A few weeks ago I visited some relatives in Spartanburg, South Carolina and had the good fortune to see this handsome corner cupboard. I was taking a break from work, football games and the Tornado Bed and seeing this cupboard was timely. You see, I had just experienced frustration with my bed project: I had been drilling holes and fitting dowels through some pegged mortise and tenon joints. During this process, some tear-out developed around the holes, which I was hoping to avoid. If you are not familiar with tear-out, see some examples in the cupboard photos below (click to enlarge)…
I am very much a perfectionist in my woodworking. Even though I don’t build the most challenging furniture, the projects I do build, I want them to be pretty much perfect. This includes a nice, clean hole for a pegged joint. But this very handsome cupboard has some tear-out, so is there a lesson here for me? Should I get so torn up about tear-out?
My uncle who owns this piece wondered if it was machine made to which I would confidently say no. It has the look of a piece made by hand. More clues…
Also you will note in the first photo that the upper doors which contain two panels have boards with grain which run in different directions, indicating to me thought on the craftsman’s part: “the grain of this smaller panel should run horizontally and the longer, narrow panel should run vertically.” It seems to me that such thought would not enter into a mass produced piece.
Anyone who happeneds upon this cupboard would have to be jealous. I wish I had one this nice, so well designed and proportioned. Note the size of the display area and the balance with the lower storage space. Note the intricate cornice moulding and bracket feet and how they don’t over power the piece. Note the nice subtle color of the wood. For an unknown craftsman, this was a successful project even though it is not perfect.
So how should I view imperfections in my own projects? I should always strive for improving my skills, but such things are also tell tale signs for future observers that what they are looking at is furniture made by hand. It is one thing to build a bed that falls apart a week after being set up and it is another thing altogether to have a slight imperfection that many people will not even notice.
I should relax a little and take it all in stride – stop sweating the little things so much.