Your biggest woodworking mistake?

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Forum topic by Airon66 posted 09-30-2011 02:54 AM 2447 views 0 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 2549 days

09-30-2011 02:54 AM

Topic tags/keywords: humor question

Hello All,

I was talking to an old friend of mine about woodworking. He is about as mechanically un-inclined as one can be. Yet, he was interested in taking up a new hobby. We talked for a while and I did my best to outline the space, budget and band-aids needed to begin.
I told him blood is usually a dependable indicator.

He sounded excited and ready to dive in. His biggest hang up, however, stemmed from the fact that there is no “one right way” to do almost any woodworking task. There certainly are better ways, safer ways, and many wrong ways, but no “right way.” He seemed genuinely disturbed by the lack of woodworking rules and deathly afraid of doing something wrong. In an almost childlike manner he asked, “How will I know if I made a mistake?”

For me, half the joy of making something is using my brain and the tools I have to get the job done. My grandfather taught me long ago that mistakes will happen to even the most seasoned professional. The true craftsman can hide it, fix it or best of all, convince everyone it was done that way on purpose.

That said, what woodworking mistake stands out in your mind and how did you deal with it?

P.S. While a wife and kids are hell on the tool budget, neither Should be used as an answer to the question. I’m still single for a reason!


44 replies so far

View Gary's profile


9340 posts in 3549 days

#1 posted 09-30-2011 03:04 AM

My worst mistake involves blood. Mine

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View pariswoodworking's profile


389 posts in 2600 days

#2 posted 09-30-2011 03:08 AM

Cutting things a inch or so too short, routing the wrong side of a board, sanding too much in one spot and making a low spot in the wood. Basically things like that.

-- Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein

View klassenl's profile


187 posts in 2775 days

#3 posted 09-30-2011 03:48 AM

At the current time it was making my bed rails 2 inches too short.

-- When questioned about using glue on a garbage bin I responded, "Wood working is about good technique and lots of glue........I have the glue part down."

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3190 days

#4 posted 09-30-2011 03:52 AM

I can’t begin to answer the question about what was my biggest mistake. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but nothing stands out as being the exceptionally big mistake. My worst accident involved a big piece of walnut that jumped off the lathe and hit me, very hard, in the head (9 stitches), yet I can’t figure out what mistake I made. I believe it was just an inherent defect in the wood that I did not detect.

I agree that finding a good (perhaps not the best, but a good) way to do something is part of the fun of this hobby.

I just built an audio booth that included a short, solid oak, door and some pull out drawers. When I closed the door and pulled out the drawers the metal slides on the drawer scratched the door. Design mistake. Then the challenge – what to do about it?

I decided to cut some grooves into the door. In theory, I could make them look decorative. Then the challenge – how to cut them?

My first thought was a router in the router table. Another option was a dado stack on the TS. Third option was a handheld router with a jig.

I finally opted for the third option and it worked reasonably well. I used a router bit that is usually used to clear out the bottom of a bowl. I needed to route grooves that were about 18.5” long and 1/4” deep.

I ran the router out the 18.5” and stopped for a few seconds before pulling the router back. The result was an ugly burn mark at the end. It was very difficult to sand that burn mark out.

That’s typical of the process.

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

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2603 days

#5 posted 09-30-2011 03:59 AM

Building 6 beautiful base cabinet drawers, Hickory faces, dove tails on all four corners…..... except I cut all the dove tails, got the drawers together and found that every drawer was 1” too narrow.
I had to go back and rebuild the face frames to fit the drawers. (I covered the mistake by adding a sliding spice shelf with the extra 2” gap. I called it a surprise value added addition at no extra charge!)

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View rance's profile


4261 posts in 3276 days

#6 posted 09-30-2011 04:07 AM

I’ve made almost all of them. Some I make twice. I’m trying to forget about them and you bring them up again. :)

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

View bubbyboy's profile


137 posts in 2809 days

#7 posted 09-30-2011 04:17 AM

$6,000 dollar set of entry doors that were special ordered and took 10 weeks to get and me being the knucklehead I am trying to do to many things at once and promptly cut 1 inch off the top of one of the doors instead of the bottom OOPS!! try explaining that to the customer who has to wait another 10 weeks not good.

