Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

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Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Matthew Lau » Mon May 14, 2018 12:59 pm

Hey MIMF,

I'm thinking of quitting instrument building once I'm done with my build list.
After doing some advanced training, I realized that I only have enough energy to get good at one thing.
I'd like to only focus on dentistry for a while...maybe start a family.

How about you guys?

Are there times where you've quit for a few decades and come back?
I dunno. I'm 34, and I feel like a tired old man right now.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Eric Knapp » Mon May 14, 2018 2:13 pm

At your age I put my shop into storage and concentrated on my new career. I met my wife couple of years later and started a family after that. We moved my mostly dormant shop with us from house to house. Fast forward and I’m about to retire. I’m bringing my shop out of its long sleep and will finally build the guitars I’ve wanted to for so long. That’s just my story but I’m sure there are others with similar ones. It’s hard to have a busy career, a family, and build things that take time and focus. In two days I’ll have the time, finally. I wish you well, your shop will wait patiently.

-Eric
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Brian Evans » Mon May 14, 2018 3:34 pm

If it's your business, you have to approach it with a must-do, must-succeed attitude. It's gotta be a priority. If it's your hobby, you approach it with a "I want to do this for what it gives back to me" attitude. I've gone in and out of hobbies based on what they were giving to me at the time. When I was slowly quitting car racing, my wife asked me " do you think you'll want to start again?". I said "I won't know until I start building another car." You'll get back into the hobby when you start building another guitar. Until then, the skills, the tools, the energy can rest, or do something else. It's all good.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Bryan Bear » Mon May 14, 2018 4:10 pm

For me, it is just a hobby. My wife, kids and job all come before. I often go looooong stretches without touching any instrument work. Sometimes I feel like I have to re-learn everything when I come back but really it just takes a little practice to get back into the swing. It is fine to put hobbies aside and prioritize your life, but remember that you need to make at least some time for a relaxing outlet from stress. It doesn't really matter what it is as long as you allow yourself to blow off steam. Sometimes this craft can end up adding stress because an instrument tends to be a long term project. If left unfinished it can feel like another chore to complete. Don't let any hobby add stress to your life!
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby john shelton » Mon May 14, 2018 7:38 pm

Matthew Lau wrote:Hey MIMF,

I'm thinking of quitting instrument building once I'm done with my build list.
After doing some advanced training, I realized that I only have enough energy to get good at one thing.
I'd like to only focus on dentistry for a while...maybe start a family.

How about you guys?

I'm 75 and have been building for over 50 years. It's just as fascinating and exciting as it was when I started. We have a bunch of projects for next winter including laminating sides, double backs and tops, a special order for a guitaron (never built one before). I have been a professional musician and teacher, supervisor of a large computer room, worked construction, been offered innumerable jobs by wood entrepreneurs, etc. but was never interested in anything but making guitars. Why would you consider quitting?
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon May 14, 2018 9:12 pm

Matthew - like Eric, I tried to pursue woodworking as a hobby while in my late 20's and early 30's, but found that a) it was hard to afford the tools I wanted and b) keeping up with career, spouse, kids, home maintenance etc. made it very difficult. It pretty much got mothballed when I went back to business school in my mid-30's. We moved, then moved again, and my workshop was just this utilitarian place with a workbench, tools crammed everywhere and piles of "stuff".

About 12 years ago, my youngest was entering high school, and beginning to have a life of his own, Marcy and I were well established in our careers and it was time to bring the woodworking out of retirement. Since then I have built a basement shop space, and gone through two expansions and remodeling of that space, the last took almost two years and spanned my transition from a being a working stiff to being a "gentleman of leisure". These are skills that you don't lose, and I find that I got better as the years went by because I gained patience and along the way acquired more tools (once a DIY-er, always a DIY-er), and gained a better feel for how various materials behave.

Finally, if your hobby begins to feel like a job - as Bryan suggests - it's time to step away a bit. Until I started building guitars (and admittedly I'm only on my second build) I always reached a point in just about any larger project where I began to wonder why I ever started it, and if it would ever get done. I'd feel just as much enthusiasm for the next project though, so I think it was just one of those things that in large projects (like the arts & crafts sofa and love seat I built a few years back) I just get tired of looking at it! :) However, it's interesting that I NEVER felt that way at any point during my first guitar build, so I might have finally found a "home" niche in this hobby.

