Setting Up Shop

Getting started is the hardest part. You need tools and space and knowledge of how to do whatever “it” is. Let’s prioritize.

  1. What are you working on?
    Making sure you have the right space for your work is incredibly important. Let’s say you want to refinish a table. You will need space, a lifted surface to see all the nooks and crannies, good lighting, a place to let stuff dry, a place to keep your tools, and make sure it’s not in the way of household traffic. Before you get started, read your tutorial/summarize your steps and make sure you anticipate all the things and space you’ll need. Think about the completed piece and all the steps that go into it. Prepping your space before even getting supplies makes completion a lot easier and less painful.

  2. Dedicate a realistic timeframe to getting it done.
    I would love to say that I have no abandoned projects and everything gets completed exactly as I hoped within the timeframe I had planned. However, let’s be honest. Life happens and things rarely go as planned (at least for me). As you’re reviewing all of your project steps, make sure to take into account getting materials; drying/curing time for paints, glues, and stains; cleaning up after yourself after sanding; messing up something and having to remake it. If you’re new to DIY, woodworking, and other projects (or even if you’re not new to it), you’ll quickly find that…I’m sorry, you’ll royally mess it up a couple of times. And I’ll tell you now that it’s completely fine. Just make sure to plan for your learning or you’ll be super frustrated. Let me rephrase. I get incredibly frustrated when I don’t do it right the first time or first 5 times.

    So. Timeframe. You’re refinishing a table. You need to get your materials, set up your space, fill the cracks, let the wood filler dry, sand it, clean it, clean your space, apply a coat of paint/stain, maybe sand again, clean it and your space, another coat, sand, seal, and clean up after yourself. That is a lot of applying and drying with hours between to get antsy. You can lose focus fast. (Know that when I say “you”, I mean “me/I”) Plan your waiting. Give yourself time to let it do its thing, while you do your thang. I suggest dancing.

  3. Make a list (and check it twice, just like Santa).
    I truly believe that the world could be conquered by making a list. As you’re reading your instructions make notes. Keep a list to the side with places you need to go/things you need to buy. Again, think through the whole process. For our hypothetical refinishing job, you don’t just need stain or paint and sandpaper. Are you investing in new tools – orbital sander, Dremel tool, dust collector, etc. (and the new things that go with them)? Do you have the right gloves, brushes, and rags? Are you doing this inside or on a surface where you need to protect your floors – tarps, mats, etc.? Do you have the right cleaners for after? Do you have safety equipment – mask, eye/ear protection? Do you have the right surface to elevate your work safely and securely? Do you have the right vehicle to retrieve your tools and materials? And also, are you using the right paints and stains for the job?

    The last thing you want is to be elbow deep in stain and not have enough clean rags to wipe away excess, leaving you with a blotchy mess to redo. Or get lungs full of sawdust that have you coughing up that weird green paint you just sanded off your grandma’s table for a week after. Keep in mind that sawdust is kind of like glitter….it just shows up, uninvited, and stays around longer than it should, clinging to everything and nothing at the same time. #WoodGlitter

    Be as specific as you can with your list – brands, sizes, amounts, exact names. When you’re in the store, it will make all the difference.

  4. Stick to your list.
    You are ready to get started. You have your perfect-sized vehicle to get you there and your stuff back. You have your amazing and comprehensive list that you’ve spent all of your brainpower creating. Trust it when you get to the HomeDepot or Walmart or Lowe’s or whatever your preferred vendor of fine DIY fares is. The reason you spent time thinking through your whole project is so when the scent of raw lumber hits your nostrils and you become intoxicated by all the possibilities and projects you could do, you can come back to the well-thought reality of your perfectly crafted list. Keep focused. I know, I know, if only you had this saw or these fasteners…and these pipes could be a cool something…wouldn’t you look so fancy in this new toolbelt…just me?

    For some, I’m told, the store can be overwhelming with so many options and aisles and no one to help at times. That’s why your very detailed list will be your best friend – unless you’re doing this with your best friend (recommended).

  5. Bringing home baby.
    You’ve survived your trip to the store. You have all of the things. You are ready to get started according to your detailed, realistic timeframe you’ve set for yourself. Set up your space when you get home.

    If you bring everything inside in the bags and set them down, they may get moved or buried or go missing. If you are legit ready to do this thing, make sure to allocate space in your timeline to set up when you come home. When you’re ready to get started, you’ll have everything laid out and ready to go. AND it gives you the opportunity to make sure you got everything. Even though we know your list was perfect and you had everything on there, maybe there was one baby thing you’re missing. You can get it now instead of realizing it later…see #3.

  6. Get to making!
    Everything is set up for you because your Past Self Elf did it. You have your space. You have your gameplan. You have your instructions. Go do it. And clean up after yourself when you’re done. But most importantly, enjoy the new shiny thing that you MADE.

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