Hand Tool Builder's Collection

Dear Universe…UNCLE!!!

March 25, 201417 Comments

broken component

One wrong slice of the chisel sets you back…


Some days are better than others, unfortunately none of the past few have been one of them. Truth be told, I’ve had a few moments where I’m wondering what I’m even doing in the shop?

Without a doubt we all have these days, some are just so much worse than others. If we’re lucky, the worst thing that happens is we end up scrapping a part of a project and starting new…if we’re not lucky…

For myself a streak of bad luck (or extremely poor planning) has set in and I’m having one of these “worst-ever” moments right now with a project I’m working on behind the scenes (there may or may not be a video to accompany this build, that’s how bad it’s going).

In my situation I’m fortunate so far in that it’s only costing time and materials and nothing else. In fact, you may have heard me reference this project in Wood Talk episode No. 175 “Lazy Woodworker”.

At the time of recording the episode I had gone through at least 2-3 attempts at getting the particular components right. Shortly afterwards, I headed back in the shop and managed to mangle at least 1 more set before finally getting it right.

good components gone bad

Two of multiple sets of “completely-cut” components…that won’t work!!!

Unfortunately I’m already way behind schedule for this “client” and perhaps that’s the reason for the streak of bad luck? Maybe subconsciously I’m aware of just how far behind I am and in an effort to get caught up I let the fear side of my brain kick in and the rationale and reasoning side can’t keep up?

Whatever it is that’s going on right now, I’ll be happy when the project is done and I can make a fresh start of the next catastrophe…I mean project. How about you? What’s happened with your projects that makes them unbearable to work on, but you just can’t stop?

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Comments (17)

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  1. jHop says:

    I don’t know about “fresh start bit I don’t know how to stop” per se. I often face the “what did I do wrong and why do I still love doing this?” however. There are some projects that, despite any reason to prove it, I still think I can do it.

    Then there are those projects that should be so simple you could complete them in your sleep that jump up and wreck your day. I was building an end table from 1×2, just slats and open spaces. For some reason, when it came time ti assemble the already cut pieces, I couldn’t figure out what I was planning. I ended up having to glue the last piece in because I couldn’t get to the holes I drilled for the screws… and then I realized I had glued over the screws holding the table together. Followed immediately by the realization I had screwed the table to my work surface.

    Yup. Fun.

  2. David W says:

    Matt… I have a project that has sat on my bench incomplete for a year because I ran into some technical/design issues that I still haven’t figured out. I’m too cheap to just SWAG it with nice material… which means all work has stopped until I can figure out the issue. Meanwhile, my client (my wife) is threatening to do to DANIA! We’ll see how much longer I can get away with delaying.

    Hang in there.

  3. Eric R says:

    Boy O boy, your quandary sure hits home with me Matt.
    I had two important projects going at once (something I don’t casually do) and BOTH had major set backs at critical points….uugh
    My clients were understanding, and I just slowed down and concentrated on one project until it was completed. (Came out nice to !)
    As long as you don’t get hurt (cough,cough,router…)you’ll get through it.
    I mean, let’s face it, you are the bearded 8th wonder of the world, right?…lol

    • Matt says:

      It’s funny you mention two or more projects at once…did I mention I still have yet to complete the finishing process of the platform bed? Talk about an understanding client…

  4. BillyD3152 says:

    We’ll Matt, all I can say is ” man, do I know that feeling”. As we discussed in a recent email i managed to remove a good portion of a finger on the tablesaw. It is so frustrating being out of work due to an injury caused by the reason you usually wish you could skip work for and to make matters worse…I am a bit gun shy of the saw now. But yet I go out there and look at it. Clean it off. Get some stock ready. And then… Nothing. Can’t even plug it in let alone start it up and make a cut. But, all that being said I still go out there. Still planning next project. And to try to kick start my butt into gear I just placed a decent sized order with L-N. So I guess we are all gluttons.

    • Matt says:

      I’m thankful you’re okay!!! But yes, a little tinkering in the shop is sometimes all you need to help you get back in the saddle.

