I made a mistake. It was a doozy! It cost me time, money and a vacation day.

This week I’m not going to talk about wood finishing. I am going to talk about my mistake. As you know, I tell stories to illustrate my point of the week. But in Dragnet fashion, “the names are changed to protect the innocent.” Well, I’m guilty and the guy in the story is me and maybe you can learn from my misfortune.

If you read my bio at the bottom of this page, you’ll see that my e-mail is kapenterprises@msn.com. That’s short for Kapellmeister Enterprises Inc., my business away from my day job. I build fixtures that are used by musicians. Kapellmeister is an archaic German word for choir director. I have a master’s degree in choral music education and taught in that field for 20 years.

My fixtures are made from a very high-grade maple veneered plywood called Appleply. Depending upon orders, I build two or more runs of these a year. This last weekend was to be the first run of 2012.

My normal supplier was out. I needed four sheets. Another local supplier had a whole unit and I arranged to have four sheets delivered. I asked the salesman on the phone to help me by picking out four really good sheets because lack of “figure” was very important.

In that one word is the crux of this whole mess. I misspoke. Figure describes such things as fiddle-backing or birdseye. Such things are common in maple. But they don’t apply to that which is the really important attribute of my fixtures. I need plane-sliced, clear faces without mineral streaks or other color defects. I need consistently good color…not lack of figure.

My friend picked up the sheets for me. He knew what I had told the sales guy and knew my requirements. So he rightly assumed that all that had been handled. When he got to the shop and unloaded the goods, however, he got concerned because those sheets were pretty wild looking. He called me and then sent me pictures from his cell phone. They were, indeed, the wildest things I had ever seen in maple sheet goods. I had to reject them as not being the least bit useful to my needs. F.Y.I., beware of “natural faces.” Then again, what’s an unnatural face???

Bernie, you need to learn to know what you mean and to mean what you say. At my age, I still have to remind myself of that. A moment’s loss of concentration and the use of one word led to the last minute decision on that Thursday afternoon to take Friday off to deal with this mess. Otherwise, there would be no building going on Saturday.

An early Friday trip to the supplier led to a trip to yet another supplier and calls to others in the region. I found what I needed less than a mile away from where I got the first four sheets but not without lots more clarifying conversation along the way. These were not Appleply but a competitor’s version of the same thing. And here’s the biggest irony. These sheets all had one piece veneer faces on both sides and the B face had the most beautiful fiddle backing I have ever seen. This run is the most beautiful material I can ever recall working with…no color issues but lots of figure. I learned a lot from this. I hope you learned something too.

Until next time…spray on!


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