A finished project, happily ruined
I’m sure all of us take a lot of time, energy and attention to complete a project to the best of our abilities. Sure, some get more attention than others, but I find it hard to cut corners on even the simplest project.
I made a very simple set of two fairly rough outdoor stairs about a month ago and had trouble with a gap that was about 1/4″ too large, so I recut a few pieces, adjusted their positions and reattached them. That 1/4″ gap would have made absolutely no difference to the function of the stairs and would only have been noticeable by me, but I didn’t want to leave it looking like that. Now, every time I step onto them I do so with a bit more care than any other set of stairs in the world. I wouldn’t step on them with muddy shoes. I’d never bang a foreign object on them. Heck, I wouldn’t even step on them in some sort of hard or aggressive way, even though a heavyweight wrestler could likely jump up and down on them and not damage them.
The bottom line is that we treat our finished projects gently, because we know how much skill, time and effort went into making them. And on top of that, materials aren’t cheap today, and making a new one will cost a lot of money.
All of this is especially true during the first little while after a finished project is moved out of the security of the workshop and into the real world, where others might not understand the situation.
The first cut is the deepest
You know it will happen, but you also try to stop it from happening. The first scratch is always the hardest. What was, just a minute ago, a project as close to perfection as each maker could accomplish, now has its first sign of wear and tear. That first scratch also sticks out like a sore thumb, forcing you to focus on it, no matter how small it is.
I’m sure you all know the situation, as you’ve lived it many times. It’s easier to get over a bit of dirt on a set of exterior stairs than a scratch on a new black walnut sideboard, but you really don’t enjoy seeing either.
My latest project
My partner asked me if I would make her a cutting board the other day. Okay, two months ago, if we’re being honest. I told her that was easy and I’d get it right to her. Eight weeks later I delivered an old-growth Douglas fir cutting board that had some beautiful straight grain protected by a couple coats of OSMO TopOil.
I proudly placed this shiny new cutting board on the counter and smiled in her direction. Now, you and I both know it only took me about 10 minutes to cut this piece of wood to length, joint one face, dress it to thickness, rip it to width, ease the edges and apply the first coat of finish, while the second coat only took a few minutes the next day. I’m not quite sure why I was so proud. The fact that this would possibly become the most used project I’ve ever completed played into it, but it was still pretty simple to complete.
At that point I let my partner loose on her new cutting board. She likes to cook and hates dull knives. Although I wasn’t in the kitchen for the next eight hours or so, when I returned it looked like she had hung the cutting board on the wall and spent a few hours pitching axes at it while drinking with her friends.
Although I didn’t say anything to her, I looked at those knife marks and tried to remember the fresh new cutting board I had delivered earlier that day. In hindsight, they weren’t huge, they just looked that way to my eyes.
Life goes on and more knife marks are in this cutting board’s future. The first few were hard, but they’ll be easier to accept as time goes on. I have to keep reminding myself that this was an easy project to complete and I could make another one at the drop of a hat. And, above all, this project is meant to be used, and that includes collecting the necessary knife scars on the journey.
At least I get to eat a lot of good food as I watch this cutting board get sliced to bits.
Ready for the World
This was my freshly made cutting board, ready to take on the world. Notice the lack of scratches.
Later the Same Day
This was later that day, after a lunch and dinner were prepared on it.
Maybe I’m being dramatic, but did she have to cut so deep into the edge of this board?