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  • Writer's pictureMarkBuildsIt

One Small Mistake...

...can lead to a cascade of changes.

I'm always amazed at how this phenomenon comes into play in the shop. Last week, when I was drilling counter bores in the rails for the latest batch of shave horses, I realized I had drilled some holes where a pair of dadoes were supposed to go.

And so the cascade began...

"Okay. you've made a mistake. Not a problem." In teaching, I've learned to take this attitude immediately. It puts both the student and myself at ease and allows us to focus on the problem rather than our feelings about it. There's always a way to fix it, up to and including starting over, as long as the problem doesn't involve large amounts of blood. That's a different type of cascade altogether.

"Oh, hey, the diameter of the counter bore is smaller than the width of the dado! I can just cut the dadoes and the holes will disappear."

"Wait. No. The Counter bores are 1/2" deep and the dadoes are supposed to be 3/8". Crap!"

"Can I cut the dadoes to plan and leave the remaining 1/4" of the counter bores? It'll be plenty strong."

"No. That will look like crap. That's poor workmanship."

"Okay, how about just cutting the dadoes the same depth as the counter bores?"

Cherry rails in the foreground, with their counter bores in the process of being "erased." The walnut and ash rails are already "fixed."

"That would work! But what about the bolts? The threaded end will stick out on one side of the leg."

"I can reduce the depth of the counter bores in the legs by 1/4" on each side. That would account for the extra 1/4" in depth on each of the dadoes."

"No. Then the bolt would stick out on one side and the nut would stick out on the other. The whole purpose of the counter bores is to keep the hardware below the surface."

"Well, why not go back to the standard depth and just cut the ends of the bolts off?"

"Seems like a lot of extra work. That's a lot of cutting and burr removal. Is there another way?"

"Can I buy bolts that are 1/2" shorter?"

"I dunno. But I can find out."


"Great! Problem solved! Let's get back to work."

"Sure... but don't forget to order the bolts."

"What length was that? And what other changes was I going to make?"

"Dang it! Let me think through this again."

By the time the shorter length bolts had arrived, I had already forgot what other changes needed to be made. The first step was to measure how much "extra" bolt I would have left after it passed through the rails.
Then It was just a matter of dividing the remainder between the two legs. A 1/2" deep counter bore was plenty to keep the hardware "inside" the legs.

I can't decide if I make mistakes because I'm forgetful, or as a way to keep my mind sharp. Either way I'm happy to have a job that keeps me on my toes.

Even if it's usually my own fault.

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