Canadian Woodworking

The projects I haven’t finished

Blog by Rob Brown
Robs bench

Rob talks about the myriad projects he has yet to bring to completion.

For the first time in 16 months, I didn’t know what I was going to write about, even though my column was due later that day. I mentioned this to my partner, who immediately said, “Why not write about some of the projects you have coming up?” I told her there wasn’t a whole lot to say. Sure, I had a number of upcoming projects, but I didn’t have any photos, there were no updates to give and it would be jumping the gun to write about them.

It took her about two seconds to come up with another idea. “Why not write about all the projects you’ve started but haven’t finished?” she said with a sly smile. Before I even had a chance to stick up for myself, she started rattling off a long list of examples I could write about if I went that route. I had to admit that as bad as this topic made me look, it was going to provide me with more than enough to write about.

Where to start?

Admitting I have a problem is the first step in the road ahead.

I enjoy doing projects around the house. I have more than enough tools and machines to help me out. I have a dedicated shop to do all the prep work before installation. I even have a flexible schedule that allows me to squeeze in projects during quiet times. I really have no problem starting projects around the house. The challenge comes towards the end of a project, when it’s almost complete.

My mind wanders and I start thinking about the next project just a wee bit too early. The next project is going to be even more fun than the current one. The next one is also going to be more functional, beautiful and satisfying than the current one. So much so that I trick myself into stopping whatever project I’m working on — even though it’s so darn close to completion — so I can get started on the next one.

I don’t know what it is about that next project that’s so intriguing and alluring. To be honest, the reason I look to the future isn’t just because I’m excited about the next project. By the time the current project is 95% complete, I’m tired of it. It’s been planned for months, I’ve put a lot of energy into it and I’ve pretty much wrapped it up. It’s just the tiny details at this stage, and that’s what bores me. Those finicky little things that seem to slow my pace down to a crawl and frustrate me. One little hiccup causes me to stop working on the project today, with the plan of picking it back up tomorrow after I head to the shop to make one additional piece, grab one item of hardware or retrieve one more tool I didn’t anticipate needing. Once I put the project aside for even an evening it’s like pulling teeth to get me interested in it again. By then, I’ve already turned my attention to the next glorious project I’m planning.

Thinking back

Many of these nearly finished projects were started months or even years ago. A few, I started decades ago. A five-drawer walnut dresser I started over 20 years ago still has a false front on the middle drawer fixed in place with a few screws and angle brackets. Its top isn’t even secured to the main carcass of the dresser; gravity does a great job at keeping it in place, perched on top of the dresser.

Thankfully, it’s not New Year’s, or I’d feel pressure to make some sort of an “I will complete all my projects before moving onto the next one” resolution. I really should, at the very least, machine the small piece of trim that will finish off the kitchen cabinets very soon. It’s just that I’d prefer to start the teak patio tables, as the weather is getting warmer and we need a few small tables to hold snacks and cold drinks in the backyard. I really think that project should take precedence, don’t you?

Priorities and Payment

Me, working away on another project before the previous 15 are complete. This is at least a paying job, so it’s hard to argue with finishing it up. Clients don’t appreciate a nearly done project, while it’s easy to ignore family when they complain loudly if their free project isn’t done yet.

Robs bench

In Due Time

This gap behind an end cabinet in the kitchen remains unfinished. In fairness, the kitchen was installed only three years ago.

From Rob's Bench
Last modified: April 28, 2022

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches


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  2. I’m merely a hobbyist and retired, but I too have a list of inside and outside projects my wife periodically recites to me. I believe you belong to a subgroup of woodworkers that are perfectionists, as I do. It’s not my fault when, nearly complete, something isn’t quite the way I envisioned it so I have to shelve it for many years (like refinishing a decades old solid Douglas fir exterior door). Seriously though, a couple of decades ago the MMPI revealed I was a perfectionist (but not perfect) in many phases of my life so I’m doomed to be persistently dissatisfied but always optimistic.

  3. Same here. On the plus side I have just finished a cupboard I started in 2012. Only 10 years in the making. In that time I’ve finished another 25 projects. Some aren’t finished like I want them but I will get back to them sometime.

  4. Was it you writing this article or did I just write this? Or did you just write about me? I feel your pain brother. I really do.

  5. Oh man, do I hear what you’re saying. There isn’t even room anymore to add projects to the list. On the upside, my wife tells me I’m not allowed to die until they’re all done. I’m good to 150.

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