Woodworking and ADD

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This post is about how my ADD affects my woodworking, and a revelation I just had that I think will have a huge positive impact on my woodworking life, and hopefully others. If you agree, please share this post.


“ADD” is “Attention Deficit Disorder”, more commonly called “ADHD” these days, where the “H” stands for “Hyperactivity”. I always leave the “H” out, because, if anything, mine is “Attention Deficit Inactivity Disorder”, due to the amount of time I spend sitting on my ass.

For those of you who think “everyone has that”, you’re probably right. But the question is, how much do you have it? How much does it affect your daily life?

Think of it like eyesight. Some people have 20/20 vision or better. Some people only need glasses to read, but they could probably get by without them if they had to. Others are virtually blind without their glasses.

When it goes from the “I can squint and still read” stage to the “I’m blind without my glasses” stage, that’s when it becomes a “Disorder”.

In my best “You might be a redneck” voice, “You might have ADD”:

  • If your teachers always wrote on your report card “Dan needs to focus more in class”. And if your name isn’t “Dan”, you’ve got other problems.

  • When you talk to someone, and they’re constantly asking what you’re looking at over their shoulder.

  • When people are constantly asking “Did you hear what I just said?” If you’re male, this doesn’t count for your spouse, because everyone knows we men don’t listen to our wives very well.

  • If you’ve tried to pray or meditate, only to give up because your mind won’t stop long enough to focus.

And finally, relevant to this blog:

  • If you’re constantly cutting the wrong side of something, or the wrong direction, or even the wrong piece, because your mind is on something else. Note the “constantly” part, because everyone does this from time to time.

I’m not a doctor of course, but these are some things to think about.

My woodworking problems

I’ve mentioned many times in this blog that I constantly make mistakes. It drives me absolutely crazy sometimes. Along with costing me my sanity, it also costs me a lot of money in the wood that I end up wasting.

Most of the time, the mistakes come about because my mind is on other things. And that can be dangerous.

Just a couple of days ago, I ended up triggering my SawStop’s brake because I stuck my thumb in the blade. The saw had just started to spin down after I shut it off with my left hand, while I reached out to grab the stock with my right hand, and grazed the blade with my thumb. BAM! Brake engaged, saving my thumb, costing me about $130 to replace the brake and blade and pay taxes.

Why did this happen? Because I was just making a quick cut to solve a problem, and I was thinking about the problem, not the cut. You’ve made mistakes like this too. But like I said, I make mistakes all the time, because no matter how hard I try, I can’t stay focused enough.

The Revelation

Sometimes I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. It can take me a while before I connect things. While I was replying to a comment earlier, I had a revelation.

I’ve done a lot of studying on ADD, learning how it affects my life. Some of the effects are positive. I’m a quick thinker, for example. But some are negative, so I try to find ways to help mitigate those negative effects.

But I haven’t applied that thought process to woodworking. And I should.

An Example, and a Solution

I’m working on making shaker-style cabinet doors, with tongue-and-groove joints. I’m using a router bit set. You can’t really get the tongues and grooves perfectly centered in the rails and stiles, but one thing you can do is make sure you know which sides were face up during the cut. This helps in a lot of ways, not the least of which is so you can keep everything the same when you put it together.

You could just mark one side of each piece. But I’ll stop even noticing the marks after a while.

I watched a video by Colin Knecht, where he suggested putting painters tape on one side of each piece. This is perfect for me, for several reasons.

  1. It’s much more obvious than a pencil mark. But even that isn’t as important as the next reason:

  2. If I forget to look at the tape, and place the tape side down on the router table, I can’t slide it hardly at all. More than once this caused me to stop and pay attention.

Using this Information

So going forward, rather than (only) getting upset when I make a mistake, I’m going to figure out why I made the mistake, and see if there’s a “painters tape” way of keeping it from happening again.

Some of you will tell me that I just need to mark up each piece so I know which side to cut. But I know that there’ll be plenty of times when I won’t even think about looking at the pencil marks. It’s as if they’re not there.

Maybe post-it notes, because I wouldn’t want to make a cut with a note sticking to the wood. I’m not sure.

But the point is, I need to stop just getting upset at myself, and start finding solutions that will work for me. Constantly thinking “I am such an idiot” or “You moron! Why don’t you think before you make a cut!” obviously haven’t helped.

It’s time to be proactive.


Older: "My SawStop Saved My Thumb (pt. 1)" Newer: "A little more progress, a litt..."


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