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The right lesson

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Whenever you do something for the first time, you always learn things. The trick is knowing which of those things is most important. My daughter knew immediately.

With absolutely zero experience at carpentry or woodworking (save watching me while growing up), my daughter just built what she calls her “deck oasis.” The centerpiece is a sectional sofa and low table she built from pallet lumber and old rough floorboards stored in her barn. Part way through her project, Courtney sent this email:

Hey Daddy – I learned a very valuable lesson about building furniture today. Always scout for materials before starting! Before I started I found cushions online at Walmart, the cheapest I could find at 35 bucks each. So I built the sofa with those cushion dimensions in mind. I went to Walmart to get them, and they’re beautiful, but not nearly as nice as the ones right next to them that weren’t online. And instead of $35 each, they're $20 each! Bingo-bango, right? Not quite; they're 21" x 21" instead of the 24" x 24" I built for. I got the ones I liked better and saved all that money, but they’re too short for the seats (front to back) and look silly. I decided to add a 3" piece of wood at the back to push the cushions forward. I mull this over while having a coffee break and decide I just can't do it halfway like that, I have to do it right. So now I have to take nearly half the thing apart and shorten it by 3"! Doh! Off to work.... Next time I'll buy the cushions first! P.S. – Maybe you can get a blog out of my screw-up!

As you can see, the final result turned out awesome, with the pallet lumber and the rough, as-is edges of the old floorboards achieving the exact rustic look she was going for. And she’s right, those cushions are perfect.

She learned a lot here. In additional to mastering a few tools she’d never even touched before (like a circular saw and heavy-duty drill), she learned to get your materials first. She learned that seeing a material in-hand is far different from seeing it online. She learned a way of working around a problem. And somewhere in all this is the old measure-twice thing.

But the most important lesson Courtney learned here, the one that makes me the proudest of my kid, was this one: You can’t do it halfway. You have to do it right, even if it means more work.

Back in those days when she used to watch me work, she must have been paying more attention than I thought.



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