Leave well enough alone

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We’ve discussed bad shop habits here before, but I’ve never mentioned what I think is my worst one: Taking just one more step in a project to make it “better,” and messing it up.

There’s an old saying about leaving well enough alone. That’s good advice for most things, but for us woodworkers well enough isn’t always good enough. It almost never is for me.

I was completing a project this week for my new book, and one of the last steps before final finishing was to face-glue some decorative trim to a component. This trim mimicked that of an original piece I was reproducing, which was also face-glued. To my mind, simple face-gluing isn’t the strongest of joints, in spite of the fact that on my original piece that trim has been glued just fine exactly that way for more than a century, with hide glue no less. Even though I was using a much stronger modern glue, it still wasn’t good enough for me. Nope. I decided I’d reinforce that glue joint with a hidden 23-gauge pin from the back. Great idea, or so I thought, but I got the angle slightly wrong. Instead of keeping the pin within the thickest part of the trim, by missing the exact angle I shot it through the front of the trim.

The pin protrudes by such a tiny amount that it’s impossible to grasp with pliers and pull it out. The only way to remove it would be to dig it out, and thus destroying the trim. Because I’m on a schedule to get the project done, I instead sanded the pin flush and applied my clear-coat finish to the project. The pin still shows, and it was really obvious in the beauty shot I took that will be the lead photo for the project. Fortunately, I’m pretty handy with Photoshop and easily made that pin disappear in the photo, so there’s no harm done to the published aspect of the project.

Still, Photoshop doesn’t work in Real Life (oh, man, wouldn’t that be nice!), so I can’t really do anything with the finished piece itself unless I repair it. When I have the time I’ll remove the damaged trim, repair that component, glue on new trim and refinish. Needless to say, I won’t use a pin.

The lesson is that sometimes things just can’t be made better. Sometimes, the way you did them is not only good enough, it’s perfect.

If that’s the case, leave it alone.

Till next time,

A.J.

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