The worst woodworking mistakes I’ve made have to do with shop time.
When it comes to estimating how long it will take me to perform a series of operations, I always guess too low. When I first started estimating how much time a new commission would take me, I learned to double my number. A cabinet I thought would take 40 hours would take 80.
That first mistake will kill a furniture business right quick. You have to get your estimates right, or lower your standard of living, or go back to work for the corporate bully boy. For amateurs, that mistake is not a big deal, except when it comes to cribs.
Many of my friends who made cribs for their first child never saw the projects in use until the second child arrived.
Second mistake: When I botch a single operation, I always grossly overestimate how much time it will take to start the operation again from scratch. Example: I recently messed up an entire set of sticks for a chair. I moaned and stomped around the shop, wondering how I could save the poopy sticks with some patching, wedging or witchcraft.
“Argh,” I whined. “I’m going to lose an entire day making new sticks.”
I moped a bit and grabbed a new set of rough sticks and started shaving. In 60 minutes I was done, and the new sticks looked much better than the first set.
This sort of mistake is more insidious. Trying to repair or navigate around a complex mistake – instead of starting the operation over – usually takes me far more time. And the result is less than stellar.
As soon as I start scheming to repair something with some crazy technique that involves the warp core, reversing the polarity or separating the saucer section, I stop.
I put the crappy parts aside. I get some more wood. I start again.
— Christopher Schwarz
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