Making it from scratch

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I know you’ve done this: You’re putting the finishing touch on something you’ve worked exceedingly hard on, and you damage it.

In my case it was that 19th-century drop-front desk I’ve been telling you about. The thing was done, finished, rubbed-out and waxed to perfection. It turned out so nice that I consider it the best thing I’ve ever made. Seriously, I don’t think I’ll top this one. Ever.

But with the desk done the last thing to do was attach the solid-brass flush pulls to the two drawer fronts. The first one went fine and looked fantastic, but as I was putting in the final screw on the second one my screwdriver slipped, digging a 1-1/2"-long scratch into the drawer front. This wasn’t just a superficial scratch I could buff out, either. This was deep, really deep.

I uttered some harsh words (“darn” and “gosh” not among them), backed out the screws I’d already driven, removed the pull and examined the damage closely. No fixing or hiding it, the only solution was to take maybe 1/32" off the entire front of that drawer, essentially stripping it back to raw wood.

That worked, of course, but it meant starting the finishing process all over again – several coats of boiled linseed oil, rubbing it out and finishing with paste wax. Because of the necessary drying time for the oil, the process took nearly a week. Even then, the drawer was still lighter than the other one – the cherry on the other had already darkened from exposure to sunlight, so after putting the last coat of wax on the repaired drawer I set it in the window for another day or two to even out the color.

In the end, the drawer looks fine; you can’t even tell which one it was. But it’s still maddening to have the last step – the three or four seconds it should have taken to put in that final screw – stretched to more than a week by a misstep.

A.J.

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