Down for the count

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Have you ever made a really dumb mistake very early in a piece your were making, but you made the mistake so well that even though you continued looking at it right through the project’s completion that you never noticed? Till too late?

I have quite recently, and it was a doozy. I say recently, but I really made the mistake nearly 10 months ago, and it’s only now that I spotted it. The error relates to something I worked on for a book, so I don’t want to say exactly what it was – most people won’t notice it, so why point it out? (Besides, it’s more than a little embarrassing.) Suffice to say that the error was of a type relating to the correct number of things in a measure-twice-cut-once sort of way, but unless you’re really looking for it chances are good you wouldn’t notice it. I sure didn’t.

It’s like you were making a large cabinet with a lot of identical drawers – like a spice cabinet or sheet-music cabinet reproduced from an existing piece – but somewhere along the line you goofed in the number and just kept on working, never noticing that you were a few drawers short. And why would you? You did a good job, the work was good, the result good. So good, in fact, that every time you looked at it all you saw was a nicely done cabinet with a lot of drawers and never noticed it didn’t have the correct number it was supposed to have. Compounding it is the fact that you showed it to several people, and they never noticed either.

In my case, the incorrect piece appears in a photo – a very large photo, but still just a photo, meaning no one will be touching it or closely examining the physical piece. The end result, hopefully, is that few people will notice before I get a chance to remake the project and replace the photo. And there’s even a good chance that anyone eagle-eyed enough to notice may assume I did it intentionally.

I feel really dumb about the error, and even dumber that I never noticed until recently. But luck is on my side in the sense that it’s so unnoticeable, plus I’ll eventually get the opportunity to fix it. More importantly, it’s a key part of the learning curve for working in a shop all the time:

You can’t really make your work count if you can’t count.

Till next time,

A.J.

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