In my very first post in this series, I said that I wanted to make something before building my workbench, and I said (here comes a direct quote), “What better project for my beginner skills than a simple dovetail box?” Yes. I said the words “simple”, “box” and “beginner” in the same sentence. How little I knew. So here are some reflections on my 6-month journey into box making, and some lessons learned:
- Find something you do well, and build your confidence off of that. Once I bought my ryoba saw, my sawing skills improved tremendously. I cut one of my dovetails with it to break it in, and liked it right away. I took a stab at sawing veneer by hand, and nailed it. I got more and more confident in that one area of my woodworking, and it made me more confident overall, even in other areas where I’m not yet very proficient.
- Start with a plan. I had a vague idea of what I wanted, but you really need something a little more concrete than “four walls, a top and a bottom.” That’s pretty much all I had. If I had actually sketched out a real plan with ideas on how I was going to join, say, the bottom to the walls, I would have been much better prepared for what was to come.
- Start with something big. I had wondered aloud when starting this project if doing dovetails with 1/4” thick wood would be too tough for a beginner. Turned out that the dovetails were easy compared with all the other complexities in the project – many of which were enhanced because of the small size of the box. As some of you saw, I had to make a chisel out of an allen wrench because my 1/4” chisel was too big for some of the things I needed to do. I felt like I was making dollhouse furniture sometimes. It’s no wonder my very next project was a step stool with really big dovetails and “regular”-sized joints.
- Listen to feedback. As I wrote this post, I re-read all of my entries, and the comments that followed each one. It’s really neat to see things that I ended up doing in this project because of suggestions from my fellow Jocks. In a way, this box was a community project!
- Don’t sweat it. As Russel wisely commented, ”Flaws are merely an expression of character; a reflection of the path to completion. They are not necessarily a bad thing, and in this case they are an example of tenacity and acquired experience.” Amen.
Thanks again, fellow Jocks, for all of your encouragement as I brought this project through its various stages to completion. While I have no desire (at the present time) to build another box this small, I do hope to build more boxes in the future. I’m sure that many of the lessons I learned here will make it a much smoother operation.