Monthly Archives: July 2015

A Woodworking Pep Talk

I occasionally receive emails or comments from discouraged woodworkers. Local woodworker Keith recently emailed me the following:

Just watched your video on your outdoor sitting bench. You make everything look so damn easy. I am in awe of how everything you touch comes out so perfect. What you do is a piece of art that some of us strive for but will never attain. Thank you for showcasing your talent. The only problem someone like myself has is I won’t do anything that you have done, because when it doesn’t look like yours, I feel I have failed. That is another reason I won’t be nearly as good. You have to practice to be good and I expect perfection because I see you make it look so easy. Still enjoy watching you work. Your neighbor, Keith

Keith’s mentality is something I encounter a lot. Many folks are easily discouraged when they see seemingly average people putting out exceptional work. I consider my own work better than average but not exceptional. Keith is being very kind. But we tend to be our own worst critics, right? Understanding where your work fits into the greater hierarchy can be a good thing if coupled with a dose of humility and an optimistic perspective. But not everyone has an optimistic perspective and knowing where you sit on the scale of skill could sour your taste for the craft. I’d hate to see that happen. So here’s a modified version of the pep talk I gave Keith and it’s one that just might resonate with you too.

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself!

Pondering my choices in 2005

Pondering my choices in 2005

Woodworking (as a hobby) should be fun. If it’s no longer fun, for whatever reason, it’s time for some reflection. Keith is comparing his work to mine but is that a fair comparison? Let’s look at our virtual resumes. I have been doing nothing but woodworking for the last 12 years. Not only that, the last decade has been spent teaching others the fundamentals of the craft. As a result, I’ve gotten pretty good at the basics. I now have very high standards for basic joinery, basic design, and overall finish quality. Because The Wood Whisperer is a business and the primary lifeblood of my family, I have invested in nice equipment and I have a great space to do my work. My brain is in this stuff 24/7 and my livelihood allows/requires me to improve every day. My guess is that most people reading this are not in the same situation. You probably work hard at a full-time job and you’re limited to woodworking on nights and weekends when you’re not spending time with your family. Bottom line is this: I’m on my path and you’re on yours. Both paths are valid, necessary, and worthy and both are capable of facilitating the production of beautiful projects that will dazzle onlookers in their own unique ways.

Aim For Your Personal Best!

Keith used the word “perfect” in his comments but I can assure you my work is anything but. See some of my lessons learned from past projects here. And something Keith may not realize is that there are MANY woodworkers out there who make me look like a rank amateur. I’m very aware of this fact but I don’t let it get me down. Everything is relative and we all have our place in the hierarchy. So how do I manage to not be depressed by the fact that I am not as good as someone else?  Because those people are the genesis of my own self-improvement. By example, when I used to sit in my garage looking at pictures of “dream shops” I never once thought to myself, “That dude sucks! Must be nice. I’ll never have a shop like that because I can’t afford it.” Instead, I thought “That’s impressive. I’d love to have a shop like that. What steps can I take today that put me on a path that eventually leads to that dream shop?” Ten years later this happened.

So the same idea applies to observing the work of others. You shouldn’t view someone else’s skill and success as a reflection of how bad your situation is. Instead, use their work to help you set goals and discover ways to improve so you can put yourself on that path to greatness. And let’s clarify what I mean by greatness. We can’t all be “the best” woodworker but we can be our personal best woodworker. So as you move along your path to greatness, you should gauge your progress not by how close you are to the end-all-be-all, but by how much you’ve improved over your previous attempts. If you notice that project after project you just aren’t getting better, you need to find out why and squash it. My guess is it’s a mental block and not a physical one.

Practical Advice

When you’re finished with a project, take time to evaluate what it is you don’t like about it. If you can spot the flaws, you can usually identify when and why they occurred. To quote GI Joe, that’s half the battle. The other half is actually easier since it only requires a little research. Figure out how to prevent those mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again. And if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, most imperfections are a result of laziness, not just honest blunders. An honest mistake is something like not realizing that the table saw causes tearout when doing cross-cuts. But after you do some research and realize that you should use a zero clearance insert and a sacrificial fence on your miter gauge, the only reason you’ll have tearout again is because you made the conscious decision to take a short cut.

So be patient, be realistic, be honest about the nature of your mistakes, and most importantly: be inspired! Let the work of your betters pull you up instead of knocking you down and learn to be OK with the fact that there will always be someone who can do the job better than you. Run your own race and beat your own score. Be the master of your own destiny by setting a goal and plotting a practical course that gets you there. Don’t just daydream about what could be. Take an action today that helps make that dream a reality. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself sitting higher in the hierarchy. And if all goes well (somewhat ironically) you won’t give a crap about your place in the hierarchy simply because you’re having fun making things and doing what you love.

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Modern Day Lumberjack: Matt Cremona


Find a Tree, Turn it Into Furniture!

If you stop to think about it, the fact that we woodworkers can take a rough milled piece of lumber and transform it into a piece of furniture or art is quite amazing actually. For most of us, woodworking begins at the lumber yard, but for Matt Cremona, woodworking begins in the outdoors hunting for logs for his projects.

