Montreat Side Table
Comments 4

A Satisfying Repair

Problem solving a woodworking mistake can be very satisfying. As I finished my shop time last weekend, I had just made my final cuts on the middle shelf of my side table project. Unknown to readers of this blog: I made a bone-headed mistake which wasn’t terrible and the result was something I could have lived with, but at this point in my woodworking journey I just can’t let this be. And actually I made two mistakes. Not fixing them would bother me always.

I’ve read several woodworking magazine articles which detail the best ways to fix mistakes and with some luck, repairs can be invisible. I was hopeful I could make the needed repairs to my satisfaction. Let’s take a look at the numerous mistakes on a single piece of wood…

MST Middle Shelf Repair

The middle shelf in blue as it should be shaped.

MST Middle Shelf Repair 2

An overhead view showing the correct shape of the shelf.

MST Middle Shelf Repair 3

The yellow area is what I mistakenly cut away. The blue area is the resulting shape and size.

Basically, I cut the shelf to align with the inside edge of the front stretcher instead of the outside edge. I cut the front edge of the shelf 3/4″ too short (shown in yellow above).

Also, I cut an adjustable shelf like this undersize to allow for easy movement when the shelf needs to be moved up or down. But, I simply cut too much off the back edge of the shelf (see the yellow area at the back of the shelf). The result is sloppy work on what is really a nice white oak panel. Knowing how this table will be positioned in my home, the mistake at the back would not be seen. The 3/4″ mistake at the front of the shelf could be viewed as an acceptable design decision. But again, I knew these mistakes would bother me.

To repair it, I still had a cut-off from when I ripped the shelf to width. I know from past mistakes that with some luck, grain and color will match well enough that gluing a cut-off back in place can be hard to see.


Adding a slender strip of oak at what is the back of the shelf.


Small piece of filler oak ready to be trimmed.


Shown from the front, the repaired middle shelf.


Close-up, 3/4″ added to front edge. Virtually invisible glue joint.



The middle shelf now aligns with the front of the lower stretcher.

Note how the front of the middle shelf aligns with the outer edge of the lower stretcher. The future drawer front will align with both these parts making the leg offset of the components facing the front the same as the offset on the side and back components.

I’m all happy now. These mistakes were surprising because I was trying hard to make the notches for the legs as accurate as possible. Next time I attempt a process like this shelf, I’ll likely make a test shelf out of some inexpensive, thin hardboard. If I had done this in the first place, I could have easily determined the needed adjustments to get a good final fit on the oak shelf.

Live and learn.

This entry was posted in: Montreat Side Table


During the week, I sell flooring products for The Dixie Group. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.


  1. Chuck says

    Hah! 😃 I just made a mistake in trying to reply to your post. I don’t know what key I hit, but I lost what I was writing. So you might see this twice.

    Anyway, I was trying to say that I made a similar mistake recently on a chest-of-drawers project. I was assembling the six drawers. All was going well until I realized that, on one of the drawers, I had forgotten to insert the drawer bottom! So, I just cut off the bottom edge of the back panel, inserted the bottom, and glued on a piece made from some leftover material that was milled to the same thickness as the drawer panels. Of course, I had to route a rabbet to fit. Worked great! 😁

    A friend once asked me if I had ever made a mistake on something I had built. I instantly replied, “Oh, always, every time!” I don’t think I have ever made something that went perfectly to the end. There always seems to be a problem of some kind.


  2. Even the people who write in woodworking magazines make mistakes. I now look upon mistakes a little more as extra challenges to be solved. And view them in a more positive way.

  3. Airmedic6 says

    What a great learning experience for all of us novices. I really appreciate your info and sharing of your projects.

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