Ain’t never done that before

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Have you ever done something for the first time and been surprised how well it turned out? Me, too, and it’s a great feeling.

A few years ago I needed to make a Shaker box for publication. A straightforward project, but even after decades of woodworking I’d never in my life made one before. The process involves several woodworking techniques with which I was either experienced or had passing experience, but with a paycheck riding on it I was still a bit daunted by this first-ever task.

I looked at a few books on the process, and mentally checked off all the things I had to do and what I needed to work with. All was familiar; nothing out of the ordinary based on everything else I’d done. But I’d never done all those things in concert with each other.

For Shaker boxes, there are a lot of things that have to work just right – the lid and base inserts have to be tapered just so, the finished lid band needs to fit over the box, nailing in the little copper tacks and wooden pegs is delicate, and working with hot, wet stock only 1/16” thick involves some tricky timing. Yeah, I was nervous about it, but took consolation in the fact that if I messed up the first attempt I had plenty of time. I could just keep at it till I got it right.

But then a funny thing happened: I got it right the very first time. More than that, it came out perfect. No one was more amazed than I. It wasn’t “easy,” but based on my existing skills it was something I was perfectly capable of doing. I just hadn’t realized that that till I tried it.

Since then I’ve made far too many Shaker boxes to count. Everyone loves them, and they’re fun to make.

Wish I hadn’t waited so long.

A.J.

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