At first glance, you probably wouldn’t guess that Matt harvests and mills full size logs as a side business and as part of his woodworking routine. He may not be a burly dude, but it is rumored that he eats pancakes for breakfast every day!

Of course, he’s also a very accomplished woodworker and he does a bang up job teaching others what he knows. I’ve found his channel to be extremely useful in learning all about milling your own lumber along with a heap of great woodworking tips. I even learned that there are contraptions out there that turn a chainsaw into a mill that can slice up slabs from a log. Who knew!!

I’ve been following Matt for a while now, and I wanted to dig a little deeper and learn more about him and his work. A few months ago, he decided to make a career change to pursue his woodworking passion full-time. I had to take the opportunity to learn more about him and squeeze some great business tips out of him as well.

Enjoy the interview!


Who is Matt Cremona?

I build furniture starting with cutting down the tree, using my own special blend of hand and power tools. My own designs tend to have a clean straight line look, but I also really enjoy building period pieces. I produce videos about woodworking and milling lumber. My videos aim to motivate other woodworkers to challenge themselves and try something new. I also sell the majority lumber that I produce.

Who or what has had the biggest impact on the progression of your work?

Surrounding myself by people who are more accomplished than me has been the single most influential thing that has caused me to grow as a woodworker. Rather than be intimidated by their skill and accomplishments, it has been a constant motivator to learn from them and to try to achieve what they have done.

Throughout your journey as a woodworker, what accomplishments are you most proud of?

SecretaryOn the tangible side, the secretary desk is the project that I am most proud of. It was a massive undertaking for me and was such an incredible learning experience. I am also very proud of what I have been able to teach myself through trial and error. There is a lot you can learn by just getting out in your shop and building something. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. But for me, making mistakes has been by far the best way to learn. There is a sense of accomplishment looking back at those mistakes and realizing how it’s shaped you into a stronger woodworker.

I am also proud and really humbled by the interactions with other woodworkers through YouTube and other media. I receive messages from people who, after watching one of my videos, have been inspired to try something that they have always been hesitant to do. That is easily the best feeling in the world knowing that you got to play a part in their new experience. For example, my wife surprised me by making me a dovetailed beer carrier for Father’s Day this year—something she likely wouldn’t have ever tried if I wasn’t a woodworker. I don’t think there has been a prouder moment in my life.

What part of woodworking do you struggle with?

I have the hardest time staying focused on one project. At some point I’ll totally lose interest in working on something and I’ll switch to working on some other project. I’ll usually have multiple projects going at the same time because of this.

Which do you enjoy more: Building furniture or harvesting your own logs? Why?

Matt Cremona Slabbing Red Oak with a ChainsawThat’s a really hard question. For me, they are so intertwined and they both provide me with enjoyment and experiences that the other can’t. For instance, being out in the woods getting logs makes for a physically exhausting day which I love. Being in the shop allows me to turn an idea I have in my head into something that exists in the physical world. The best thing about doing both is the project starts out in the woods. Most of the time I don’t have a project in mind when I fell a tree, but I have plenty of time to come up with a great use for it or I’ll have a project come to mind and I’ll know exactly the right set of boards to use for it.

What made you decide to switch careers and focus on woodworking?

When I lost my job in Dec 2014, I started looking for a new job based on my professional experience. Around the same time, my YouTube channel was really starting to grow. With each job application I filled out and each interviews I went to, it became clear that teaching others about woodworking was what I am truly passionate about and that I had been given a great opportunity to try to do what I love. In March, I officially ended my job hunt and have never been happier.

What worries you the most about your career change, and how do you overcome those fears?

I think most people who go off on their own worry most about the change in income style and I am no exception. Going from a regular job to being self-employed is frightening. I was used to receiving a constant pay check. I knew how much I was going to make months in advance. I had paid vacation and holidays. I don’t have those anymore. No one is paying me not to work.

What’s really reassuring for me is every month the business grows. I get to look back and see how far this thing has come – all the way from nothing. That keeps me motivated and excited for the future.

How has becoming a full time woodworker affected your woodworking?
Spicebox made of walnut by matt cremonaMy time now consists primarily of making videos and everything that goes along with that. So really since I made this career change, I’m actually woodworking less than I ever have, at least measured in hours spent in the shop. However, what I’ve realized is now I am much more focused. I know exactly what tasks I want to complete when I head out to the shop. Overall that makes me more productive while I’m out there (although I still spend too much time looking for things I put down somewhere… who keeps moving my tape measures and pencils?!)

Thanks Matt!!

Be sure to check out Matt’s YouTube channel. Learn more about milling, learn from his tutorials, and see what’s going on in the shop. If you’ve ever considered harvesting and milling your own logs, you’ll want to check out all his videos about it.  You can also check out his website to see more of his projects, take a peek at the lumber he has in stock, and more!

Big thanks to Matt for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview with me.

The post Modern Day Lumberjack: Matt Cremona appeared first on The Wood Whisperer.

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Modern Day Lumberjack: Matt Cremona


Find a Tree, Turn it Into Furniture!

