The Joy Of Building Things

For most of my life, roughly 38 years of it to be exact, I’ve never been what you would call “mechanically inclined”.  I wasn’t “handy” with anything.  When things broke I dreaded having to call someone to fix it.  I stayed away from any activity that required me to use my hands.  It’s not like I didn’t have amble opportunity when I was younger to learn these things. My dad is the epitome of “handy”.  Seriously, the man can fix and build just about anything.  But even though he had the desire to pass those skills on to me, I never had the interest to take the time to learn them.  I was too busy doing other things and couldn’t see the value of what those skills could mean to me.  You see, the cost of anything is the amount of life it takes to acquire it.  That’s pretty much verbatim of what Thoreau said in his classic, Walden.  You can purchase things with the money you have earned from the exchange of your time for a set amount of income or you can take that same time and learn how to repair/build things yourself, giving you the choice of what is the best course of action in a given situation.  Sometimes it may be hiring the work out or it may be in your better interest to do it yourself.  Having the choice is imperative to exercising a greater degree of freedom.

But back to my story.  I didn’t really start becoming interested in repairing and building things until I bought the house I currently live in and set about doing the bulk of the rehab work myself.  Back then I did these things out of necessity, because I knew that if I hired everything out I wouldn’t make anything from it.  So, I bought a bunch of tools and set about learning dozens of new skills.  Everything from tile work, plumbing, flooring, drywall, hanging doors etc.  and I found that I was beginning to enjoy doing these things.  It was fun to take something that looked horrible and turn it into something pleasing, almost beautiful.  The more I did things the more my skills set grew and I was soon able to look at problems and have fairly good idea of what needed to be done.  There was a certain satisfaction that came with being able to fix or build something myself.  Don’t get me wrong, learning this stuff comes with a lot of frustration and occasional bouts of outright anger when you screw things up and have to tear it out, buy new material and start over.  It’s a learning process and if you stick with it you begin to enjoy the satisfaction that comes later when you progress from crawling to walking and the actual fruit of your labor enters the realm of the tangible.

Over the last year and half I’ve enjoyed building things so much that I started working for myself building things that people would pay me good money to do!  And I haven’t stopped there.  I eventually want to progress to s point I can build my own cabin in a few years, but I have a lot more walking to do before I can run.

I mentioned in my post on 2015 being the year of The Stoic that I wanted to start building some furniture.  I think it would be cool to build useable furniture instead of going and buying things.  I’m not in need of anything, I just want to create!  I just enjoy the act of building stuff!  It’s fun.  It’s my new hobby, a form of entertainment.  With unusually mild temps the last couple of days, I decided to spend my evenings building a bookcase from scrap lumber I had laying around.  I had seen a picture of a corner bookcase and thought it would be neat to build one.  I also thought it would be really cool to build something out of lumber that would normally be wasted.  What follows is the process and what the end product ended up looking like.  Be easy on your judgment, I’m certainly not a master woodworker, yet.


After looking at few different pictures online and getting an idea of how it would come together I jotted a few things down:

Hard to believe I'm not an engineer with this level of details in my plans. :-)

Hard to believe I’m not an engineer with this level of details in my plans. 🙂


Once I had an idea of what it was going to look like I gathered the material needed for the project.  I’ve never built any piece of furniture before and I didn’t want to spend money on nice material when I knew that this was for practice, that I would make mistakes and it likely wouldn’t turn out well.  I have several pieces of cedar fence boards that I couldn’t use on a fence installation because of various defects, but decided I would keep them and build some planter boxes that I want to mount under my windows this spring.  I could probably get by with using them for the bookcase as well.  It was certainly worth a try.






In the pictures above you can see the bad areas of the wood. I was able to utilize most of the wood by simply cutting the bad spots out. This was also very satisfying; I was building something out of wood that would normally be discarded.

The Finished Product (It actually looks like a bookcase! 🙂

I was actually happy with how it turned out.  I didn’t prep the wood at all.  No sanding or anything.  It’s simply rough cut cedar, but overall it turned out well.  Actually, it tuned out better than I thought it would.   What do you think?










I think I’m going to keep this in the living room where it currently is.  It fits nicely in this little corner and actually looks nice.  An added benefit?  The smell of cedar is amazing!

A close up of the shelving and trim as well as a selection from The Stoic's library.

A close up of the shelving and trim as well as a selection from The Stoic’s library.

I think my next project will be one or two end tables.  I’ll likely use cedar material again as I have plenty of it and would love to see it put to good use.  These little projects are simply to allow me to develop my woodworking skills.  As I get better I may start to purchase better materials, but for now I’m content with using what is available and practicing the art of upcycling.

12 thoughts on “The Joy Of Building Things

  1. This is amazing stuff, to me. I have the same urge to “build something,” to make something, to create something. I’ve been doing it with writing and videos and stuff, but I want to make something physical. I think this is a basic human need or something. Interesting.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I certainly feel a difference when I’m creating digital stuff vs. physical stuff. There is a satisfaction in accomplishing both, but the satisfaction felt from taking some scrap wood and building something useful is far stronger than what I feel from digital creation. It’s hard to explain really and I didn’t come to find this enjoyment until later in life, but I’m glad I did. I’m really looking forward to learning more and creating more and encourage you to do the same. There is amazing things you can build from pallets, yes pallets which are easy to come by and offer a great (free) source of materials for you first few projects.

