Exactly the same, only different

Reason No. 47 why I’d do terrible work on-contract: I never do anything the same way twice.

I like making multiples of favorite items, such as the several reproduction spool cabinets I’ve made over the years. But despite the fact that they’ve all been the same size and design, and built from the same plans and templates that I created, no two have ever been the same.

When I’m in my kitchen making a favorite recipe, I tend to throw in different things, change the amounts of others, and skip certain things altogether. The meals always come out great and they’re all still the same recognizable recipe, but there are always differences, some subtle and some not. My creative process is no different when repeating a project in the shop; it might be the same project, but it won’t turn out quite the same.

Now, I don’t mean I can’t reproduce exact multiples of components and such – table legs, cabinet doors, drawer faces, spindles, etc. – because that’s not a problem at all. But when I revisit an earlier project, and “earlier” could mean anything from last week to several years ago, I always seem to come up with a new thought or idea along the way to make it better.

That’s a good thing, generally, as I’ve rarely been disappointed with my updating, and I nearly always make the new aspect part of that project from then on. But I suspect that would be problematic if I were delivering items to a customer who wanted, say, a second side table, “just like the one you made us last year.” Sure; it’d be the same size, shape and design with the same finish and hardware, but it wouldn’t be an exact match. I’m not sure I’m capable of that, so contract work isn’t really in my future.

For the same reason, I’m guessing a new career as an art forger is also out of the question.



  • Jim Allen says:

    Yes, multiples are a problem if not done as a set in a single order. i have over the years done several 36″ rounds for the local operating engrs, of their logo to be placed in different offices. They originally wanted mahogany and that worked until I couldn’t get mahogany any more. Now I use alder. But I always run into warping problems with the glueup after I have removed about 80% of one face. I’ve tried various processes but still come out with about 1/2″ warp across the 36 inches. Customer is happy, so it gets by. I.m the one not pleased.
    I also do hanging plaques for the outgoing presidents of the local treee foundation representing an oak tree. I can never remember what tool I used last to texture the leaf areas, so each ends up unique. Same for the finish. But they have been happy, so I guess uniqueness has it’s virtues.

  • Howard Van Valzah says:

    My uniqueness comes from never being able to make the same mistakes twice. The older I get the more mistakes I make, and each time it usually requires “engineering changes” to make the mistake acceptable. I’m about to start making seven boxes for each of my grandchildren. I have plans to make each one a little bit different but you can bet there will be more differences than planned.

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