Missing what should be obvious


I found a flaw on a recent project I had to fix, a flaw so obvious to me there’s no good reason to have missed it in the first place. So why did I?

One of the reasons I could never be a contractor is that I’m a perfectionist. Things that would be just fine (or even unnoticeable) to a customer I fuss over, taking far more time than I should. That’s great for a sense of personal satisfaction, but a lousy business model.

But all that extra time fixing something less than perfect could be eliminated if I’d just seen the flaw earlier. The project in question is a small box my wife requested as a gift for a relative. It’s a “pencil box” style, made of oak with box-jointed corners and a sliding lid of redwood burl. It turned out quite handsome, but the moment the first coat of finish dried I saw that I’d missed some milling marks from the planer on one side.

The marks were very slight. So slight, in fact, that when I showed the box to Sally she couldn’t see what I was talking about even when I pointed the marks out. Still, they vexed me so I resanded that side of the box and started the finishing process over.

As I said, I’m very fussy, and especially so about things like milling marks. But in this case, I either didn’t examine it closely enough, or I just forgot about checking. When I inspect things like that I do it carefully, so I’m guessing the latter case is true: I just forgot. That sort of thing happens, I suppose, although forgetting to inspect for planer marks before applying a finish is, for me, like forgetting to put on pants before going outside.

Then again, that has happened once or twice, too.

Which is probably another good reason I should never be a contractor.



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