Learning from Mistakes - Advice from a 9 year old.

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Blog entry by mot posted 09-27-2007 07:56 AM 1786 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been fiddling in the shop lately. Mostly with multimedia. I’ll be blogging my setup for my shop cam and computer work station, but last night I decided to make a small box. I’ve been amazed at the work that our resident small box experts make. Of course, Don, but including (but not limited to) Terdy , Andy , BigMP , YorkshireStewart , Paul , TonyWard , Dorje and everyone else who has tagged their projects with Box .

I’ve been wanting to do some concealed wooden hinge boxes, ala Rob Cosman and with a confidence in my heart, I took out a little maple and some walnut. I re sawed and dimensioned it to about what I wanted my box to be. I pulled out my old shooting board and got all my little parts just right.

...then I got interrupted. It was a good interruption. My father was on the phone, but an interruption nonetheless. I got back down to the shop. I wanted to use some dovetails on the box and was getting out my calipers and chisels when I got interrupted. Another good one. I wasn’t upset to get taken out of the shop to see my 2 year old in a Spiderman costume.

It was worth it. He looks very funny in it. The good kind of funny.

...anyway…I get back down to the shop and have lost my place. So I reset my brain and line up my parts and get an idea of my layout before I start marking. DING…another interruption. This one isn’t so nice. It’s Sharon. Some of you may remember Sharon. If you don’t and have some time for a good read, take a look at this forum entry so you know who Sharon is.

...I’ve given up on the handcut dovetail and whisk out my Akeda Jig. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this jig, but screwing up with it is more difficult than screwing up buttering toast. I mean, it’s easy, precise, and creates spectacular joints. This is a diary of how to screw up using one of the easiest tools ever invented. Oh, a full review with video is in the works for this jig. It’s a Leigh world and occasionally the little guy needs a break.

Anyway, after setting up the jig, I want to leave some offset on the sides for the thickness of the recessed top. Mistake #1 comes here:

If you are going to use taller sides than front/back, then allow for a full pin or you’ll get a gap. Ick!

Now, cruising along, not realizing that the box is already ruined (it’s too small to put in wedges) I continue on. Not spending alot of time with router dovetails, I forgot to climb cut a bit to keep from tearing out when routing my pin board. Mistake #2 comes here:

Now it’s really getting ugly. I just don’t know it yet.

Cruising along some more, I failed to realized that I wasn’t precise with my partial pins and was out by 1/64th. This is a big deal as it makes for a pretty wobbly box. I could have setup the jig with mirror fingers on each side and been able to accomodate for this had I known it was happening. LOL…but, as hindsight is totally out of context and NOT 20/20, I’m still not realizing that I’m really screwing up this box. Mistake #3: It’s subtle, and wouldn’t show up on a blanket chest, but on a small box…yech!

So, I walk upstairs. I’m disgusted with myself. My little box is junk. I’m going to toss it in the kitchen garbage so I don’t have to look at it anymore.

As I’m tossing it, my 9 year old says, “Why throw it away?” It told her, “I made many mistakes and it can’t be saved.” She asked, “Why so many mistakes.” I said, “I’m not as familiar with the tool I was using, as I thought I was.”

Then comes a viewpoint that I may not have had since I was 9. She says to me, “Daddy, does pen work on that wood?” I said, “Yup.” She says, “Why not write the mistakes on the box so you can see them and not make them again. Then leave it with the tool in your shop?”

And so, this little box now sits with my Akeda jig. A reminder of a few of the things to take into account when I use it again. In the meantime, I’m getting out my chisels again. I’ve found that anything that is meant to save time and increase productivity, can compound mistakes at lightning speed.

Have a great Friday!


-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

17 comments so far

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 3994 days

#1 posted 09-27-2007 09:20 AM

This was one funny read! Thanks for the humorous post! Needed that.

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View jaspr's profile


38 posts in 3970 days

#2 posted 09-27-2007 10:02 AM

The wisdom of the young!

-- Claire

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4158 days

#3 posted 09-27-2007 12:02 PM

I hope Sharon only made a brief appearance!

Your daughter is brilliant (of course I knew that when she used the DowelMax correctly on her first try).

This is a great piece of shop wisdom that I will use in the future.
Great blog Tom!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3960 days

#4 posted 09-27-2007 01:34 PM

Ah, from the mouths of babes. good one Tom.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6855 posts in 3977 days

#5 posted 09-27-2007 02:03 PM

Hi Tom;

It’s refreshing to hear that even under these stressful conditions, your daughter can still suggest things, and you actually follow her advice. (great advice at that).

You’re correct in things getting screwed up quickly, with the proper equipment! LOL


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View furnitologist's profile


198 posts in 4010 days

#6 posted 09-27-2007 02:17 PM

Hey Tom:

Another classic Mot line…......

_I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this jig, but screwing up with it is more difficult than screwing up buttering toast. I mean, it’s easy, precise, and creates spectacular joints. This is a diary of how to screw up using one of the easiest tools ever invented. _

That was a very good read…...........Neil

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4019 days

#7 posted 09-27-2007 02:38 PM

Take heart Tom.
Even the mighty Norm makes a prototype before he makes the final piece,
Mind you, he doesn’t take any calls when he’s filming. <vbg>


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View joey's profile


396 posts in 3902 days

#8 posted 09-27-2007 03:50 PM

Genius often comes in the form of a 9 year old. I learned that in the 3 years I taught woodworking at a camp in CT. some day’s I think they taught more than I taught them. its a different world from their prospective…...Joey

-- Joey~~Sabina, Ohio

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4095 days

#9 posted 09-27-2007 07:03 PM

Glad you took the time to write it up. I got more from this than your reference to the event in your PM. From the mouth of babes….

Have a great and non-frustrating day.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Buckskin's profile


486 posts in 3985 days

#10 posted 09-27-2007 07:57 PM

Just when you think you know it all, along comes pint sized wisdom. Glad you followed her advice and shared the tale. Thanks Tom.

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4304 days

#11 posted 09-27-2007 08:22 PM

9 year old brain, smart today…power tool of the future… Nice story. Thanks for sharing.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4398 days

#12 posted 09-27-2007 09:59 PM

Great trip down memory lane Tom. Screwups come fast and easy it just takes a little inattention.

I glad your daughter saw some good from your work.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 4084 days

#13 posted 09-28-2007 04:10 AM

Hehe….you have to love moments like this…...”take the pebble from my hand grasshopper”

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4244 days

#14 posted 09-28-2007 06:21 PM

You are very lucky to have a QC inspecter at your house. All I’ve got is my wife who says “oh thats pretty” and it could be a dog terd.. mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View PanamaJack's profile


4483 posts in 4075 days

#15 posted 09-28-2007 06:31 PM

Tom and little Spidy, boy what a pair!

Great story. Measure twice…maybe three times, and cut once(?) comes to mind….....

-- Carpe Lignum; Tornare Lignum (Seize the wood, to Turn the wood)

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