What do you do with your lemons?

Even the best makers lay an egg now and then. It might be one of those designs that looks great on paper but somehow just doesn’t work when it is actually made. Or something as simple as a wrong-sized door or drawer.

I have a corner in my shop that these things tend to migrate to. Every now and then, the pile gets too big even for someone with my high tolerance for things piled in corners. Then I start thinking about what they might be good for. If I am unfortunate enough to have constructed an entire piece, it may be time to think about a sale.

I used to pile odd-sized and mismatched doors and drawer fronts outside the shop. There seemed to be an unspoken understanding that anything left outside was fair game and these things would simply disappear.

Not too long ago, I had several odd-sized pull-out trays that were made of walnut, the result of a last minute design change, and they were much too nice to toss out. I also had some walnut legs that were left over from another job. We needed a nightstand so I set about designing one around the leftover pieces. It actually didn’t turn out too bad. Not great, but the fact that there was no real pressure to produce anything more than an acceptable looking piece of functional furniture kept it from ending up in the corner itself.



  • Let’s just say that I planted my share of “lemon trees” out back behind the shop! In my early years, with the U.S. Navy subsidizing my R&D, I had little tolerence for mistakes and a short fuse to match. The woods behind my shop became littered with rotting remnants of half-built canoes and paddles; all replete with varying numbers of “life” ending wounds wrought by hammer, axe, chainsaw, and fire. I’ve long since lengthened my fuse, become more thoughtful before cutting a piece of wood, and, when I do ere, I offer the piece to a friend at a serious discount. I’ve found that I’ve made more friends and the dog no longer worries!

    Philip A. Greene
    Wood Song Canoes

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