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Kits vs. Scratch Builds--to start?

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There's a continuum that runs from buying a mandolin someone else built, through kits, and over to cutting down a tree. And kits are along the near-buying-ready-made end of the spectrum. All that's true.

And it's certainly true that people who cut down the trees and mill the lumber and then cut and plane the lumber and then get out their fingerplanes to further plane down the wood etc ... you guys are pretty damn impressive woodworkers.

But it's also true that no matter where you start, your first build is still your first build. And you will never catch up with someone who's been doing it longer or who has more talent. The point is not to be insulting, but to point out that no matter where you start, you are still on a continuum, with people building more sophisticated stuff and people doing it better, and people on the other side doing more pedestrian jobs. Which is to say, we all have to start somewhere. And where ever we start, it's OK, because we've started.

I know that some people start mountain climbing by finding an Everest. Maybe the daunting challenge of it fires them up, I don't know. But most of us want to dip our toe (to mix metaphors) into our new obsession first, just to see how we like it. Or to figure out what's involved. We learn gradually. We like our little successes because they motivate us for the next big challenge. And make no mistake: even the simple SAGA kit offers some real challenges: nobody just takes the pieces out of the box and slaps it together like a plastic Monogram model from the old days.

I'm not dissing anyone who's done a scratch build as their first build. I'm just saying that we all end up learning the same lessons one way or the other. I believe the progressively-more-complicated kit route is the one that teaches the lessons in a more organized way.

(This is too long already, but I just thought of something. My first "real" boat build I built from scratch: I even drew the plans from scratch with no naval architecture skills. It was quite a project, and taught me a lot, but I would never recommend anyone else do it. There were weeks during that decade of building when I couldn't get one simple piece to fit. I had to learn all the lessons that any boat builder learns, but I had to do it without the guidance of anyone who knew what they were doing. And that's all a kit does: provides varying levels of guidance. The boat turned out fine, by the way--better than I ever could have expected. It also was such a mammoth undertaking that it burned me out on boats. Take that as a lesson, or a warning, or an indictment of my moral fitness to build boats ... whatever.)

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