The illusion of linearity

While we’ve been going through this latest box build (and we should complete it later this week), it appears as though everything proceeds with an undeviating, measured progression.

It ain’t so.

While it’s being chronicled in a deliberate fashion, the truth is that I have far too much to do for that to be the on-the-ground reality.  The way that this box actually gets completed is alongside several other projects.  At the moment, I can list five that I’m actively working on.  In addition, I have a few that I work on here and there, or where I have the wood acclimatizing/drying.  And that doesn’t even touch the several that are rattling around in my head, just waiting for a slow period (no sooner than January for me!) to emerge.

Now while this may seem counterproductive, it’s actually the best use of my time I have yet found.  It’s not as though I work on one thing for a little, then wend my way over to something else, and then wander off after something shiny.  Rather, it’s a way to keep my work schedule consistently filled.  This can be a challenge for the self-employed, as work seems to arrive in pulses of insanity, followed by a paucity of earnings.

So, I work on several things at once.  When I tell you that we glued up the box and put it in the clamps, that might happen right at quitting time, and I just leave it overnight.  Or the rest of my life might dictate that I get the box in the clamps at 0930, so I guess we’ll call it a day then?


Instead, I’ll set it off to the side, then cut out a couple of cutting boards.  Or maybe I start dimensioning the stock for a new tray.  Or maybe I’ll sand a batch of spatulas, then set them aside to dry off from whiskering while I turn out a rolling pin or something.  By the time I get back to the box, it will be the next day and I can carry on, but the time waiting for the glue to dry wasn’t wasted.

If I’m only doing one thing at a time, I consider it pretty inefficient.  The one exception to this (usually) is applying finish.  You don’t really want to be doing anything else while that’s happening.  That’s how you get dust in your paint.  It’s not as bad as if I were working with power tools, but it still happens.  Incidentally, that’s a good reason to use the homebrew shellac we talked about a little bit ago: it dries really fast, so you get less dust in it.

But the point of all of this is not to get locked into the idea that you must complete task “a” before you do task “b”.  Instead, you can work on multiple steps of a project and multiple projects at the same time.  Quantum woodworking!  It’s the new thing.