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I’d like to springboard off my last blog’s topic on changes by taking an informal poll: How much do you change things on original designs, and why?

I noted last time that making reproductions of existing items, or new work being made for customers gives you little leeway – the end result must be exactly what was planned at the outset. But when it comes to original work you’ve designed yourself do you make a detailed plan that encompasses every conceivable idea for the piece and follow it to the letter, or do you start with an idea and let the piece take its own direction?

For me, it’s nearly always the latter. Other than the two exceptions noted above for repros and commissions, I work with wood pretty much the same way I do with words. That is, I have a basic understanding of how I want to begin (dimensions, materials, general style, ultimate purpose, etc.) and a goal for how I want it to turn out. But the path I take from point A to point B is very fluid and changeable. In other words, although I have a start point and a goal in mind, everything in between I make up as a go along.

Again, we’re talking about original work you may be doing and not something that’s dictated by a customer or a design you’re reproducing, but how do you proceed with your best work? What are the kinds of changes you make along the way, and what are some of the reasons for making those changes?

Also, when the project is done are you glad you made the changes you did or do you wish you’d stuck with the original plan? I think I’m lucky in this regard, in that I’m nearly always more pleased with a project that I’ve allowed to grow on its own rather than one to which I’ve stuck to a rigid plan. Just like with writing.

Fiction writers will often tell you that they create a character, and then let the character tell them how to write the story. I’ve written and published fiction over the years, and I’ll vouch that that’s true – my best writing has been written, in a sense, by the characters themselves.

I like to think that my woodworking often works in the same way.

Now, how about you?

Till next time,


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