How a non builder learns to build

I’m not a pro builder. So when I vision something in my head, especially out of pallet wood, I’m often stumped on how to go about it.

First understanding the framework of a given build is key. But it has to work with your finished vision as well. You want the frame to be there, but not take over the design, unless it’s part of the design.

But that’s only part of it. Sturdy, fun to look at, affordable, and above all, fully functional are all parts of a good build.

I generally build out of necessity as I don’t own 20 acres and 5 homes to furnish. So need comes first. But not always.

Pallet sofa reveal and build links here

Desire plays a big part in my builds as well. I already had a patio set however it wasn’t fully functional to our current needs. So I built one that was.

Do you have any idea how it makes me feel to this day to look at something I conjured up in my head, sitting on my patio? From idea, to finished product…

So many of you commend me on my building skills. Not two years ago I had barely held a tool in my hand. And now it’s second nature to HAVE a tool in my hand. How did that happen?!

I’ll tell ya how that happened.

I’ve always had vision, however lacked the skill to pull it off. It hurts to be inside my head. I see so much I have no idea how to do. I’m a Picker Sister with a twist. The deal with me is, I want to do the build myself, not have someone do it for me.

But everyone has to start somewhere. Not everyone has a husband handy with tools. Or tools. Or even a husband. 🙂

How I did it:

I started with minimal tools and no skill on how to use them. 

I borrowed tools.

I sought out advice – friends, google, books.

I threw out my hindering pride and set myself up in a position to learn how to use tools for real. This took guts!

I started to purchase my own tools as I could afford them. And I knew what to get because of the ones I borrowed.

I studied framework on finished pieces.

I started to experiment.

I failed LOTS.

I learnt from the mistakes and did it again. And again.

I started to succeed.

I now build furniture. And other stuff.

I put an I in front of each of these phrases because it was I that made all those choices to do something about my situation.

The greatest compliment a non builder can receive are others building what he/she just built. So when I see copycats crop up after one of my builds, it THRILLS me to no end.

B and B’s Nest

This one just transpired. Laura sanded while she commissioned her willing husband to build this pallet sofa. He even sewed the cushions. Just… wow.

A Cherry Blossom Kind of Life

Maggie was in an inspiration slump so she forced herself to get off the sofa… and built this with her hubby. From nothing to something. Bravo!

But they have more than the pallet sofas they’ve created. They have new found skills and most likely the aspiration to go for whatever else they desire to make or have. And that is the best score of all.

The more one experiments, makes mistakes and takes chances, the more they will grow in skill and confidence. Allow that desire in, then go after it with wild abandon.

Kick out negativity! It stunts your growth.

Have the guts to succeed.

Look forward! What do you want to do today?

Making mistakes is part of the hike up to your destination. Allow it.

“Be today who you wish to be tomorrow.” ~ Dan S.

Read this post: How to get through tough times

I believe in you. Do you?

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Categories: Inspiration

31 thoughts on “How a non builder learns to build

  1. So well said, Donna! You are a true inspiration! I recently went through a rough patch doing a project, and I almost wanted to cry. I had to tell myself to just keep going, and it worked out in the end. A favorite phrase for me right now is to choose joy.

  2. I have been thinking about starting a blog but Im nervous! I have been and still am in the process of experimenting with different furniture I have gotten at goodwills etc… I came across the wood pallet projects you have done and fell in love!!! my boyfriend has his own construction business so I brought this up to him and he said he has TONS of pallets so I can not wait to start! i will be glued to your blogs!!! thanks for sharing all your amazing work!!!

  3. Great post Donna… I can truly identify with you on this one.

    I was petrified to pick up a tool several years ago. Desire and no money for new wants forced me into it. I wasted so much time fretting about it instead of just doing it. I have never been happier.

    I, however do find myself so frustrated when I get a new tool… I cannot comprehend directions, if that is what they call those things they send with new tools these days. I am a true hands on person, show me once and I get it but don’t make me read how to do it.

    You have been such an inspiration to me through the years and I admire you for taking the plunge and just doing it. You rock girl.

    Now would you do a post on using a air gun sprayer so I can figure out how to use mine…lol. This one really has me baffled.

    Hugs, Deb

  4. Great post, Donna! Thank you SO much for featuring our sofa! One of the reasons why the hubby needed to build it is because I’m too busy with 2 little ones and starting up my own business refurbishing antique furniture and he enjoys getting his hands dirty on the weekends. It’s a win-win for both of us! I truly appreciate your words of encouragement. Great post! I know a lot of people will appreciate it. Thank you for being you! XOXO Laura

  5. Thanks Donna, for a great post.. I am yearning to build…have a nail gun (got that for Mother’s Day) and have not used it yet. Your post gives me courage to try…I will do it!! thanks!