-- I just don't understand. I have cut it 3 times and it is still to short.

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2755 days

#8 posted 09-30-2011 04:20 AM

I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong. ;=)

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3184 days

#9 posted 09-30-2011 04:46 AM

Are we limited to only one? I can make that many before my second cup of coffee. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Michael1's profile


403 posts in 2776 days

#10 posted 09-30-2011 06:16 AM

Years ago my shop was a production residential cabinet shop with 19 employees and we provided cabinets, mill work, staircases and architectural trim for 14 very active builders. One contract was for every unit of a multi-unit duplex and triplex subdivision. We were producing between two and three kitchens per week for this developer, along with orders from the other contractors as well and I was in the shop 16 hours per day 7 days a week. The units alternated from Oak natural finish, Oak pickle finish and birch with white lacquer. On the tail end of the contract, I passed out assignments and cut sheets to my men that I had copied off of the Xerox but failed to notice that the machine was set to “Mirror” image. We went to install 3 kitchens that weekend to find that every one was built a mirror image to what it was suppose to be. TALK ABOUT AN EXPENSIVE MISTAKE!! not to mention the embarrassment of calling the site superintendent and telling him I needed another week to rebuild the units and ask him to hold off on having the floor coverings installed.

Not too long after that I decided I was tired of residential cabinet making

-- Michael Mills, North Carolina,

View yrob's profile


340 posts in 3768 days

#11 posted 09-30-2011 07:15 AM

I once had a big piece of wood shoot out of my tablesaw like a missile (back in the days I was using power tools) and miss me by a hair. Luckily I had gotten into the habit of not standing directly behind the piece just in case of things like this..

It planted itself into the siding of my house (I was using a contractor saw on my porch). Not sure if it was a mistake I made such as binding the wood or what, but this is the day I stopped using that particular saw.

-- Yves

View Des O'Keeffe's profile

Des O'Keeffe

20 posts in 3079 days

#12 posted 09-30-2011 11:08 AM

I once put a freshly sharpened wood chisel right through that skin between my thumb and and hand! I still have the scar and the memories. At least I learned to keep my free hand behind the blade in future.

-- Des, Cork, Ireland

View Don W's profile

Don W

18933 posts in 2683 days

#13 posted 09-30-2011 01:27 PM

I’ve made so many, some involving blood, some not. From a counter top hold down support breaking and the screw coming straight through the Formica top, to a whole set of trusses shattered on the deck. How about throwing a 16’ 2×4 down from the rafters and having it “jump” right through the second floor one piece bath tub.

There are day when you can cut crown molding all day and not make a mistake, there are other days you might as well hang it up and hope tomorrow is better.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Tennessee's profile


2880 posts in 2630 days

#14 posted 09-30-2011 08:57 PM

Recently I had just about finished a beautiful Les Paul style body for a guitar I was building. Neck pocket, which I hand carve into the body was done, as were the pickup chambers, wire holes, etc. All I needed to do was put in two holes for the bridge. Lots of exotic beautiful woods. Managed to do the old “start at the 1 inch mark on the measure for better measurements”, but forgot to subtract the doggone inch. (Laugh, you know we’ve all done that!) When I realized on final assembly that the holes were out of position exactly one inch, on the front face of the guitar, my wife came home to find it lying on the asphalt outside my shop where she parks her car… I keep it around to remind me.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View ShaneA's profile


7020 posts in 2714 days

#15 posted 09-30-2011 09:47 PM

Made lots of mistakes. Once while making some quarter round, I was ripping the rounded edge free. Instead of using the thin rip jig that I have, I had the rounded edge against the fence. Standing behind the piece, without proper push stick pressure due to the rounded edge. I guess you know where it is going from here…right to the gut. 100mph it hurt, my pride mostly. If the end had been mitered, I would have been impaled for sure. Left a nasty mark and bruise. The perfect outline of quarter round is still imprinted into my stomach a couple of months later. I have also been guilty of making drawers, some of my best dovetailed ones, and not taking into account the space needed for the slides. So I have a couple of drawers sitting around that someday I will have to make a project to fit.

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