Analysis paralysis

I recently received an invitation from fellow blogger Tom Iovino to participate in “Get Woodworking Week” which is an attempt by the blogosphere to get people off their collective duffs, into the shop, and do some woodworking. In my opinion, most beginners suffer from “analysis paralysis” (a good friend’s phrase). What this means is a lot of beginners either over-analyze their projects or think they can’t even start one without the latest and greatest tool, gizmo, whatever – take your pick. Although they are well intentioned, the job never seems to get done. When you look at all the great furniture built hundreds of years ago with the bare minimum of tools, you truly have no excuse. As an example, I’ll relate two incidents that stick in my mind.

Most recently I was at a woodworking show chatting with a friend who was doing demos and selling DVDs. An older gentleman walked up and purchased a dovetailing DVD. He turned to me and proudly proclaimed that this was his fifth DVD on dovetailing. I asked if he did a lot of dovetailing and he told me didn’t have the skill or tools to even try it.

That encounter conjured up a memory from thirty years ago when I met a young fellow who was more of a motor head than a woodworker but he had the fire in his belly. He proudly displayed his first attempt at a dovetailed box and I was duly impressed. The dovetails were clean, tight, and well executed. When I asked him what kind of saw he used, he told me very matter-of-factly – a hacksaw. I was blown away but I made a fatal mistake. I told him that hacksaws were for metalworking, not woodworking.  Once that seed was planted in his head, he never again achieved the level of precision that he did on his first project.

These anecdotes have two morals. First, don’t ever question how someone did something. Just appreciate a job well done and leave it at that. Second, don’t let the lack of a “special” tool hinder you from doing what you want to do. Resourceful people will always find a work-around. By the way, even though I have tried a few times over the years, I have never been successful using a hacksaw to cut dovetails.