  6. Truly inspiring Donna. Your achievements are amazing and completely yours alone and I know how much guts it took to just pick up those tools let alone learn to use them!
    I’m lucky as my OH is a builder and has always encouraged me to try them all out but it’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve dared to!
    No stopping me now. lol.

    I think the greatest fear for many of us (especially mums) is the fear of failure. It’s often easier to say ‘I can’t’ than to try and fail.

    Well we’re here to say ‘YOU CAN’.

    Well done Donna

  7. This is a fabulous post and you have truly captured all the feelings re: building for a beginner. It’s so true and you are the inspiration that started me building. I’m learning as I go and check in to your blog daily for inspiration and a good old dose of can do attitude. You have such an “eye” for beauty from nothing. Just the best of the best.
    Thank you! (I’m not anonymous I’m Kathy/[email protected] but it won’t let me post a comment without anonymous?

  8. Donna, thank you ,as always, for inspiration! After 15 years of doing the book keeping at our family business (boring) I never had a clue about all the machines they have (until I started blogging) It has way downsized and most machines are old but there is everything from the paint booth to the silkscreen creating machine to all sorts of wood and metal working machines. Even a small sandblasting booth. But more special are the employees that are still there and know so much. They love seeing my crazy projects and are always eager to help. So, I guess I am trying to say that I am in awe and a little nervous about using these tools. But……after seeing what you do I am so ready.
    Hope to be working with the press brake in the next few weeks!

  9. In my next life I’m coming back as a carpenter/contractor… I love to build and demolish stuff! Nice thing is, now my work is standing tall and not leaning… haha
    I have never made anything from a pallet but one day I will…
    great post!

  10. Oh, Donna! I grew up with any and every kind of tool at my fingertips. Since I left home, I’ve felt empty handed, and just last week, after 14 years, I held my very own jig saw in my hand. I feel as if the world has bloomed! Thanks for your inspiration and encouragement. I have 6 pallets in my garage and I’m working on my first project. It’s freeing and exhilarating to be that whom God made you to be.

  11. Donna great post. I have been building things for about 50 yr. My daddy used to hide the nails from me because I would use all of them. I made a go cart when I was about 9 or 10yr and I would use his railroad nails that were huge for the axles to hold the wheels on. They would work for a while and then bend. In the 80’s and 90’s I did a lot of woodworking with crafts. For my anniversary I got a table saw. When my daddy passed on I got all of his tools and I love them. He did woodworking when there were no electric tools available. He would use wood rasp,hand saws,and coping saws. He made some of the neatest things, like duck decoys, goose decoy (for me) cabinets and all kinds of other items. I love to create and build. I love your creations from your pallets and I can’t wait to see what you create next.

  12. I am always amazed at the projects made from pallet woood. My DH often brings me pieces of pallets and I have built mahogany candle holder blocks, signs, etc. I’m making woodpecker houses for xmas gifts out of pallet wood right now. Oh the fun I have. I owe a lot to you for keeping my spirits high and helping me to make my visions a reality. Thanks,

  13. All I can say is…WOW. You don’t know how much I truly needed this… I have a vision, a want, a need, a dream; but I have been letting fear, I guess of failure, keep me from realizing it. But here lately, especially today, I have been getting the little “pushes” I’ve been needing. For example, today I read this post on fb:
    Sitting still and wishing makes no man great. The good Lord sends the fishing but You have to dig the bait.
    You especially, along with sooo many other talented bloggers have inspired and given me the confidence I have been lacking…and for this, I thank you.

  14. I read your blog EVERY SINGLE DAY! You are such an inspiration and a huge motivator to me.
    I feel like the little train that could, I think I can, I think I can!

  15. You Rock Donna! And truly are inspiring for sure. I do not think I would have ever even looked at pallets the way I do now, and that is because of you. Speaking of which, I have a question on my post today, especially for you:) It is regarding pallets of course!

  16. Thank you for the inspiration and encouragement. When I was little my next door neighbor made puzzles and coin banks out of wood. He gave us the scraps to use in our fireplace but instead I glued them together and made all kinds of sculptures. I want to be that kid again but with power tools!

  17. Donna,
    You truly are an inspiration. I had no idea that you have only been “tooling around” for 2 years!

    See this table?

    I know that this PB table would NOT be difficult to build. But, I’m panic-struck. I can see how easy it should be. But, I don’t know what basics I need, what I can get Home Depot to do (I know they will cut wood you but there into the lengths you want for free!).

    I mean, it MUST be possible to make that for less than $399, right? I mean, those dowel legs are about to be purchased as parts, I think…

    Thanks for the encouragement and perhaps I’ll dive in someday.

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