Practice Like It’s Your Job. One amazing thing that learning how to repair furniture taught me is how spending time practicing without stopping makes a huge difference. I still use the same methods today to rapidly learn a new skill. Here is how you do it.
Practice Like It’s Your Job
When I did furniture repair and re-finishing as a profession, I spent several months learning many woodworking and wood finishing skills. The training process was excellent, and it helped us learn what we needed to be successful in furniture repair.
The part that was different for me was how we would spend hours working on the exact same thing.
First, we would be given a chair leg with a dent. We would repair the dent, and bring it to the trainer. If he liked the repair, you were rewarded with another dent to fix.
This process went on for days and days. All we did was repair the dents and dings that we were given on our pieces, and we did it over and over.
Having never practiced that way, I was really surprised at how fast I learned the process, and how well I was able to repair the pieces in the end. I think that the secret to learning this way is the fact that…
Sometimes We Stop Before We Really Know
I think that the real secret that was being taught is that we stop too soon. I must have repaired a couple hundred dents in my training, but it was the last few that really made me a skilled repair tech.
While I learned more about the process on the first few, because it was new to me, the last few are where I cemented my abilities in repairing dents. Since I was being paid to learn how to repair at the time, I never thought about asking to stop.
When practicing in the shop, make sure that you are not stopping too early. Many times, we practice until get it right the first time. Then we stop. What we miss out on is the fact that just because we finally got it right, doesn’t mean we are always going to get it right in the future.
One Success Does Not Guarantee Future Success
With any new skill, sometimes success is simply a roll of the dice. Every once in a while, you are going to get a good roll and produce something that you can’t repeat right away. It is going to take more practice to be able to consistently produce that kind of work.
When you stop after one success, it feels safe. You sneak past the finish line and you don’t want to look back and see if the monster is still chasing you. This is where you need to persist on after your first success.
If you can replicate the success a second time, without much trouble, then you can probably say that you are comfortable with the skill. However, it’s still important to keep in practice from time to time so that the skill does not fade away from not being used.
How to Practice
Before you start practicing, read my Last 10% Principle, which will help you make good decisions when you want to just stop working on your project. After that, make some time to practice like it’s your job.
Set up a practice session, and practice one thing at a time. If you are making cabinets and working on face frames, start by making good joints. Do the same thing until you can do it without any trouble at all.
Then, start practicing your attachment method. This can be pocket screws, doweled joints, whatever you are going to use. Again, only do the one part of the process over and over until you get it right every time.
Once you make it through the process like that, you can be assured that your skills will have increased. When you do the real thing, you will surely feel the difference. Happy building.
Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks
While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.
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