One characteristic that I see in a lot of woodworkers is that they like to show others their mistakes. I'm no exception. When I'm finished with a project and showing it to someone, a big part of "the tour" involves pointing out the flubs as well as the areas that "could have been better." There's something I like about doing it. What is it?
I guess it's like therapy or trying to keep a clean "karma". I'd much rather show someone something that I did wrong and fixed than have them later look more closely and find it on their own and assume it was something I was trying to hide (in reality I was trying to hide it!).
In any case, mistakes are a big part of woodworking. I'd rather not make them, but actually it's pretty satisfying making a good "save" when things don't go quite as expected. It's really an important skill to learn, and I certainly provide myself with plenty of learning opportunities.
I was using a spiral-cut router bit with a guide bearing running along a fence to make a light pass (1/32") on the bottom edge of one of the doors I'm working on. The fence was attached to the door with double-stick tape. At least I though it was. I didn't get it stuck to the door well enough, and it ended up moving slightly and the router bit dug into the bottom of the door. Errgh. I always let out a big gasp when something like that happens, and I hope no one is ever around to hear it. It's pretty goofy.
Forced to come up with a fix, I had to fashion (and epoxy in) a half-circle shaped patch that would fit in the gouge (see the picture below). I'll let it dry overnight and then sand it and flush it up with a flush-cut saw. I think once it's fine tuned it will look just fine. We'll see.
Well, the raised panel experiment turned out pretty well. See the results below. I put a coat of finish on the panels (front & back) so that the edges of the panels would have finish on them. When the panel contracts you won't see bare wood. I probably should have finished just the edges, but I got over zealous on the backs and finished the entire surface, so I felt compelled to finish the the entire panel fronts as well. This will help prevent an imbalanced moisture condition. And...it's exciting to see how the panels look with the finish on them.
I spent a lot of time on these panels. I wanted a "bookmatched" look, but I had neither the stock nor the means to resaw, so I had to make up the panels with what I had. This is one of my favorite parts of the process...composing with grain. I probably spent half a day working it out, but the results are worth it.
I got out in the shop a little this evening after I finished up with my "day job." I decided to experiment with doing raised panels for the doors I'm rebuilding. So yesterday I made up a poplar panel of the same dimensions as the actual walnut panel that will go in the door frame. And today I routed the raised panel profile on the router table. I think I like the results. The raised panels will add texture to the front of the piece. And when the door pulls and drawer pulls are installed I think it will all come together nicely.
One thing I have learned that has improved the quality of my work is to experiment with parts and techniques before committing whatever it is to the actual piece. Sometimes this just involves making numerous test cuts to make sure a tool is set up correctly. Sometimes it's more involved like with this raised panel experiment. And, oftentimes it involves having Cheryl (my wife) step back and take a look with her keen eye in order to give me her honest opinion.
My gut always tells me to be patient and go through the process slowly. When I do (like I did this time) I'm usually happy with the results. When I don't, quite often mistakes are made and/or the outcome is not what I had hoped.
It was an enjoyable day today in the shop.
I am in the middle of rebuilding the upper doors for an armoire I am building for some friends (very patient friends). The original doors I built went haywire on me. They twisted to the point of no return, so I had to rebuild them. I guess I made a bad choice of wood. Anyhow, I had to bite the bitter pill of redoing them. Tough...
But, as I said yesterday in this blog, I have had five solid days in the shop so I have made some good progress. Today was a full day of hand tool immersion. Yesterday I roughed out the tenons (for the rails...or are they stiles?) on the table saw. Today I fine tuned them, cut the haunches, etc. My current method of doing all that is with hand tools (shoulder planes, chisels, handsaw, etc).
I don't get many days like this. A typical day in the shop usually includes a fair amount of power tool use (I'm not complaining!). But today I was able to plane, saw, chisel, etc. all while listening to music and the sound of the wood and tools...a nice change.
The pictures below show some of the progress...dry-fitted & grooved door frames, door panels (which I salvaged from the "bad" doors..they are flat), a shot of the entire armoire in its current state, one of the haunched tenons, and finally a picture of my bench after a day of hand tool work.
I have bouts with inertia. Huh?
For me, the regularity of being in the shop is important to keeping me going out to the shop.
For example, I've been in the shop for four straight days now (it will be five tomorrow), and it just seems easier every day to be out there. The first day out there was a little tough...I hadn't been in the shop for a week or so. I didn't have forward momentum yet. I was a little stuck. But as the days have progressed the movement from day to day has become more fluid. I end one day with just enough leftover "to do" to get started with at the beginning of the following day. When I come into the shop the next morning, I slide right back into things and pick back up where I left off.
And this leads to a related concept...rhythm. The rhythm of being in the shop day to day not only increases my enjoyment of being there, it also greatly increases the quality of the work I produce. The more rhythm I have in the shop, the more easily I move from one task to another. I know where things are in the shop. I'm intimately familiar with setups on my table saw and jointer. Tasks are done more patiently as I'm not re-remembering "how", but instead I am executing the task at hand.
Now all of this is not to say that when I have forward inertia and rhythm in the shop everything always goes as planned. I still make plenty of mistakes, but I am more patient in recovering from those mistakes. Their magnitude seems diminished.
Anyhow, these concepts aren't revolutionary. You hear this stuff talked about a lot (Newton had a theory about it!). Putting it in writing just helps me remind myself of its importance. I'll get "stuck" again at some point for sure. It's part of the way life works. When I do, just remind me of this blog entry if you will.