Woodwork 30 Minutes at a Time

An episode Fine Woodworking podcasts, Shop Talk Live inspired this post. They were discussing woodworking for people who have to manage their time in the shop. They commented something along the lines of, “how do you woodwork when you only have about 30 minutes?”

Well, I have a busy family, as I know a lot people do. My shop time is scattered, often interrupted, and sometimes not long enough to get much done. So I spent some time putting what I try to do into an outline. Below are some tips to help when you have have a limited time in the shop.

I have come up with this outline of how to woodwork 30 minutes at a time.

Have a plan
Make sure before you even go into the shop that you know what you would like to accomplish or get done while in the shop. But be specific. Don’t just tell yourself, I want to work on this table. Say, I want to mill the stock for the legs. Or I want to cut all the mortises or drill the holes in the aprons for the pocket hole screws. Give yourself tasks that you can complete in a short time. That way, when you finish you will have a feeling of accomplishment. And that can always inspire more time in the shop, knowing you are making progress. You can even have several short tasks in mind for each session in the shop.

Keep your shop clean, (or at least organized)
This is a topic that I see many joke about. Whenever shop pictures are posted on the different forums I visit, if the shop is clean, there are always a few that comment on how much cleaner that shop is than theirs. In my shop, I have worked in it when it was very messy and I have worked in it with is being very clean and well organized. I am way more productive working in a clean, well organized shop.

Most men don’t like to shop. Picture which type of store you would like to shop in. Both of these stores sell the exact same items. Store #1 has nice well lit isles, well stocked shelves, and everything is very clean. Things are laid out well and are easy to find and access. Store #2 is poorly lit, things stacked on top of other things, and it is hard to move around and get to different parts of the store. Which store would you rather shop in? The answer is Store #1. The reason being, it would be much faster to get what you need and get the shopping done. Working in your shop can be the same way. A well organized clean shop can encourage more and more shop time. If tools are where they should be, you will spend less time looking around the shop and more time working on the task at hand.

Stay on task
Once you have decided what to do in this woodworking session, focus on getting it done. If you are anything like me, it is easy to get distracted. I can be cutting and drilling blanks for some pens and find a nice big chunk of some nicely figured wood. Next thing I know, 30 minutes have passed with me looking around for a complimentary piece of wood to turn this into a nice box. And the original task has been forgotten. Stay on task and that sense of accomplishment when you finish that task will be very rewarding.

Before finishing up your shop session, I have a couple of more suggestions.

Put things away
A big part of me staying organized is the result of putting things away each time I am done using them. Now this is not to say I’m perfect at it, but if each time I come back into the shop it is clean and things are put away, it is easier for me to get started. I don’t have tools laying in the way. I don’t have things in the way or on the bench that would take me off task before I even get started. This does require a place for everything to go, but that is a slightly different topic. Spend the last few minutes of each shop session putting things away. This includes scraps of wood that are laying around. Have a place for those scraps and be diligent in putting them there. Getting organize originally can be a big task depending on the current shape of your shop, but staying organized afterwords only takes a few minutes at the end of each day/session in the shop.

Make list of things to do next time
Spend the very last minute checking the progress of your current project, or next planned project. Check to see if you need any wood, hardware, finishes, etc. Make sure you have everything on hand you will need for your next time in the shop. This will speed up each session and help get to that sense of accomplishment in each shop session. Nothing can be as disappointing as getting close to finishing a project or portion of it and have to stop because you don’t have (insert needed item here) to finish what you are working on. A trip to the hardware store, or worse, having to order something online and way for it to come in, can be a shop time killer. Waiting is no fun, waiting to do something in the shop can be very discouraging.

I hope this list helps you be more productive in your shop. This does not have to be limited to short shop sessions, but that is what inspired this post. I sometimes have 30 minutes, I sometimes have several hours in the shop. But I try to follow this outline for each time in the shop.

I would love to hear your comments and what ways you use to be more efficient with your shop time.


I would love to hear your comments