Less visible area first?

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 12-04-2010 06:31 PM 1012 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 2498 days

12-04-2010 06:31 PM

Recently, I and a few other volunteers helped an older, poor lady by putting a new roof on her house. We were all amateurs with varying degrees of knowledge about roofing. It was a simple roof with just a front, facing the street, and a back, facing the back yard.

It seemed natural to do the front first and that is what we did. We made a couple of mistakes on the front (nothing serious) but we learned from that and did not repeat those mistakes on the back. If anyone looked hard at the roof, they would see that the back was done better than the front.

Afterwards we said, “Why didn’t we do the back first?” A mistake on the back would be seen by very few people but a mistake on the front will be seen by anyone walking down the sidewalk.

There is a lesson in this that we can apply to woodworking. When working on a piece of furniture – do the back (the less visible area) first. I find myself trying to implement this concept whenever I can.

I just worked on a table that has a unique top and a storage shelf under the top. The top and the bottom of the table top will be done the same way. I did the bottom first and discovered that the wood was prone to splintering when routed. By taking smaller bites per pass, I avoided that problem on the top.

I wonder how many of us follow this principle deliberately whenever we can.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

11 replies so far

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4166 posts in 2280 days

#1 posted 12-04-2010 06:41 PM

Great point Rich.
I was always taught to do the longest part first.
That has saved me a few times over the years.

Nice that yiu all got together for the Lady.
Cant buy good neighbours.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Woodwrecker's profile


3914 posts in 2999 days

#2 posted 12-04-2010 07:05 PM

Great story Rich, and a good lesson.

-- Eric, central Florida

View Greedo's profile


470 posts in 2384 days

#3 posted 12-04-2010 07:54 PM

i know i should always start an operation on a less visible part or scrap piece, but time after time i am aways so impatient about wanting to see how it will look when finished, that i start with the most visible part.
and thats where you realise you are using the wrong grit, wrong color, wrong cut depth, wrong operation! etc…
will i ever learn?

View rance's profile


4243 posts in 2584 days

#4 posted 12-04-2010 08:14 PM

Good reminder Rich. For small parts, many times I make an extra or two for sizing, fitting, and that occasional Oops moment. Alba is ALSO right, cut your long parts first.

Your suggestion also can also be carried when building your own plane (EAA) and other projects.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 2632 days

#5 posted 12-04-2010 08:46 PM

Smart thinking, Rich. A good reminder for novices (like me) and experts as well. In woodworking, I try to start with the easier parts before moving on to the more challenging work… hopefully learning something in between. Cutting the longer pieces first also makes good sense. Thanks for the tips!

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10850 posts in 2538 days

#6 posted 12-04-2010 08:53 PM

thankĀ“s for the tips even thow I proppebly will try the oooops many times on every project
I get near….LOL

take care

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4607 posts in 2460 days

#7 posted 12-04-2010 09:26 PM

Sound advice, Rich. I am guilty of overconfidence sometimes (when I’m not wracked with self doubt) and I could do with adhering to this.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3945 posts in 2588 days

#8 posted 12-05-2010 12:42 AM

OK, I’ve been thinking about this, but I am having trouble applying this to delivering a baby….....front or back…....(-:

Seriously, I think this is a good point. And I will think about it on the next project….....right now I am doing dust control on my saw, and I am doing the grunt work first, so the end of the project, the more enjoyable and visible part as well will come last.

Re cooking for guests….........I have lived by the principle of only tested recipes for guests. Yesterday, an old and dear friend and his wife were unexpectedly in town, and the most logical thing was for me to cook dinner. My wife was not home, at a prior engagement, and the other couple, one of my partners, was working that day. His wife is his nurse. So I offered to cook dinner, but said I would not only make a tried and true recipe, it would be a one pot meal…........pot roast, with carrots and potatoes thrown in as well.

We all had a great time, and I didn’t have to spend my time cooking. The pot roast came out predictably and I even got inquiries about the recipe. In this case, an unexpected mini-party with 5 people, simple, as well as tested, were the watchwords.

I suspect that a simple approach, and familiar methods, would be the woodworking equivalent, and then in tune with this post, doing the backside first. Sometimes we are into skill building, but just like with the party yesterday, there are times we just want to get the job done right.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View woody57's profile


647 posts in 2851 days

#9 posted 12-12-2010 02:58 AM

good point rich

-- Emmett, from Georgia

View Kevin's profile


462 posts in 2629 days

#10 posted 12-12-2010 03:34 AM

I usually follow this on almost everything I do. Being a former software engineer and current systems engineer i’ve been used to getting the foundation (larger portions) constructed then moving on to the finer details last.

I do the same with wood usually and always have a few extra scrap pieces that i’ll test on first before making the final operation on the production piece.

It’s better to screw up on a scrap piece than the actual project :)

Good point btw Rich,


-- Williamsburg, KY

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 2474 days

#11 posted 12-12-2010 05:49 AM


Nice of you to help out an old lady (older than you? LOL). Good tip, too. Thanks andMerry Christmas to you.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

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