Lessons learned, I think
This little table taught me a lot of lessons, and created a lot of headaches
I have a fairly large list of skills I’ve invested a lot of time in that serve no real purpose to me anymore. At the top of the list is my “skills” as a trombone player. It was not uncommon for me to practice three to four hours a day, playing the same scale over and over until my face went numb. My goal was to create as much muscle memory as possible, so when I needed to play a musical passage that included an F# locrian scale my body would instinctually play it with little to no input from my brain. These fundamentals were going to be the building blocks to a wildly successful career as a famous trombone player. At the time I hadn’t realized that there were no longer famous trombone players.
In woodworking, there are many fundamentals that I’ve learned and a few that I’m still working on. I recently finished a table that plagued me for the entirety of its build. I have never had so many things go wrong during a build. Almost all of my issues can be traced back to two mistakes I made very early on.
Ignored fundamental #1: Use a plan, or at least a known construction method.
I designed this table while taking a design class with Mike Pekovich at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. At the end of
the class I knew exactly what I wanted the piece to look like. Unfortunately, my planning ended there and I went straight into the
build. For some, improvising in the shop isn’t a problem. For me, still learning proper fundamentals of furniture construction, the improvisation is best left to music. By the time I turned my attention to the drawer supports, most of my carcase was assembled.
Had I planned for proper drawer runners and kickers, I would have put them in before gluing the aprons to the legs. Instead I had to devise some fairly clever methods of putting in the necessary parts after the fact, a skill I hope to never use again.
Ignored fundamental #2: Cut all of matching parts at the same time.
It’s obvious, even to me, that you should cut your side aprons at the same time. What wasn’t so obvious to me was the idea that I should cut my back apron at the same time as my front blades. Once they were different lengths, I didn’t have much reference to make sure that the tenon shoulders were equidistant. From that point on, my carcase was never going to be square. A carcase that isn’t square makes every element following it difficult. From now on, I will cut as many pieces as possible with the same fence settings. Even though the top blade was a dovetail and the bottom two were mortised in, had I cut the shoulders at the same time the only way I could wind up out of square would be if I didn’t check it after glue-up.
I have literally made a career out of watching woodworking videos and reading Fine Woodworking articles, but I seem to be the type of person who won’t learn the stove is hot until I burn myself on it. This project is riddled with mistakes and if you followed along on Instagram, you saw just how many lessons this little table taught me. Even with all of the mishaps, it turned out almost exactly as I envisioned it. The mistakes got covered up, or became so minor you’d never know if I didn’t point them out to you (which as an amateur woodworker I am somehow obligated to do!). Overall, I’m ecstatic with how the piece turned out. I just hope that the next time I will learn these important lessons a little less frequently.