  74. Devildawg91 July 21, 2013

    I’m guilty, I’ve been building my garage cabinets for 1 year now. Every time I get set to start something else pops up. And all my maple ply and poplar is still in my garage. But in procrastinating I got the wife into watching the and she likes the green in festool and gold in Powermatic, so that has allowed me to get some more tools without feeling too guilty ;)


      That’s what I’m talkin’ about! :)

      • Devildawg91 July 21, 2013

        Thanks Marc, without your website I would have never gotten any green or gold tools. To my fellow woodworkers get your wife to watch the videos and maybe she too will let you by a few Festool and Powermatic tools. The way I see it, that is the true “Power of Procrastination”

        I really need to get those cabinets built….

  75. Clinton July 22, 2013

    I have a similar thing, but it takes place exactly after a piece becomes functional. As soon as my cabinets in the workshop have working draws, that’s it, it sits there 80% done for another few months until pure guilt makes me attach the draw fronts, hang the doors, put the finish on etc. Plus, as you say, I can always find an excuse – “Nar I don’t wanna use those hinges, I’ll pick up some better ones next time I’m at the store”.

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