Deep Thoughts - Reader Beware #10: Sometimes, it's just ugly.

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Blog entry by Sandra posted 02-13-2014 12:58 PM 1877 reads 0 times favorited 40 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Mere meanderings, or 'Stumpy's Trail of Tears' Part 10 of Deep Thoughts - Reader Beware series Part 11: End of Life Lessons »

First, the caveat:

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about woodworking, trying to make sense of what it is that has always drawn me to it. I’m notorious for over-thinking, overanalyzing and basically spending too much energy navel-gazing. This blog is intended to get some of it out of my head. I’ll be glib, sarcastic and flippant in my other posts. Who knows how this one will turn out. It may be a train wreck, so reader beware! If navel-gazing doesn’t hold any appeal or distraction for you, move on. If you’re allergic to estrogen, move away quickly.

My own personal rules are to not to spend more than 30 minutes on any one post. I can correct a mistake if I catch it right away, but can’t go back. If I post it, I can’t edit or delete. I tend to edit things to death and have been known to delete my posts before it’s too late.

If anything resonates with you, feel free to chime in.

For the most part, I know what I like and what I don’t like. For example I don’t particularly like the look of live edge tables. I also am not a huge fan of the 3D cutting board designs because they give me a headache. I appreciate the work that goes into both these things, and can look at a 3D cutting board in awe at the design and the precision with which it was done. Nevertheless, I have no intention of building either one of these things. And regardless of my growing appreciation of woodworking, I still like the look of painted wooden furniture.

Prior to getting into woodworking, my husband owned a few pieces of ‘bachelor’ furniture made by one of his friends who was a weekend woodworker. They were knotty pine with a shiny varnish. And they were ugly. Red Green lodge kind of ugly. Even now, knowing the work that went into them, I still think they were ugly and have no regrets getting rid of them.

Because ww is a hobby for me, I’ve had the luxury of building only what I damn well please. But I broke some cardinal rules about 2 weeks ago and now I’m paying for it. Over coffee, my good friend and neighbour announced that she’d been trying to buy a tie cubby for her husband. She showed me this picture:

We chatted about how she’d like it a bit more this and that and then we both got all excited about building it.
I think I even said the dreaded ‘oh I could build that’.

She wanted it to be made of maple and I though ‘sure, why not?’ She wanted a dark stain and I thought the same thing. I could picture it in my head. (I’ve never been good at that)

All roses and sunshine, I sketched out the dimensions and set to work.

Here’s the thing – it’s ugly. I was working on the stain last night and started to really dislike the whole thing.
I think it’s a waste of maple. Maple is not DARK. If you want dark wood, use dark wood or if you want it completely chocolate brown, buy pine and paint it. When I started thinking like that I realized I was tired, getting grumpy and I called it a night. Usually I get up the next morning and look at a project and have a new perspective.

Not this morning. It’s still ugly. The stain is okay but in my opinion, it’s ruined how nice the grain looked. It also points out that my sanding wasn’t as good as I thought it was, but that’s my own fault. So here I am in the middle of a project that I think is ugly and if I were making it for myself, we’d be having a VERY EXPENSIVE bonfire tonight. But it’s not for me.

I’m not saying it’s ugly because I want reassurance that it’s nice, or to be told what a fine job I did. I’m saying it’s ugly because I think it is. I would have liked the dividers to be MUCH thinner than they are, the stain to be lighter or non-existent and the whole thing to be more light weight. It’s a perfect project for pine, plywood and paint.

So my hat goes off to those of you trying to earn a living at wood working because this is as close as I ever want to get to making custom pieces for a good long time.

Nobody likes to say it, but not all babies are cute. They’re all loveable, but some are just, well, ugly. ET phone home kind of ugly, no matter how much we love them. The doctor who delivered my son came to see me the next day in the hospital room and announced that my precious bundle of joy looked like Mr. Magoo. I was properly insulted but now when I look back at his baby pictures, I can see the resemblance.

Just because it’s made with love doesn’t make it immune from being ugly. I mean the tie cubby of course. My son grew out of the old man look for the time being. I expect the tie cubby is going to remain ugly forever.

8:56 Right on time.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

40 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile (online now)

Monte Pittman

29216 posts in 2332 days

#1 posted 02-13-2014 01:07 PM

Not all styles are for everyone. First, I love live edge furniture. Second, nobody should have that many ties. Third, I agree, there are ugly babies. Last, I actually hate painted furniture. I totally agree with your statement that if you want it dark use dark wood.

Excellent ramblings today young lady.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View HamS's profile


1829 posts in 2382 days

#2 posted 02-13-2014 01:14 PM

Good morning. Ugly is always ugly. On the other hand, the ties will hide lots of the finish issues. It think the real problem though is that Lord Ascot bequeathed to the males of the species the leash of Beelzebub to create a strangle hold on our necks. This evil is very difficult to overcome even with the finest craftsmanship.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2069 days

#3 posted 02-13-2014 01:15 PM

Thanks Monte.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2069 days

#4 posted 02-13-2014 01:16 PM

Very funny Ham! I always wondered where the tie came from. I presumed it was from the same evil mind that created high heels.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View lightcs1776's profile


4200 posts in 1648 days

#5 posted 02-13-2014 01:16 PM

Great post, Sandra. Love your humor. As for your husband’s bachelor furniture … don’t be a hater. Red Green is an awesome show and every man should have some of that furniture.

