Born to Fail at Woodworking
No matter how long I work in this craft, there are days when I feel incapable of doing anything correctly. Such as today.
Readers love to be reminded that even people who do this every day suffer regular failures. If you like to wallow in other people’s misery, this post is for you. (Also, it shows you how I deal with woodworking despair.)
For the last month I’ve been working on a new chair design. I’ve been sketching this chair for about a year to refine it to the point where I could build a prototype. That point came this winter. The result was OK, and I figured out exactly what I needed to change to improve it.
I altered the shape of the seat and the arms. I modified the number of spindles. I changed the chair’s back a bit. In early June I made another attempt to build it.
The undercarriage went together brilliantly. After that, everything went to pot.
When I assembled the arm bow and spindles, one of the back spindles pointed off at a weird angle, like my chair had visited mafia headquarters and wouldn’t talk. I still have no idea how this happened, but I tried a variety of ways to remedy it or hide the error. No joy.
So I cut the spindles off the seat and started making a new armbow. The plan was to simply drill out the old spindles and install new ones – with no errors this time.
Usually, I love chances like this to do an operation over. Things almost always are much easier and faster the second time because you already made most (if not all) the possible mistakes.
But not this time. The second armbow was a design failure. I simply could not get it looking good enough to attach it to the seat. I put those parts aside and tried a third time. Nope. I think the third armbow looked the worst.
When I hit my head against the wall repeatedly in woodworking, I usually decide to take a break. So I stacked up all the failed chair parts in my storeroom and began thinking about a different and easier chair I need to build for a customer – and a case piece.
After a month or so, I’ll come back to the chair with fresh eyes and perhaps a different plan. Or I’ll wait until winter and use the chair as firewood in my new wood stove.
— Christopher Schwarz