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A 'brilliant' mistake

As makers and humans, we are all prone to making occasional mistakes. Some are not really a big deal like a piece that is cut too short. You just cut another and move on. Others are more of an issue and require calling in “the cleaner”.

I remember one job that involved many curved pieces. The job was done in bird’s-eye maple and we had procured a large quantity of “architectural grade” veneer. It was beautiful stuff and there were a couple of especially nice pieces. Those were saved for the most prominent piece of casework, a large entertainment cabinet with 10” radius ends. These were not easy to lay up but we got it done. But the next day a bubble appeared in the middle of one of the curved ends, right at eye level. We spent hours trying every trick in the book to get that bubble to lay down but to no avail and finally, the veneer cracked.

There was no way to replace that piece. Plus, it was a perfect book match for the piece on the other side of the cabinet. I lost two nights' sleep worrying over what to do about it. I finally decided to take a flyer. There were some accent moldings made of wenge here and there in the design. So, I cut matching diamond-shaped inlays into both sides of the cabinet with little string inlays above and below. It looked great but it was not part of the design and I lost a few more night’s sleep worrying about how the client would react to this.

Needless to say, my relief was of galactic proportions when the customer declared it brilliant and the launched a 20-minute discourse about how the acres of maple were too bland and the whole project needed some “touches like this” to “make it pop”.

This is where the mistake morphs into a design opportunity.

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