In Woodworking Mistakes

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Kitchen Kalamity

The cherry salad tongs I’d made needed repairs. They were steam-bent, so they would “spring” when you squeezed them together. But the top portion where the two arms attached was messed up. Cutting off this section significantly shortened the tongs, so there wasn’t much “spring” left. No problem; I could simply re-steam the pieces to increase the bend.

I’d made the tongs after reading an article about using a microwave oven to steam wood for bending. The wood was dampened, wrapped in moist paper towels and then heated in the microwave—the process had worked amazingly well.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember how long to heat the wood. So, I tried 15 seconds, then 30, and then 60 seconds—nothing. Next, I tried 2 minutes. No soap. Irritated and fed up with the process, I set the timer for 10 minutes and went outside to do a really quick chore—I sure wasn’t going to just stand there and wait.

As I returned, a minute or so before the microwave was set to finish, I could hear the smoke detector screeching. Smoke billowed out when I opened the door. I dashed inside, opened a window and whipped a dishtowel lasso-style to silence the smoke detector. Coughing from the acrid smoke, I opened the microwave to find a charred wad of former paper towels that contained a pair of carbonized salad tongs.

A year and a half later, using the microwave still makes the kitchen smell like smoked bacon. –Jayne Thorson 

Sliding Dovetails

While I was in college, I worked as a cabinetmaker to help defer expenses.

After installing a custom made desk-file-workstation for one of my professors, he called to tell me how much he liked it, except that the drawer fronts came off in his hand if he pulled too quickly. I was perplexed, because the drawers’ dovetail joints fit so perfectly that I hadn’t even bothered to glue them.

When I went to inspect my work, I discovered that I had oriented the dovetails incorrectly, so that instead of being locked onto the sides, the drawer fronts slid on and off them. Thinking quickly to redeem myself, and hoping he didn’t know a lot about dovetails, I told him, “I’m sorry, I forgot to glue the drawers.”

He was happy with my solution, and I glued them right away, but I also vowed to pay a little closer attention when cutting dovetails so that I didn’t cut them backwards. I might even have said, Okay, no more dovetailing at 2:00 in the morning! –Don Busch


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