      Happy building! 🙂

  2. That’s an awesome little bookcase stoicinvestor, good stuff ! I also wish I was one of those people as you put it, “Mechanically Incline” but I also never had the interest to learn. Well I’m sure it’s never too late to learn !

    • Thanks for stopping by! Never too late at all! 🙂 I started on a small end table yesterday and I’m happy with how it’s turning out. Need to figure out a way of get the legs to be a little more secure and I’m also wanting to play with different types of joints instead of the simple butt joints I’ve been using. I’m enjoying the process and it’s turning out to be a great source of entertainment. I’m even thinking of building a small workshop next fall so I can enjoy it year round and not have to worry about dragging so many tools out and then putting them all away when I’m finished.

      All the best

  3. Really have enjoyed reading your story and each of your posts (I’ve read them all) and looking forward to reading more of your journey and evolution. Simply inspiring. Similar to you, I started several years ago doing my own renovations and repairs, having had absolutely no experience or abilities whatsoever. My motivation stemmed from just being cheap (I mean, frugal). I understand too the frustrations of which you mention. I seem to struggle with how to proceed when I hit a particular road block. I’ll let months or even a year or so go by (kitchen reno) trying to decide how best to approach an issue. It took me about two months to get up the nerve to solder a copper pipe recently, fearing I’d set the house on fire. (I was partially inspired by one of your bathroom renovations by the way.) I eventually overcome the fear and it usually turns out, not perfect, but pretty good. So I’m curious whether it’s just me – fear of failure or fear of wasting time/effort/money – or whether you find yourself with such dilemmas where you don’t have the particular experience or youtube video that fits but you move forward anyhow.

    Love the shelves/hutch. I built a very basic coffee table awhile back and can’t bring myself to stain or paint it. Really like the natural wood look and feel.

    • Thanks for stopping by and thank you for a kind, thoughtful comment. Congrats on getting out the tool bag and building/repairing on your own! It truly is an art that needs rediscovering. In response to your inquiry about whether fear and doubt hold me back from tackling things, my answer is: it happens all the time. I thought about building a small piece of furniture out of scrap wood for months, but let over-thinking things prevent me from doing. I’ve completed the bookcase and started on an end table over the course of the last four days. I’ve literally accomplished more in less than a week of targeted action than months of contemplation, hoping to answer all the questions my mind had before taking the first step. It’s not isolated to this one project. I’ve done the same thing with drywall work, hanging doors and setting tile and, like you, when I soldered my first copper joint. It happens at work too when I spend too much time worried about some minor detail of a particular action. Through all of this, what I’ve slowly learned is it’s often best to just let the experience unfold before you and adjust accordingly. There are sure to be parts of a process that will slow you down or may take you extra time to work through, but it’s far better to take the first few steps and deal with the unknowns once they are encountered than to not act because all the answers are not clearly in front of us. This is a hard mental state to be in and it takes practice and a willingness to surrender to experience and have it shape you versus you trying to shape it. Sometimes, experience can be far more valuable than knowledge and I’m not talking about experience as an accumulation of certain actions, such as we associate with work. I’m referring to an actual experience in which we are 100% present. This is a rare state these days…
      Happy building!

  4. Great bookcase, I swear I saw some similar corner bookcase in a furniture catalog somewhere. Great work!

    If you don’t mind, I’m just curious about your current place. Are you doing rehab just to have it as your home, or is it an investment (for flipping/rental, etc.)? You mentioned that you are learning along the way, so when you bought the place, did you have a rough idea of what needs to be fixed, how much work it is going to be, etc.? I’m just curious because one day we would like to save up and invest in real estate too. Right now we just want to learn from others as much as we can! 🙂

    • Thank you for the compliment!

      As for the house, I originally bought it a year and a half ago as a foreclosure. I had searched for properties for about 6-8 months and when I found this one and knew it was something I wanted to bid on I had my dad an a friend of his, who is a contractor, come and look at it. Although I knew I could learn to do most of the things that needed done, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting in over my head.

      I originally bought the place with the intent of fixing and selling, but I’ve enjoyed being here and it definitely has a part of me in it, so I’m not in a real big hurry to sell. Now, I’m leaning towards eventually renting it out. Based on what I think my yearly spending is and what I can earn from rental income after maintenance, tax/insurance, etc. the rental income should cover 42% of my living expenses.
      If you want to know more, look under the “real estate” category under the menu to the right. You’ll learn more than you probably want to know. 🙂 If you have any more questions feel free to ask, I’m always happy to help others learn from my experiences.

  5. Pingback: The Joy of Building Things: Part Two | The Stoic Investor

  6. Great job with the bookshelf. I need to get off my butt and buy some second hand power tools to build a bookshelf with some left over wood in the garage. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thanks for stopping by! I’ve been wanting to start on something for several months now. The fact I was able to do three small projects goes to show that it is often taking the first few steps that is the hardest when starting any project. All the best with your bookshelf. 🙂

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