Bottom line, yeah - don't hesitate to set it aside for awhile. If you're a "maker" by nature, you will probably get back to it some day when there is room for it in your life. If you play music, though, I would encourage you to continue with that. As Bryan mentions, we need something, some work, some creative space to provide some balance in life. Find something like that for yourself in the meantime because life gets pretty grim without it.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Randolph Rhett » Tue May 15, 2018 10:12 am

Matthew, I am not sure I can make much sense of what you are asking in your post. I gather you don’t make instruments for anyone but yourself. So why would there have to be a decision about whether you make more? If you feel like making them, make them. Don’t if you don’t. How could you know how you’ll feel for a “long, long time”?

As for “getting good at dentistry” I assume you mean at the business of selling yourself and figuring out how to maximize your profits. I’ve had my own law practice since my late twenties (I’m 47 now). Yes, it can be an all consuming concern how to build a practice and keep profitable when you are out there on your own. But building and playing guitars (truthfully playing has been more my focus until recently) is what I did to help me stay balanced and be able to put the grueling effort into building my practice. Far from interfering, guitars made it possible to not burn out.

So I’m not sure I understand why you think you need to make a decision to stop. Do you need to sell your tools to raise money? Are you looking to move and are planning to abandon having a shop? What exactly is the decision you are trying to make?
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby David King » Tue May 15, 2018 12:55 pm

I'd just say this, hobbies are important to mental health. As I'm sure you heard many times dentists have one of the highest rates of suicide among professionals. It's tough to get that balance right. I'd say you have more time on your hands in starting a family but having started mine at 54 I'd urge everyone to get it going way sooner. (Once you've started that family you will have no time for anything for quite a while apparently.)
You might find a hobby that's more rewarding and less isolating than luthiery but you might need that alone time after dealing with patients all day. You do things because you enjoy doing them. I don't enjoy building at all anymore so I don't do it. I don't see it as a failure just as a natural progression. I got out of playing music because I ran out of ideas and I didn't consider that a failure but just that I got bored. The trick is to keep an open mind and be curious and follow your interests as you can so that you keep learning.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Paul Rhoney » Tue May 15, 2018 1:15 pm

This thread is really hitting home for me.

For those that don't know, I had a marginally successful electric guitar business for seven years, did the NAMM show, had a guitar on the cover of Premier Guitar Magazine, and a few famous artists playing my guitars to some massive audiences. And I still host a podcast all about it. But by the end of 2016, after a broken family, and literally living at the shop for a year, I'd had enough of being poor and closed up shop. Moved back up north, took a job at another guitar company, and that didn't work out either. Had big plans to launch a new brand, and my business partner basically just pulled the rug out from under me on it.

So these days I'm not building guitars at all. I don't have a shop, and I haven't even seen the few big tools I still have in months. I work two jobs, and am signing up for college classes to get my TIG welding certification. What little free time I have I tend to spend working on my newfound hobby of motorcycle projects.

I guess there's not much I have to say to add to this conversation, other than it's interesting to hear others' stories. I do still hope and plan to get back to guitar making one day, and I'm young enough still that I think I can do it. But life has other plans for me now, and I have a lot to take care of first.

Good luck to you Matthew, and if you feel like you need to talk to someone on the other side of where you're at, I'll be around.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby John Clifford » Tue May 15, 2018 9:41 pm

Matthew Lau wrote:After doing some advanced training, I realized that I only have enough energy to get good at one thing.
I'd like to only focus on dentistry for a while...maybe start a family.


That's at least two things. What's one more?

But seriously, there's a reason most of the people enjoying this hobby are older guys. It sucks up loads of time and money. I didn't have enough of either when I was your age, so I know where you're coming from. I really feel for the guys like Paul who are (or were) trying to make a living as luthiers. Man, that would be tough. Almost as hard as trying to make a living as a musician.

So go be a successful dentist, make a boatload of money, retire early, and then resume making guitars!

