No matter how experienced you are…you can still screw it up

I’ve become awfully fascinated with everything involved in the production of Windsor Chairs, of all varieties.  It’s interesting, as many folks in my age group are laying down their tools and parking themselves in front of the t.v., playing more golf or mastering their watercolor techniques,  I’m still contented to work for hours in my tiny shop, which is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  But it’s what I have to deal with and it works for me.


I’m quick to point out to younger colleagues that I’ve been doing this “woodworking thing” for a long time, more than half a century.  All too often, I put a little too much emphasis on “years of experience”.  But, when I start to put on my “haughty curmudgeon paraphernalia”, the woodworking gods always seem to “put me back in my proper place”.  The stick Windsor above is a “case in point”.  My notion was that this little chair could be kind of an amalgamation of various elements from both Welsh and New England styles.  It gave me a chance to practice carving knuckles and scrolls in elm.  (And now, I’m pretty sure that carvers around the world will not make a run on the elm market, anytime soon.)

So, it comes time the dry fit.  Everything goes together as planned.  Looks pretty good.  So, I sit down and begin to lean back and I lean and lean…  Finally my back hits the spindles.  Wow, my first reaction was that I was going to go “ass over apple cart”.  I had been expecting to feel spindles at 12°, referenced from the seat (a typical slouch angle for a chair that could be used at a table or for leisure).  Upon measuring the slouch, I find that I was at 16°, pretty “slouchy”, indeed.  More like a Gibson Chair.

After very, very little analysis, I realized that I had positioned the arm rail to far aft when I bored the spindle holes, thus increasing the slouch angle.  This is a mistake I’m not likely to make again.  However, I now have a chair that will only be good for reading, napping or plopping down in front of the t.v.  I could burn it, with great ceremony…  Nah, that ain’t gonna happen.

But let this be a lesson to my old and young friends, alike.  Now matter how much experience you have, you can still make mistakes if you overlook even a seemingly minor detail.  The devil really is in there!

And, the next time I’m about “to hit the brag button”, I’m going to try and remember something my Grandfather used to tell me from time to time.  He’d tell me that he once knew a man who had been a carpenter for twenty-five years.  But the man’s problem was that he had had one year’s experience twenty-five times.  I realize now that this was one of the cautionary tales Gramps would roll out when I was acting “a little too big for my britches”.  Blessed are the humble.

Explore posts in the same categories: gateway skills, life in craft


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2 Comments on “No matter how experienced you are…you can still screw it up”

  1. Prospector Says:

    I always look forward to your postings in my inbox. This one reminds me of my numerous practice swings on hand cut dovetails!

  2. Jim Crammond Says:


    The chair will be perfect for reading, watching or napping. It looks great to me.


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