Stalled in your woodworking skills? Step them up by giving the man in the mirror permission to succeed.

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Early in my woodworking hobby, I realized that my skills weren't advancing as quickly as I would have liked. After some self-examination, I realized that I was over-thinking and second-guessing nearly every purchase, technique, and project I attempted. This "paralysis by analysis" was like a mental jailer prohibiting my improvement. How did I break free? I simply granted myself permission in three key areas.

Permission to splurge

You've heard that "he who dies with the most tools, wins." I was on my way to winning that race...with some of the worst tools a woodworker could own.

Beginner's enthusiasm combined with frugality can be a crippling combination. I remember buying clamps that couldn't hold two pieces of paper together! But it was awesome because I got 10 for only $1!

A friend's gift of a set of quality chisels served as an intervention. Sharp out of the box, they retained their edge longer and felt better in my hand. And suddenly a light bulb came on when I discovered how much more potential I could realize with quality tools.

Step out of the bargain basement and spend a little more on tools you can count on every time you pick them up. You'll be surprised by your improvements.

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Quality tools, properly tuned and cared for, make work easier, guarantee improved results, and provide a lifetime of pleasurable service.

Permission to disagree

After that, I gave myself permission to stray from the plans. It's often difficult to "challenge" the authority of the experts who create woodworking plans. Even making the smallest design or dimensional change can make you question all your instincts.

The truth is, published plans should be treated more like as-the-crow-flies directions than a designated route. When I first saw how changing a single dimension dramatically altered the look of a project and made it better suit my needs, it felt like I was taking my first steps in the world of project design.

By granting yourself permission to disagree, you won't just detour around a skills roadblock, you'll drive right through it and never look back.

Permission to fail

The most liberating license by far was giving myself permission to fail. At everything! Fear of failure stopped me before I even attempted many woodworking tasks and techniques. For example, I wouldn't go near a piece of expensive lumber for fear I'd ruin it and have to spend EVEN MORE to make up for my rookie mistakes.

With permission to fail, I branched out into better materials. And guess what? I spent less time compensating for the shortcomings of lesser-quality wood and instead, enjoyed the results I was getting from the "good stuff." Not to mention I was starting to build pieces that looked amazing!

And while I didn't necessarily make fewer mistakes, I didn't make any more than usual, as I had feared. And every mistake was followed by better results the next time I tried. Forget your fear of failure. The risk and the resulting improvements will propel your woodworking to new heights.

Comparing plywood
Though it costs 50% more, the plywood on the right eliminates uneven core veneers, voids, and a distinct curl that could impact your success.