Oops

When you do some woodworking task “just a bit more” at a point when you innately know you should probably stop, you almost always end up being sorry.

That task could be just about anything: one more twist of the clamp, one final attempt to tweak something beyond being exact, one more coat of finish, one more pass with the plane (or through the planer), one more tap with a mallet to seat dovetails, etc. And inevitably you regret twisting, tweaking, coating, planing or tapping ’em just about every time. This seems especially true on the lathe, as you can see below.

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One of my regular projects is a small lathe-turned potpourri bowl with a fitted pewter top, and I think I’ve made several dozen of these over the years as gifts. Depending on the design I make these either with a faceplate or a chuck, but the last time I used a faceplate I got into a gotta-do-the-bottom-just-one-more-time loop, and one-more-timed the chisel right through the bowl.

Fortunately, I was still doing the basic roughing and hadn’t spent a lot of time on it yet, plus I had plenty of additional zebrawood on hand so it was just a minor setback. Of course, had I been turning a one-of-a-kind piece of stock I’d have probably let out a scream you would have heard no matter where you were at the time.

Then again, I’ve done the “just a bit more” routine so many times, it’s likely you already have.

A.J.

COMMENTS

  1. Ralph Bagnall wrote:

    AJ, I totally agree with your observations. I have written more than once about the challenge of deciding when a project is “good enough”. Sometimes that ‘extra step’ ends in disaster as you show, sometimes it just means sunken costs that can never be recovered in the product cost.

    I learned this lesson years ago when I worked at a stair company. Part of my job was to shape the spiral hand rails created for the stairs. This involved a 3hp handheld router, custom router bits that approached 4″ in diameter, and usually 16-24 hours of work. The routing was done in several light passes, and on the final pass, the router is basically balanced on a single point as it moves along the compound curve of the rail. There was always a temptation to take one more light pass to “clean up” and minimize the sanding required. I VERY quickly learned that that clean up pass could ruin the railing completely. One small slip and the profile was spoiled along with several days worth of labor if the rail were rendered unusable.

    Relatively few tasks in woodworking carry that big a penalty for failure, but it started me thinking about when a part was “good enough”

  2. Mike Cecil Smith wrote:

    I guess we have all had a few of these. I’m not a “turner” but I’m learning. At our woodworkers club, people are always bringing in there “just one more something” projects as a learning example for all of us. We get a few non-turning projects but it seems that most of these errors in our club are done on the lathe. Like I said, I’m not a full fledged “turner” and I have already had a couple of these. Which reminds me, that I always need to wear a face mask when turning. It’s already saved me a few stitches.

  3. Abe wrote:

    I’m sorry, AJ. I just don’t see anything wrong with this bracelet other than the “thumb” hole should be enlarged.

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