The Woodworking Afterburners

After reading Chris Schwarz’s blog entitled “Yesterday’s Shame (and Tomorrow’s,” I began to ponder some of the woodworking projects I had made in my younger days.  Some were so embarrassing I won’t even pass the details of them along to you.  Some were not that embarrassing, but they were almost.  Certainly I’ve come a long way.  Pondering these projects, I began to think about an Oldtools listserv post from a few years ago.

It’s a truism that woodworkers as a lot tend to be their own worst critics.  We will see every flaw, every boo-boo, every place in a piece that we wish we had done something differently.  We will seek out our long-suffering spouses’ opinion, the opinions of our family, friends, significant others, and even the in-laws, and they will openly admire your craftsmanship, and you will still stare at the “glaring imperfections” of your work and think, “Chris Schwarz would never have done anything this bad.”

Our forum settled on an ugly project criteria: if you can take the piece you have just built and toss it in the fire, then it needs to be there.  If you cannot burn your work, then you cannot threaten to.  Fencing sitting doesn’t work; you must accept your work silently and resolve to try harder next time.  I’ve decided to call this effect “Woodworking afterburners.”  If you can burn the piece after you’ve built it… well, you get it.

I’ve been able to recycle the wood from an old project, but I’ve never been able to toss one on the burn pile.  I guess that’s because the Scotsman in me sees the raw material and echoes my dad’s words, “I might use that for something some day.”  You know what?  Even those afterburners still have something to teach me.  I wonder what I’m going to learn from the pieces I turn out today.


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2 Responses to “The Woodworking Afterburners”

  1. Joey Says:

    I once saved a small table I had go really wrong. I kept it around the shop for all most five years to remind me of my mistakes. then I realized I learned them lessens when I recognized all the error in the project and didn’t really need it collecting dust, so I made a nice jewelery box out of the wood. After that I stopped winning about my mistakes and just learned from them and never burn not a one, but did rebuild a few. it was small price to pay


  2. thewoodshepherd Says:

    I call that tuition. Far less than chunking $250 worth of cherry (and 100 hours of shop time) into the wood stove…

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