I’m thankful when I can see disaster coming. Being able to spot a potential problem is the gift of experience, but it is also like a tranquilizer dart used to take down a rabid African elephant.
Today I was cleaning up the sliding dovetail socket for the fourth and final leg of this French-style workbench. And the deeper I plunged with my router plane and chisel, the more concerned I became. What looked like a little punkiness on the underside of the benchtop was turning into a tumor worthy of “One Life to Live.”
I began to worry that when I drove the leg home that it would split off a big section of the benchtop right along the punk line. Game over, man. Game over. So I fussed over the joint. I did some type-A procrastination and swept up my bench area. Put some tools away. Checked my e-mail. Played with my hammer that is in the shape of a nut-fondling squirrel.
But I couldn’t put the process off any longer. I put two bar clamps across the benchtop’s weak spot and began gingerly driving the leg into the benchtop. After 10 taps I heard a popping noise from the benchtop. My heart sank. I walked to the back of the shop and rearranged the clamps on our rack. I answered a couple of text messages.
All my fellow employees had left except Robert W. Lang. Bob’s seen me do some dumb stuff, so I decided it was time to drive the leg in the last 2″ or so. Bob came over to watch. We all love a train wreck.
The leg seated home. I took the clamps off. Everything looked and felt surprisingly sound.
Then I noticed that there was an ugly gap where the leg’s shoulders met the underside of the top. I needed to disassemble the joint and tune up the shoulder.
Three attempts later I was ready for a beer.
But the leg went in. The shoulder was tight. Everything felt tight and right. I looked over the top and tried to figure out what went right. After I drove the other three legs home and flipped the whole thing on its feet I realized what had saved my hinder.
I think it was the epoxy.
I took some video of me driving the leg home, but it’s too boring to post even here. It was like watching a video of skateboarders where no one slips and racks himself on a handrail.
That’s my favorite kind of boring.
– Christopher Schwarz
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