Things that Won't Make it Into the Magazine - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Things that Won’t Make it Into the Magazine

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

I brought my new coffee table home today, after we shot an “opener” image for the article on which I’m working…er…plan to start soon. As the picture above shows, it took Cleo about 15 seconds to jump on top; the other felines followed close behind. Perhaps I should have used a thick “bar top” finish. Or maybe I’ll investigate plate glass prices.

Most of the details will be in the article, but there are a few things that won’t make it in – things that I probably shouldn’t reveal – but challenges not unlike what most of us probably face while building (except of course for Chris, Glen and Bob, whose builds are like Mary Poppins – practically perfect in every way).

Sloppy Finishing. Glen helped me spray the piece with two coats of shellac and a top coat of lacquer, but because the drawers go all the way through, we couldn’t spray the front dovetails in Glen’s preferred manner. That is, pull the drawer out to the scribe line as you’re spraying, and hit the joints with the finish. Why not? Well, on the other side, the drawer would be pushed in 3/4″, so you’d have to stop, wait for the coat on one side to dry, then spray the other…and that sounds like a recipe for run disaster. So, I painted the shellac on the joints up to my scribe line. And over it. More than once. Should have used blue tape at the line. But it doesn’t matter. I’m the only one who will ever see that…other than, now, all of you.

Ouch. I was working alone in the shop one evening, and decided I needed to move the table off the sawbenches on which it was resting. While it isn’t terribly heavy, I have short arms, and the dang thing slipped off one side of the benches before I had a good grip. I let most of it fall on me so as to avoid too much damage to the table (I won’t show you pictures of the bruises I suffered…we’re not that kind of magazine) but one drawer fell out and got badly dinged on a top side edge. It was a choice between planing/scraping out the damage and leaving a major divot, or just pulling off the loose bits and letting it be. I chose to let it be as a reminder to not be an idiot next time, and to wait for help. And anyway, most of the time, it’s inside the table and won’t show. The top also suffered a ding, but I sanded it out. As long as I don’t look at in raking light I can’t see it…and it’s now conveniently covered with a coaster. The dings are hidden away and no one will ever know…other than, now, all of you.

Not Quite Square. Do not adjust your dials – that slope from top to bottom of this drawer front is not an illusion. I’m not quite sure what went out of square; it could be either the table base or the drawer box. But the base was done months ago, and I didn’t want to make another drawer (I was out of nicely figured cherry, and I’m cheap). So, to make the top and bottom edges of the drawer line up with the opening, I had to plane a slope from top to bottom on the drawer front. Now, everything lines up perfectly and no one will ever know…other than, now, all of you.

Buttocks. I wanted a two-piece glue-up for the top, and in order to get the maximum width out of my piece of cherry, I had to go right to the edge of the white sapwood, so it shows a little on the bottom edge of the two long sides. I knew that was going to be the case, and I was OK with that. What I didn’t realize is that one of the short ends would look like a butt (click on the picture to enlarge it, and it’s obvious). Now, I have a lot of practice disguising a large posterior (eschew commenting please!) but I have no idea how to hide this fundament-al end. So I stuck it close to the wall – but everyone who visits will know; I won’t be able to refrain from showing my as…oops – we got in trouble the last time we used that word (see the cover of the April 2010 issue).

— Megan Fitzpatrick

Recommended Posts
Showing 18 comments
  • Jazwiecki

    I feel much better now!!! After years of reading various articles in woodworking magazines on featured projects I was beginning to worry that there was something wrong with ME until your posting. I would like to see more articles include the things that didn’t go as planned or having to come up with a work around for the project.

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Jazwiecki, things almost never go as planned. The key is knowing how to overcome the challenges. And I’ve had enough of them at this point that I’m becoming skilled in the overcoming!

  • miathet

    I really like this article. I was thinking it is a great lead into the magazine. I’m more curious about the magazine article.

    It would be fun to know what was difficult, learned/relearned and might have gone wrong for most of the main articles. Stuff there just isn’t space for in the magazine.

    Megan, good luck with getting your honesty out of the other folks..

  • Woodbutcher3

    Looks great! Clean work. An what is a project without some converstaion points.

    I guess now we know why it’s called a butt joint!

  • Lowellmk

    Thanks for sharing….I think we all have had our “issues” when building. I think your attitude regarding the draw-ding is great! I have a few projects that have some screw-ups hidden in places that only I know….

    Keep up the great work … your getting better all the time and it’s fun to watch your progress.


  • rwyoung

    Probably too late to modify the top but a bread-board end or “clamp joint” might have hidden the hiney.

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Unequivocally too late to modify! I thought about a breadboard end early on, but then decided I kinda liked the butt ’cause it’s funny. And what’s woodworking without a little humor?!

      • rwyoung

        “And what’s woodworking without a little humor?!” — A bit too much like a real job.

        (And unfortunately the only wordplay I can come up with right now contains “ash”, “birch” and “basswood” and no combination of them is below PG-13 for blob posting.)

  • bruce272

    Megan, I truly respect someone who will own up to their mistakes and not Photoshop the screw-ups to look like you’re perfect.
    Very nifty piece of work, warts and all

  • Stuart Hough

    Megan, that’s a really nice table. Anyone would be proud to have that. And I thisk your bu…tabletop looks grand 😉

  • Eric R

    Those are not mistakes; they just distinguish it from others..
    Nice work Megan.

  • Wood Zealot

    Like others I appreciate the revelation of the flaws and how you resolved them (at least with the drawer front). Fixing the unexpected in a project to me is as fundamental as milling stock square and is much a sign of craftsmanship as anything else.

    By the way, I was expecting to see one of the short ends of the table in the last picture but somehow there’s just a picture of a plumber instead. 😛

    I like your plumber’s coffee table!

  • Joe "the Pro" Sainz

    All craftspeople love to highlight their mistakes when they are still honing their craft. I still haven’t decided whether they make less mistakes as they progress, or just learn to keep their mouth shut. I suspect it’s a combination of the two.

    It’s a beautiful piece, and you should be proud of it.

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick


      Actually, I think craftspeople just like to point out their mistakes, period. The guys here, who have among them almost 100 years of experience, still point out every perceived flaw in their work…

      • tsstahl

        I guess it is built into the breed.

        My family is sick of hearing me say that everything sucks the first time I show them my finished projects.

        I built a free standing pantry for my kitchen. It is mostly plywood and veneer. It is monkey butt ugly to my eye, but I immediately received two demands for “one just like it”.

  • peppersvnv

    Perhaps the best way to learn is from your own mistakes. The second best way is from other people’s mistakes. May I suggest a blog with a theme of “I wish I hadn’t done this”?

    FWIW, I think the sap wood in the center of the table top is an “enhancement”. I like it!


    P.S. I subscribe to only two magazines. Fine Woodworking and Popular Woodworking. When FWW is delivered I say to myself. “yea, this is the one I need to keep.” Then PW shows up and I say to myself “yea, this is the one I need to keep.” Your magazine and web site are both top drawer, with very few dings. Keep up the good work!

  • jobranch

    I have a project with a ding in a drawer very much like yours. Like you, I left it as is to be a reminder not to drop a drawer. Nice table.

  • Elmer

    Megan, very nice work. Show off. :). Elmer

Start typing and press Enter to search