Starting up, again

A friend suggested that I keep a running blog of my woodworking projects. I’m in the steep part of a learning curve now – turning out decent work, but still learning a lot with each project. I’m about to tackle a pretty challenging one – a dining room set in the Greene & Greene style.

I’ve done some small project and furniture building over the past year, honing my skills. Each project has its own lessons to teach, and I want to start writing these down. The cognitive scientist in me is also interested in the transferability of these lessons to life in general. I’ll post more on that in time.

Photos of work completed and in progress are on my “photos” page.

Meanwhile, some lessons learned…

Mistakes are truly an opportunity for learning a better way of doing things. In an hourglass I just finished, right before assembly I accidentally broke the end off of one of the outer frame posts. Two lessons there, actually. Well, three.

#1, Pay attention! I let my mind wander while trying to fit a brass rod into a hole in the end, and in pulling it out twisted the wrong way, breaking the end. “Paying attention” is a pretty broad lesson – we need to pay attention in our relationships with others, when driving, etc. Not merely for safety, but for an enriched appreciation of “ordinary moments.”

#2. When drilling holes into end grain, the wood can swell to fill the hole ever so slightly, especially when glue is involved. I drilled a 1/8″ hole to fit in 1/8″ brass rod (and my micrometer verified the rod was exactly 1/8″ to within measurement error). But the rod fit too tightly with glue – I used a 9/64 bit next time, and could tolerate a little bit of wiggle for what I was trying to accomplish.

#3. The big lesson – since I had to rebuild the outer frame assembly, I realized the design I came up with was really hard to reproduce. I had 3 vertical members 3/8″ cross-section, and then cut a 1/2″ cross-beam of ebony to brace them together. This entailed cutting 3 3/8″ dados across a small (2″) piece of ebony. Too small to do safely with a table saw (although I did manage to cut them on a longer piece and then cut off the 2″ piece I needed), and I didn’t want to hand cut them for the replacement piece. So this time I decided to keep the ebony cross-piece solid and cut the notches into the vertical members. THAT I could do on a table saw safely and accurately, and it was structurally more sound, too. Not that the cross-piece was bearing much of a load, but it made sense for it to be notched into the vertical pieces, rather than just hanging on by glue alone.

So, by making a mistake, I was forced to re-think the design for ease of reproduction. Mistakes – while frustrating – can be opportunities.

Enough deep thinking for now… 🙂

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