I agree, maple is much, much better with a very light stain or a thin varnish / wipe on poly that lets the natural beauty of the wood come through. But, it is all in the eye of the beholder. Andfor the record, iI think you’ve done a fine job with it.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View KTMM (Krunkthemadman)'s profile

KTMM (Krunkthemadman)

1055 posts in 3187 days

#6 posted 02-13-2014 01:19 PM

I understand the cardinal rule of, I can build it. I have two spent weeks and a hole in my hand from saying that.
On another note, I used to run a 1 hour photo lab. Most babies aren’t cute when they come out and some improve in appearances over time. Sometimes things you build are like that….

-- Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi

View HamS's profile


1829 posts in 2382 days

#7 posted 02-13-2014 01:21 PM

I think the attitude is similar. Although I suspect the slavish attention to fashion has a somewhat different focus for the female.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View DIYaholic's profile (online now)


19618 posts in 2668 days

#8 posted 02-13-2014 01:31 PM

I agree with just about everything you said….
I must like headaches!!!

Another enjoyable read…
Of the inner workings of your brain!!!

Carry on, err ramble on….

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View CFrye's profile (online now)


10186 posts in 1833 days

#9 posted 02-13-2014 01:46 PM

Good morning Sandra. First, your friend/neighbor needs to admit this tie caddy is for HER. I know there are men out there that would obsess and neatly roll up thir ties and tuck them carefully into a cubby such as this (Tom Hanks in Turner And Hooch). I don’t think they are the norm. Or maybe I’ve been in the boonies too long and I am out of step. Anyway, I digress. I totally concur with the appreciation for those that do custom work. The good part of this tale is its for someone else and you don’t have to look at its ugliness day after day. The down side is its for someone else and they may show it off and identify it as your handiwork. If you really hate it badly enough you could make alternative versions to present to your friend. Ones that you would be proud to have her say “Sandra made this for me.” Or just complete it, present it and move on. Lesson learned! Thais for sharing your thoughts.

-- God bless, Candy

View JL7's profile


8660 posts in 2958 days

#10 posted 02-13-2014 01:52 PM

Sandra, I really try to avoid the “will you build this for me” ........

Once, a co-workers wife wanted a cutting board and selected the wood choices including Yellowheart. When complete she rejected it saying it wasn’t yellow enough….....

To me, it’s just as yellow as it’s going to be…..........

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Gene Howe's profile (online now)

Gene Howe

10475 posts in 3422 days

#11 posted 02-13-2014 02:04 PM

Sandra, I agree with you, but what can you do? Like the sentiment expressed in Shipwright’s tag line: “If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees.”
It will all turn out for the best and I’m sure you friend will love it. She’d better! She specified the wood and the stain.
Us woodworking hobbyists eventually learn that silence is golden. Except, like with our kids, “NO” is not a dirty word.
Jeff hit the nail on the head. It’s never yellow enough.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2069 days

#12 posted 02-13-2014 02:19 PM

As much as I enjoy writing, I enjoy the comments the most. I got some good belly laughs this morning.

Candy, no I don’t think you’ve been in the boonies too long, but the tie owner is more ‘nouveau age’ than the men I’m used to dealing with. He will probably be all excited to have his ties rolled up and on display. His ties cost more than most pieces of clothing I would ever buy. My husband would happily hang his on a nail, or better yet throw them all out.

Love the yellow heart story, and the lesson is learned. When I gave away my first cutting board to my uncle, my parents requested one, with a side order of guilt. So I made them one to their size specifications. I didn’t particularly like it and they complain that they wish it were bigger.

I’m hoping my friendship is strong enough that I can tell my friend how ugly I think this is. Thankfully there is no financial exchange involved, she designed our basement for free so it’s all even. Except the basement isn’t ugly.

Lucas – then you would have seen your share of ugly babies! Glad it’s just not me.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3875 days

#13 posted 02-13-2014 02:21 PM

I too never liked building stuff for other people. They really seem to not know what they want, then are disappointed in the result.

I just built kitchen cabinets for my daughter and her husband. Luckily, they were the type to just say do it, and were impressed with the results. That is my kind of customer.

A couple of ideas on a design like this; thin is good – I always make stuff too thick. Maple is best left natural and can be bought for a lot less if you look around. It should be a fairly cheap building product.

I am rambling here, and my time is up.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2069 days

#14 posted 02-13-2014 02:23 PM

Thanks Steve,

Thankfully I had a lot of rough maple that I picked up for 1.50 b/f. I’ve used most of it, so it’s back on my radar.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View lightcs1776's profile


4200 posts in 1648 days

#15 posted 02-13-2014 02:28 PM

I am one who would love a new tie rack, as I wear one to work every day. However, mine would be a couple of pegs on a maple board. And all my ties have been purchased on sale, for less than $15 – $20. They do the same thing that a $50 tie does … wrap around my neck and let me know I am chained to the job.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

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