  5. Dave S says:

    Matt, it is like the weekend duffer that spends most of his or her round of golf flailing at the ball fuming that they HATE this game until they step up to the tee and somehow manage to hit a pure tee shot at which point they smile and exclaim that they LOVE this game. We do woodworking for the same reason – were masochists. (unfortunately, I attempt both)

    I am currently avoiding an attempt to create the spinning gears toy plans that I found in WOOD Mag. Started it before X-mas, discovered my coping saw skills were not what they should be and neither is my patience.

    • Matt says:

      The funny thing about golf is that I usually ended up frustrating more of friends than myself, although I do remember wanting to wrap a club or two around a tree the last time I attempted a round.

  6. Jonathan says:

    Maybe we could get some time share business with a shrink going. I cracked two curved pieces of trim on a crib for my son (now residing in a hundred dollar master piece from China) and have not been able to get going again. If I have another set back I may just have to torch all of my progress to date.

  7. Kevin says:

    Screwing up doesn’t make me want to quit. It’s kind of fun, after you’ve gotten past the anger, because you get to fix it and fixing it usually involves doing something you don’t normally do. So it’s a break from the routine. Sanding makes me want to quit woodworking :) Every project, there it is. Sanding, sanding and more sanding.

    I’m having one of those weeks so I do relate. Working on a new workbench. Did the base frame. I had gotten a zip slot mortiser years ago when they were on closeout at woodcraft and other than a test piece when I got it it’s just been in the box waiting for a project to come along it was right for. So I decided I would use it for this. And it was going to be a big joint in 2x lumber so I thought a 3/8″ tenon wasn’t going to be spiffy enough, so I tried to do a quadruple loose tenon joint. Test piece looked pretty good but it was really hard to clamp the piece securely and I ended up with one or two of the mortises at a slight angle in the end of my rail. So I said the hell with this, filled them and went from quad tenons to … pocket screws. Wasted two days on that nonsense.

    Then I made the cabinet that was just going to drop into rabbets on the top edge of the rails. Simple box with two vertical dividers for 3 banks of drawers. Piece of cake. I don’t need to do a dry fit. Yeah, the dados were just a smidge too tight and something(s) were out of square so that the two middle dividers ended up 1/8″ shy of the case at one end, and 1/8″ into the rabbet for the back panel. Of course it was already glued and nailed had pounded the snot out of it to get it together by the time I figured that out. I still don’t even know what’s really out of square with it. I got tired of trying to figure it out and just got out the track saw and cut 1/8″ off one horizontal piece and then worked around the box from there. Routed the dividers flush with the rabbet in the back. We’ll just pretend that never happened, except I have it all on video… I think it’s good to show some major screw-ups because people get the impression that they suck because everything doesn’t work out perfectly the first time like it does for Norm. Hell, everything Norm ever made was already square when he checked if it was square for like 14 years running. Stuff happens, especially when you’re doing something that you don’t normally do.

  8. Zac Higgins says:

    Matt, don’t worry man at least the project (and any setbacks) are still in your shop! My UNCLE moment was during the delivery of my last project to the customer’s house. While moving it into the house, a wheel stem split out the side of the “brand new” sewing cabinet.

    I got to go get some glue and clamps and glue it back together in her living room. UNCLE!!! Luckily she loves the piece… and actually paid me the balance due. However, I still haven’t been in the mood to start designing the next big commission since reflections of that last project still linger. Plus, the next one will have to be shipped half way across the country. I guess that I lost the battle, but the war isn’t over yet.

    • Matt says:

      Just for the record…I audibly gasped for you when I read this! Although it reminds me of the time I made a wall of bookshelves (featured somewhere in the archives here) and while installing it I suddenly remembered what I meant by leaving room for the moulding at the bottom.

      I had been thinking it was note for a possible design option, not a reminder there would be moulding as in baseboard and quarter round that I needed to accommodate for on the bottom.

      Thankfully, they were cool with me making a few cuts with my jigsaw and touching up with paint.

      • Zac Higgins says:

        You know, these comments could turn into a really great Halloween special of MBW… Horror story edition. The beauty of this type of post is it really shows that we are not alone in this woodworking universe – we all make mistakes.. and move on!

        Thanks for your post Matt and thanks for everyone else’s stories too. I’m not sure a shrink is a good idea, he may just have us committed! LOL

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