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…
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.
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.