Best wishes,
John
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Dan Smith » Wed May 16, 2018 12:13 pm

Me too. After 25 builds, I plan to make furniture instead.
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Them kids was fast as light-nin.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Beate Ritzert » Thu May 17, 2018 8:52 pm

let me look back to my building history - i did my 1st steps at the age of 15. A simple semi hollow flying V, primitive but nicely sounding. 10 years later i wanted an archtop guitar and built that. On the kitchen table with very limited tools (i should have bought a few more, especially hand tools). Then a break of about 20 years, but a lot of DIY in other fields (furniture, work in the house, working on my bicycles). Then i needed a 5 string medium scale bass and built that - well, i just had lost my job in the mid 40s and had the time :-( It took several years until my life stabilized again, and then i felt the need to start with instrument making again. Due to lack of resources a few projects where i did just the bodies and used necks i had bought - all of them so cheap that making a neck was not economic at all. Meanwhile i have reached a point where i do more and more feel the need to become better, but still proceed slowly. I am still far from the build quality that would allow me even to consider to sell an instrument.

So, lutherie is important to me, has always been. Theoretically i could even think of qualifying and trying to make a living from it - but only as a last resort because of the difficulties we all know.

Back to Yo: Yo are 34 and You feel tired. Tired in general? Maybe You should try a break, find new power an then concentrate on You life. You say dentistry? Well, do that. You say family? Of course also that. And keep in mind: if Your children have reached a certain age they will love if their daddy can do a lot (beside the job) - repairing their toys, building furniture, making guitars - and You can and should even let them participate, let them assist in simple tasks, introduce them to woodworking as far as they like to. You'll be a cool daddy...

And You'll not lose the ability so engage stronger in woodworking or lutherie any time You need it.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Fri May 18, 2018 10:34 am

The hobby you choose should offer a change from the daily grind (pun intended) of dentistry. If you find lutherie to require many of the same skills and attention to detail it may not offer the stress relief a hobby should give. If you find you miss doing it, it is something you can come back to later. You can probably fit all your lutherie supplies and tools in a couple of large boxes, tape them shut and stick them in a closet or odd corner out of the way. As someone once told me "They don't eat nothin".
Maybe painting al fresco or a physical sport would be a better hobby at this point, or something that will allow you to meet people and find the "girl of your dreams" ( or at least the love of your life)
I'm sure that college, dental school, and setting up a practice has filled up most of your life to this point. It's time you start finding some time for yourself. I don't know how long your build list is, but if it seems like a burden, that might be the first thing to eliminate - "lists" can turn what should be fun into a chore. On your free time you should do what you want.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Bryan Bear » Fri May 18, 2018 11:29 am

Clay Schaeffer wrote:I don't know how long your build list is, but if it seems like a burden, that might be the first thing to eliminate - "lists" can turn what should be fun into a chore.


This is exactly what I was talking about. At the risk of looking really cheesy, I'm going to suggest that you do a little reading on "mindfullness." I'm not saying go off and pursue meditation as your next hobby (unless that sounds like something you would like), but learn how to practice mindfulness in whatever hobby or stress release activity you choose. It really does reduce your stress levels once you get the hang of it. These days, we are not very good at getting into and staying in the moment; we are always worried about all the other things that need to be done. For me, woodworking is the perfect time to practice this. Focus on the one task you are doing, nothing else, just planing, sanding, bending whatever.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sat May 19, 2018 9:41 am

Like many here, I started my family at a young age. (23)
We had two beautiful daughters who both were athletic, so they played fastball in the spring, swimming in the summer, and ringuette in the winter.
I coached and refereed hockey for 18 years also, so we were a busy family. My wife also played fastball, and spent time in the gym.

My woodworking in those days was limited to necessary projects. Build a doghouse, build a fence, build a garage, fix things around the house, the odd piece of furniture. My shop was limited as it was not insulated. Here in Canada you must have an insulated, heated shop in the winter.
I still had the desire to do woodwork.

It was only after the girls were grown and I was no longer spending my winters in an arena that I finally got back into the shop. Fixed it up, bought a few new tools because I finally had some money, and got going.
I started with furniture.

