Day 1,523 – Thankful for Days In the Workshop When Things Don’t Go Perfectly

Yes, you read that correctly. I am truly grateful for days in the workshop when things don’t go perfectly.

Do be sure, I am also thankful for days when everything goes smoothly and according to plan. Those mythical days are kind of like unicorns and are deeply appreciated in the moment but also cause me to keep looking over my shoulder to see what impending disaster is trying to sneak up on me. 😉

So what’s my crazy logic for today’s gratitude? Maybe we should start with what happened first.

There were a couple of small things that went as planned. These were projects in the tail end of production and all there was to accomplish on them today was a clear coat. All good there, I didn’t suddenly forget how to use finish or kick up a cloud of dust as the lacquer dried. That all went well.

There was a new design for a box I was trying out. It was going to be more of a throw away attempt at something new, but last night it started to go much better than expected. With that in mind I’d gotten excited about having an unexpected gift to give someone. And then today happened. I was so nervous about trying a couple of new joints and clamping everything up correctly that I missed something important… I put the bottom in upside down and didn’t notice it until after everything was glued, clamped, and dried. Did I mention that I was also using dowels for decoration and stability? Those were also glued, inserted, and dried before I noticed my error. Instead of a great looking gift I have a semi-useless piece of hickory.

Later in the day I thought I would redeem myself and try something new. I’d already battled through a handful of learning opportunities before I mis-cut a piece that really wasn’t supposed to be mis-cut. Who’d a thunk it, right? Instead of getting angry I just let out a sigh…

I set everything down, and then paused to see what I could learn from the day.

  • First off, when trying something new remember to idiot proof the set up. I’m working with wood, it’s very easy to sand off any pencil marks. Next time I’ll write something like “this side up” to remind myself which way it should go.
  • I’ll remember to take my time and slow down. An extra 30 seconds won’t ruin the project. Yes, I have to work quickly when using glue, but remember to slow down, take a deep breath, and get it right.
  • When using wood try to use pieces at least 1/2″ thick. When I’ve ripped boards down to 1/4″ they are so much more prone to cupping. Go a little heavy.
  • Remember to use more pencil marks to show what needs to be cut out versus just using lines as normal. It’s very easy to forget which side of the line to stay tight to.
  • Pause and think about which side of the board should go through the saw first. I sometimes think it will all look the same, but there are times when it really matters. Get used to thinking through the cut on all pieces.

And that’s why I am thankful for days in the workshop when things don’t go perfectly. Each mistake may sting, but if I keep my cool each mistake is also a lesson to help me improve. If I pause to think about the mistake and how it could have been prevented I will prevent future mistakes from happening. Also, mistakes usually mean I’m trying something new and I’m growing. Yes, it sucked making mistakes today, but I was also trying new skills. Of course I’m not going to be perfect each time. If I choose the right attitude I’ll find ways to improve the next time.

Yes, I feel like the scoreboard wasn’t quite in my favor today. It’s okay. It was practice and I’m learning and growing. Tomorrow will be better and the projects I make in the future will be improved as a result of what I learned today.

Instead of a picture of my mistakes, here’s something that went perfectly today… our hiking up Twin Bluffs State Park in MN. Ahh…


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