I think there are three criteria for judging your woodworking as an amateur:
- enjoyment experienced
- projects completed
- skills developed or improved
I did well on 1 and 2 last year but 3, not so much. I enjoyed building a number of projects but I mostly relied on skills I already had. I can't say that I really developed or improved my skills significantly, even though there is lots and lots of room for me to get better. Here is what I propose to do about this during 2018.
- Stop buying tools and spend more time developing skills with the ones I already have. I am sometimes like the golfer who thinks he is one club away from being really good. It would be better for him to work on his swing. I have more than enough tools and really should go a year without buying any, not even one. Just like the golfer who should spend less time playing and more time on the practice tee, I need to step away from projects more and just work on skills.
- Focus on my weakness. Here in Portland, we are soccer crazy and we have a superb player whose glaring weakness is his left foot. It makes him much easier to defend and sometimes keeps him from making the most of opportunities. Why doesn't he spend the offseason focusing on it? Because it isn't a lot of fun to work on your weakness and he has learned to compensate with acceptable results. Same thing in woodworking. My worst weakness is finishing and it shows. The fact that I dislike it a lot is both cause and effect.
- When something is almost but not quite right, stop and figure out why. To continue with the soccer analogy, some players make good entry passes that sometimes work out but great passes would unzip the defense and make a huge difference. Good enough is not good enough. A clear example from my woodworking is a mortise and tenon joint that almost but doesn't quite fit. I tell myself I can close it up with a clamp or by drawboring. Sometimes it works and sometimes it almost works.
I actually think that when you reach what I'll call the journeyman stage, 3 is the most important and more or less incorporates the other two. If I would do this consistently, I would enjoy woodworking more, build better projects and develop my skills. This isn't complicated so it's just a matter of forcing myself to do it. Just like losing those holiday pounds!
There is, of course, no reason that you should care about my resolutions, but maybe they will get you started thinking about yours. Maybe we should have a contest and give away a nice tool for the best resolutions.