One day I took one of my guitars in to have some new pickups installed. I needed it right away because we were playing that weekend, and when I paid for it at the "Rush" rate, I felt like I got taken.
So I started to read about guitars. How to do setups and repairs. Of course this takes some specialty tools, and after my friends started to refer their friends, I started to charge a bit of money for my work.
I shortly after realized that with my long dormant woodworking skills, I may be able to build a guitar.

Long story short; life has a way of dictating your priorities. If you truly love something, you will always find your way back.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Glenn Cummings » Sat May 19, 2018 10:31 am

Matthew Lau wrote:I'm 34, and I feel like a tired old man right now.
...

This will not get better with age.
Make sure you have a reasonable income and start saving, or buying real estate.
.
While a lot of things are fun now, but make very little money, a lot of life later will not be fun if you cannot afford certain things.

Think of money as a way to bank your life's energy. Some day you will be much more tired and old, and it's nice to have banked a bit of that energy..

I see too many grasshoppers complain through out life.

(ref: the story of the grasshoppers and the ant)
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Matthew Lau » Tue May 22, 2018 4:51 pm

Thanks for the posts.

I mainly sorta needed some perspective from people with the same obsession...as well as other stages of life.
No-- I don't need to sell tools for money.
Yes- I only build for myself (and a few friends).
No--I don't have a family of my own. I think that I may need to start one.

I'm probably just in denial. Even as I'm a bit tired and burnt out, I'm still looking into new ways to keep building.
Thanks for putting up with my whining.

Also, I'm definitely the ant.
While I don't make as much money as most of my colleagues, I've lived thifty and invested well.


Thanks guys....will try to get better at mindfullness, and will try making something nice.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue May 22, 2018 6:56 pm

Matthew - something else to think about. You're at an age where it is easy to feel you're in a rut. The initial thrill of launching your career has worn off, and it's easy to feel like "is that all there is?"

You may have kept that feeling a bit at bay with your building, but the doldrums may be recurring and you need a new adventure. Starting a family is one huge adventure and if you have someone who is already your best friend to share the adventure with, it can be a great source of joy (and quite a few tears - be ready for that)

Stepping off into a new business or professional specialty can also be a tremendous source of adventure if you have a fire in the belly for it.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Lincoln Goertzen » Tue May 22, 2018 11:54 pm

I identify with you in a number of ways, Matthew. I just turned 34 this past weekend, and I completed my electrical apprenticeship last year. I have wondered if this was all there is to "the rest of my life."

I only recently got my shop up and running after about a 4-5 year forced break. Now I'm too busy to build, but I enjoy other things. I repair and set up many of the instruments for the local music store, and I play music with my children.

As I type this, my baby daughter is falling asleep on my lap, and my 5-year old is fast asleep on the couch. My two boys are reading to each other in their bedroom. There's very little I *have* to do these days, except put food on the table and make sure I have enough energy to make some memories with my family. I have an extremely supportive wife of 10 years who wishes I would get back into building, but I'm in no hurry. I'm just thankful for the blessings I have for the season of life I'm in.

So if you need to put your tools away for a long while, or a short while, I completely understand.
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Re: Thinking of quitting building for a long, long while

Postby Bryan Bear » Wed May 23, 2018 11:11 am

Matthew Lau wrote:No--I don't have a family of my own. I think that I may need to start one.


I'm intrigued by this statement and finding it hard to express exactly why or what I want to say about it.

Thinking you MAY NEED to start a family can mean a lot of things and be a lot of pressure. Do you have a significant other who is ready and you're not sure if you are? Do you feel that way just because all your friends have started to do it? Is it something you really want but haven't met the partner yer? Pressure to do so from family?

Starting a family was easily the best thing I ever did but it is also the hardest and most important job there is. You need to make sure you want to do it, are ready* to do it and on the same page as your partner. You can't really pressure any of those things. If your still looking for a partner and try too hard you'll drive yourself nuts. If your partner is more ready than you are, you'll need to have some serious conversations and soul searching (better done before you start). Pressure from any other source should be ignored. . . This is all, of course my opinion and worth the price you paid for it. . .

* You will never TRULY be ready
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