When working on a project that has hit a wall, there are three different paths I usually take.

The first is to buckle down, clear my mind, and just get back to work. As my go to, it has gotten me through late nights and early mornings when deadlines loom and the finish line can seem just a little too far away.

I’d love to always be able to do that but sometimes I need to go the second route, which is to put the work down and walk away for a little. Get some air, get a sandwich, anything to just stop beating my head against the same wall over and over again.

The third path, and lately the most productive, has been to seek collaboration. I’ve been working with wood for a while now and I feel I can find my way around most issues that come up (and for any time I get lost there is nothing that can’t be enlightened with a quick internet search). But when it’s not necessarily a technique issue and more writer’s block, or saw dust block, I’ve been turning more and more to people in other industries to help see me through.

A few months ago I moved my company to a new space. A great industrial building with cinderblock walls, large windows, 15” ceilings, and more outlets than I know what to do with. The building also came with both a high end lighting company and a metal worker already in residence.

I have collaborated with makers in both industries before, but mostly on individual projects. If I needed a lighting solution I’d go to a lighting place. If I needed metal for a piece of furniture, then off to the metal shop. But now, with people in both industries literally under the same roof, I find myself turning to them for projects that have neither lighting nor metal components.

Speaking to a fellow woodworker is always great, everyone has a different take on building based on their separate experiences and I can always learn something new. But in the most basic form we are all thinking about the project with the same background, wood.

Speaking on a daily basis with these other industries, who have roots in materials that are not wood, has truly broadened my horizon. Right from the start each of us has a different approach to building. Using different materials not only teaches you completely different ways to build but also changes the way you think about what is possible to build.

Even if the material I end up using is still only wood, I am amazed at how I can re-envision the path that I want to take just by hearing how people in these other industries would do it.

Sometimes one has to look outside themselves for inspiration, and sometimes you have to look outside your trade for the best results. Try it, and you will see yourself become a better woodworker for it.

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