Is it possible to do something too well, with the end result being that you don’t want to part with it or, if you made it for yourself, use it?
David DeCristoforo spoke recently on a similar topic (“Less than your best”), and I agree wholeheartedly with him. For a host of reasons, we always strive to do our best work. But what happens when you do such a good job that you impress even yourself?
A couple years ago I made a walnut mantel clock intended as a Christmas gift for my sister. My design came out so well that if she hadn’t been expecting it, she would never have gotten it – the clock would now be on my mantel. Likewise, I made several boxes for my box-building book, almost all of which have been given away. But not the Shaker box. I like it so much that I just can’t part with it.
Along the same lines, while not intended for anyone other than myself, I ended up doing such a good job on my new router table that I’m loath to put it into actual service.
It’s all nice and shiny, its melamine surface and oak trim unmarred. The anodized aluminum sparkles. Yeah, the thing was intended as a utilitarian work tool for my shop, but I’m still inordinately in love with the thing. But I know that as soon as I start shoving workpieces over it it’s going to start picking up scratches and dings, and I’ll probably fuss and whine louder than a new-car owner upon seeing that first scratch in the paint job. And, like that new-car owner, once the first scratch happens, everything changes. That car is no longer new, but a means of transportation once again. I’m sure it’ll be the same with the router table, and I’ll soon be enjoying how well it performs – scratches, dings and all – and not how good it looks.
Not for a moment do I suggest that we should do less than our best, whether it’s for someone else or ourselves. But when it comes to shop tools I know are going to take a beating, I sometimes wish I’d just go with the quick-and-dirty approach.