Fast fixes

I had my regular six-month dental checkup and cleaning today. As always, I did the same thing you probably do before going for your checkup: I brushed my teeth really, really good to fool him into thinking I’d been a good boy for the last six months.

You and I both know this doesn’t work, and we both know it doesn’t fool him, but we do it anyway. So why do we bother? My theory is we do it because it works in woodworking, so why shouldn’t it work with the dentist? Consider:

  • If we cut a dovetail slightly wrong and it doesn’t quite fit, a sanding block can often come to the rescue. A little sanding here, a little sanding there, and that dovetail slides in perfectly. Just as if we had cut the dovetail correctly earlier.
  • Dado too tight? Give that board one run through the planer, take off a nano-fraction of an inch and bingo, bango – perfect fit.
  • Drill a hole and it’s too small? No problem. Just clamp a piece of scrap over the hole, re-mark the spot on top of the scrap and drill again. Presto! Good as new, as if you never messed it up in the first place.

Situations like these and countless others in woodworking can be fixed after the fact so well, that it can fool anyone into thinking we’d done everything right all along. No wonder we expect our dentist to be fooled by a similar after-the-fact attempt to hide six months of bad habits with one extra-thorough brushing, just like drilling that second hole.

I wonder if nonwoodworkers do the same thing.

Worse, I wonder if my dentist does.

Till next time,



  • Bob Poole says:

    Drilled a 4″ hole for a dryer vent opening in a double floor, not thinking a 4″ pipe will not go into a 4″ hole.How do I enlarge it? It is in a very tight place You said clamp a scrap peice over the hole. How do you hold the scrap in place in my case.Thank you Bob

  • Lee Gordon says:

    The dentist may not be fooled by the last minute brush-fest, but he does appreciate the cleaner breath that results.

    Bob might want to try hot glue or double-stick tape.

  • A.J. Hamler says:


    In your case with a hole that large I wouldn’t try the scrap trick. Instead, I’m guessing that hole is very close to being the right size to accommodate that pipe. I’d chuck up a drum-sanding bit in a drill with the coarsest sanding sleeve you’ve got, and just ream that hole out till the vent pipe fits. Shouldn’t take too much.


  • Gary Muto says:

    My dentist IS a woodworker!!

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