Teaching Woodworking Can Educate the Instructor

I was in the shop last night helping a friend with a project for a college design course. The course required her to carry a furniture piece through the construction phase but seems they didn’t do a lot of teaching on that part and my friend has no woodworking background. I was happy to help (and do a bit of teaching along the way), though as we progressed it was me who ended up learning – or rather, re-learning.

The furniture piece is a small wall-hung wine and liquor storage cabinet made of plywood. She had purchased ½” birch ply from one of the big-box stores so it was pre-cut into 24” x 48” pieces. We cut everything to size on the table saw, taking the opportunity to discuss the best yield of the pieces (college students like to save money, of course), and then started to assemble the small piece with nailed butt joints.

As I attached the last side, everything fit but I had to force things into place. We stopped and spent five minutes measuring then checking for square. And there was the problem, I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of woodworking: Never trust a factory edge – or in this case, a factory corner! I had trusted that the pieces were square and ended up with two sides that were both 1/8” out of square on one end. I started to blame the store, but I knew it was me that had made the mistake. To make things worse, I had assembled the cabinet with the bad edges opposing one another. So while everything lined up, there was a twist to the cabinet that Escher would appreciate.

So, the moral of the story is even though you’ve been doing something for decades, don’t forget what you know! Take the time to do it right…rather than spend the 30 minutes I’m going to need to knock things apart and square it all again. Glad it was such a small piece that it didn’t need glue!

— David Thiel

 

 

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