Sometimes, I get distracted.

I’ve been fairly silent in the blogosphere lately, with quite a lot going on. I put my commissions on pause in order to build a kitchen for my wife (I’ve been promising since we moved in in 1999, and it’s our 10th anniversary, so the kitchen is her gift). I endeavored to build the cabinetry myself, like any good woodworker would want to. My workshop is not ideally suited for “production” cabinetry; that is, it’s in the basement, it has low ceilings, there’s not enough space to store alot of pieces concurrently, and it certainly is not tooled like a production cabinetry shop might be. No, it’s better suited to unique one or two-off pieces of furniture. So needless to say, it’s been a challenge to establish a process to try and do it reasonably efficiently…but I digress.

This post isn’t about cabinetry.

This is about the diversions we take when working on something. Keep reading, there’s are some tasks for you at the end!

Perhaps the task is tedious, monotonous, or generally uninteresting. (Like a boatload of kitchen cabinetry?). I was tired last night, but not the kind of tired where you want to sleep – the kind of tired where you need to just unwind, do something different. So I grabbed a scrap of mahogany, don’t know what kind, or even where it came from, just a random off-cut. I pulled out the carving tools wanting simply to push them through some wood – just for something different then ripping at the tablesaw, planing every machined face, and sorting and labelling face-frame parts. I carved randomly for a couple minutes, without any design intent….and a tree grew from it.

But it was kinda…blah.  I decided I’d try to dye the whole thing, then try planing off the top surface after it dried. A while back I saw, and, without any immediate uses for it, picked up a product at Home Despot (yes, its intentionally spelled that way…) from Minwax: Express Color Water based stain and finish in ‘Onyx’. Who knows what kind of coloring and finish it contains, it’s the typical cryptic verbiage on most of their products to keep you guessing. I just squirted a bunch on the surface, then rubbed it in with a rag:

After a little while, I just planed off the surface. (not sure it was dry, but I was impatient…you know me):

For a 20 minute diversion, I kinda like it, and I’m going to use this method again in a product. So inspired, I sketched a half-dozen ideas this generated while lying in bed afterwards.

So here’s the message, and your tasks:

Get distracted, try something new, do something you always wanted to try, or something entirely unplanned.If it doesn’t work, oh well. Sometimes it’ll inspire you; Sometimes you’ll find something that works, and something you’ll want to do again…for real.

Your final task: Tell us what you do in the shop as a diversion? What have you tried? What worked? What didn’t?


(Note: if anyone knows what this Minwax product is all about, share that too, I’m curious what it really is)


About Nick

Nick Roulleau is founder, craftsman, designer, joiner, finisher, floor-sweep and all of the other roles at Mansfield Fine Furniture. A woodworker for more than a decade, Nick started the company with the goal of filling the need for heirloom-quality furniture hand-made from premium woods. Every piece is designed to suit the customer's needs and desires, hand-picking each piece of wood, and built one piece at a time, using both modern and centuries-old traditional methods to yield furniture to last for generations.