I am not a perfect woodworker. I have been known to measure once and cut once, and then be forced to go find a new piece. I tell you this - in the confidence of other woodworkers- because I know you have the same stories, and for some reason we all have the need to share them.
What is it in a woodworker’s nature that lets them easily accept compliment after compliment from the public. Yet, the moment they see a fellow tradesman they feel the need not to share the high points of the build but instead begin talking about everything that went wrong? How many templates it took to get the curve right, or how the last drilled hole went a little too deep. Why do we feel the need to share all our mess-ups, mishaps, and blunders with anyone who has a calloused handshake and a sprinkle of sawdust in their hair? Do other professions do this? Do doctors nudge other doctors and whisper about how many times it took to replace the kidney on the patient over there? Somehow I doubt it (and if so, I hope I am never that patient).
Clients, if you read this do not fear. You will never see these first tries, these cast-offs. Our work is our calling card and you will never receive a piece that is not pristine. The mistake furniture we talk about will never go in your home. It will probably go to the homes of friends and family who accept us, and our furniture, with the faults that sometimes come along with both.
Maybe we tell other woodworkers these stories because we know they can commiserate with our pain. Maybe we are afraid they will find the detail that is a 1/64th off and think less of us. I like to think we tell these stories of woe not to highlight our shortcomings, but to remind others that no matter how hard the job, there is always a way to finish it. We share our mistakes in hopes that others will be able to avoid making the same ones in their own work. We are each at some time master and apprentice, and the more knowledge we share with our fellow woodworkers, the stronger our community grows as a whole.
Whatever the reason, I take heart in the fact that every time I make a bad cut, there is someone else in their shop making the same one. And the next time I see them, I’m sure they will be eager to tell me all about it.
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