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Cutting corners

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As a follow up to Tuesday’s blog, I’m still thinking about money. Of course, sometimes having more money at the end of the day is a matter of not spending any earlier in the day. Having more money at the end of the day is also a matter of not wasting time, which, as has been said by those far wiser than I, is money. Here’s an example.

One of the first projects I made for my birdhouse book was a bluebird house, which I made with Western red cedar. I’d already used a lot of cedar, and was getting low. I had just enough 6”-wide stock to make all the parts, but it had a loose knot that had fallen out and disappeared, leaving a hole. No matter how I cut the components, that knothole would appear in one of them. However, I managed to arrange everything so the knothole was at the very bottom of one side; in fact, cutting that component sliced the knothole in half, leaving only a small crescent at the bottom. It in no way affected the functionality of the house, but I don’t make stuff that way and didn’t like it.

I did have some 10”-wide cedar, so I could have used this for that part, but that 10” stock was reserved for another project and I didn’t want to cut it up. So there was my dilemma; to finish this project I had three choices: Cut up wider (more expensive) stock I was saving, and would then have to subsequently replace. Scrap the component with the knothole, stop what I was doing and spend an hour or more running out to my local wood monger for additional wood. Or just go ahead and use the flawed component, thus saving time, money and hassle.

Although it’s completely against my nature, I opted for solution #3. Because of the way I was building the house, that knothole wouldn’t show up in the step-by-step photos. And because I photographed the “beauty” shot for the lead illustration at an angle, that side of the house was never even seen. The flaw doesn’t affect the birdhouse’s function, and I’m sure the neighbor I plan to give it to won’t care in the least about that half knothole… if he even notices it.

You’re probably thinking this is small, petty stuff. That component at only 5-1/2” x 10” was far less than a board foot, amounting to only pennies. However, make several decisions like this over the space of a week and it starts amounting to dollars. Plus, that hour of my time it would have taken to stop and go buy more wood was worth several dollars right there. The bottom line is that it all adds up, and the woodworker who isn’t aware of this – and doesn’t take it into account daily – is a poorer woodworker. So using that flawed workpiece was, in this circumstance, the right thing to do.

It still eats at me, though.

Till next time,


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