Half the Fun of Woodworking is Making Mistakes


“I think it’s something you just move forward with. You cut it too short.” He shrugged.  “You can just move on with life.” Hans said, interrupting my vision. 

“So I don’t have to start over?” I asked, confused.

It turns out. I didn’t have to start over. I had been hyper focused on my mistake and I wasn’t weighing out the value in starting over versus a fix. I mean, I wasn’t even sure if it could be fixed. It was the iteration of moving on with several of my mistakes throughout the early weeks of school, added to lobbing off a chunk of my plane, that I realized half the fun of wood working is making mistakes.

Not the part where you have a pit form in your stomach, start to sweat and think of all the hours you just threw into the garbage… I’m talking about the later part, if you (or Hans) has come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t worth starting over. The part where you have summon all your problem solving skills and encourage them to think creatively, because there’s no turning back.

In this specific instance, fixing my plane actually gave it a very interesting detail. Joel had proposed a dovetail, adding on another piece of wood in the front reinforced by one of the most suitable joints. Though, when it came time to cut the dovetail, it evolved into a key, or a bowtie. An entirely separate piece of wood that is interlocked between the two attaching pieces, creating not only a suitable joint and more glue surface, but also a symmetrical and attractive quality to the former mishap.

That’s when I almost killed Hans.

Hans had reluctantly but enthusiastically (yes, both of those at the same time) was helping me machine my dovetail. The reluctance came from just that, machine. Hans is very much a sponsor for hand tools. But he valued the learning that would come from a router and wanted to give me both options for joinery in the future. I appreciated this and repaid him by allowing my plane key to catch the router blade and shoot across the room at a high velocity.

If you can dodge a wood piece you can dodge a ball. 

I heard Joel’s voice in my head and tried to shake it away as I hastily turned off the router.

“ It would have been my fault for getting hit, if I stood there.” Said Hans, gesturing to the imaginary danger zone. I hadn’t hit him, but seeing the small shrapnel of wood shoot across the shop instantly made me reflect on the subtle mishandling of the router. My key didn’t hit hans because he was exercising shop safety and not standing in the pathway of a potential projectile.

The road of learning curves is truly full of winding, sharp turns. My plane is finished now and I couldn’t be happier with the final product. If I hadn’t have made the mistake of chopping off my plane nose, I would have never detoured and learned as much as I did with the repair.