If you stop to think about it, the fact that we woodworkers can take a rough milled piece of lumber and transform it into a piece of furniture or art is quite amazing actually. For most of us, woodworking begins at the lumber yard, but for Matt Cremona, woodworking begins in the outdoors hunting for logs for his projects.

At first glance, you probably wouldn’t guess that Matt harvests and mills full size logs as a side business and as part of his woodworking routine. He may not be a burly dude, but it is rumored that he eats pancakes for breakfast every day!

Of course, he’s also a very accomplished woodworker and he does a bang up job teaching others what he knows. I’ve found his channel to be extremely useful in learning all about milling your own lumber along with a heap of great woodworking tips. I even learned that there are contraptions out there that turn a chainsaw into a mill that can slice up slabs from a log. Who knew!!

I’ve been following Matt for a while now, and I wanted to dig a little deeper and learn more about him and his work. A few months ago, he decided to make a career change to pursue his woodworking passion full-time. I had to take the opportunity to learn more about him and squeeze some great business tips out of him as well.

Enjoy the interview!


Who is Matt Cremona?

I build furniture starting with cutting down the tree, using my own special blend of hand and power tools. My own designs tend to have a clean straight line look, but I also really enjoy building period pieces. I produce videos about woodworking and milling lumber. My videos aim to motivate other woodworkers to challenge themselves and try something new. I also sell the majority lumber that I produce.

Who or what has had the biggest impact on the progression of your work?

Surrounding myself by people who are more accomplished than me has been the single most influential thing that has caused me to grow as a woodworker. Rather than be intimidated by their skill and accomplishments, it has been a constant motivator to learn from them and to try to achieve what they have done.

Throughout your journey as a woodworker, what accomplishments are you most proud of?

SecretaryOn the tangible side, the secretary desk is the project that I am most proud of. It was a massive undertaking for me and was such an incredible learning experience. I am also very proud of what I have been able to teach myself through trial and error. There is a lot you can learn by just getting out in your shop and building something. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. But for me, making mistakes has been by far the best way to learn. There is a sense of accomplishment looking back at those mistakes and realizing how it’s shaped you into a stronger woodworker.

I am also proud and really humbled by the interactions with other woodworkers through YouTube and other media. I receive messages from people who, after watching one of my videos, have been inspired to try something that they have always been hesitant to do. That is easily the best feeling in the world knowing that you got to play a part in their new experience. For example, my wife surprised me by making me a dovetailed beer carrier for Father’s Day this year—something she likely wouldn’t have ever tried if I wasn’t a woodworker. I don’t think there has been a prouder moment in my life.

What part of woodworking do you struggle with?

I have the hardest time staying focused on one project. At some point I’ll totally lose interest in working on something and I’ll switch to working on some other project. I’ll usually have multiple projects going at the same time because of this.

Which do you enjoy more: Building furniture or harvesting your own logs? Why?

Matt Cremona Slabbing Red Oak with a ChainsawThat’s a really hard question. For me, they are so intertwined and they both provide me with enjoyment and experiences that the other can’t. For instance, being out in the woods getting logs makes for a physically exhausting day which I love. Being in the shop allows me to turn an idea I have in my head into something that exists in the physical world. The best thing about doing both is the project starts out in the woods. Most of the time I don’t have a project in mind when I fell a tree, but I have plenty of time to come up with a great use for it or I’ll have a project come to mind and I’ll know exactly the right set of boards to use for it.

What made you decide to switch careers and focus on woodworking?

When I lost my job in Dec 2014, I started looking for a new job based on my professional experience. Around the same time, my YouTube channel was really starting to grow. With each job application I filled out and each interviews I went to, it became clear that teaching others about woodworking was what I am truly passionate about and that I had been given a great opportunity to try to do what I love. In March, I officially ended my job hunt and have never been happier.

What worries you the most about your career change, and how do you overcome those fears?

I think most people who go off on their own worry most about the change in income style and I am no exception. Going from a regular job to being self-employed is frightening. I was used to receiving a constant pay check. I knew how much I was going to make months in advance. I had paid vacation and holidays. I don’t have those anymore. No one is paying me not to work.

What’s really reassuring for me is every month the business grows. I get to look back and see how far this thing has come – all the way from nothing. That keeps me motivated and excited for the future.

How has becoming a full time woodworker affected your woodworking?
Spicebox made of walnut by matt cremonaMy time now consists primarily of making videos and everything that goes along with that. So really since I made this career change, I’m actually woodworking less than I ever have, at least measured in hours spent in the shop. However, what I’ve realized is now I am much more focused. I know exactly what tasks I want to complete when I head out to the shop. Overall that makes me more productive while I’m out there (although I still spend too much time looking for things I put down somewhere… who keeps moving my tape measures and pencils?!)

Thanks Matt!!

Be sure to check out Matt’s YouTube channel. Learn more about milling, learn from his tutorials, and see what’s going on in the shop. If you’ve ever considered harvesting and milling your own logs, you’ll want to check out all his videos about it.  You can also check out his website to see more of his projects, take a peek at the lumber he has in stock, and more!

Big thanks to Matt for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview with me.

 

The post Modern Day Lumberjack: Matt Cremona appeared first on The Wood Whisperer.

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