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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor

Sometimes you just have to put your back toward the shop and turn off the lights.

My last forays into the shop did not go well.  In less than 30 minutes of work time I made two major mistakes on the replica Civil War folding table I'm building from the September 2013 issue of Woodworker's Journal.

The first was a measurement error.  I usually measure one piece against another to ensure a good fit and to speed things up.  Since the piece was 'only' a straight leg assembly--two legs joined by a single stretcher.  I ran the tape across the gap between the skirts and then across the leg assembly.  It looked good so I glued the leg assembly.  I clamped it up and called it a night.  The next night in the shop I picked up where I left off.  Well, that 'perfect' leg assembly was off by a 1/8th of an inch and could not fit between the table skirts.  How?  Why?  When?  All are questions yelled at the tide.  The answer is complete simplicity.  One measurement was inside, and the other outside.  Just how much play is in the metal hook tab of a standard tape measure?

The fix was easy, run each leg down the saw to remove a sixteenth from each side.  The square portion at the top of the leg is bigger than the rest of the turning; an obvious benefit of turning things from a uniform blank.  However, both legs were glued to the stretcher.

Sample of legs from a bad experiment
In the course of removing the leg assembly from the table saw, I dropped one end on the powered off, but still spinning blade.  The guard was off because the dado blade was still on the arbor.  A facet of one of the leg squares is gouged pretty deep.

The photo at the left is from the other set of legs I purchased for this project.  As a design choice, I wanted the stretchers to show completely below the skirts on the table.  Unfortunately the locking mechanism won't work at such an extreme angle between the center block and the retention slot cut in the stretcher.  You have to read the plan to fully understand what I'm talking about. The real take away is that I already used all the extra legs for this table.  I can fix the problem, but it will cost me a pretty penny.  I'm going to move forward and complete the table.  The screwed up leg will be a constant reminder to be in the right frame of mind when in the shop.

The ultimate reason for the recent screw ups is mental distraction.  A hospitalized family member and a thorny issue at work have kept the mental hamster wheels turning in directions away from woodworking.  I have resolved to stay away from the powered machines until I'm in the right frame of mind.

A close cousin (brother?) of the table I'm working on is featured on Chris Schwarz's blog on  I posted a comment on their site about how much I liked the table and how the picture gave enough information to actually build one.  I guess I offended somebody's editorial sensibilities because the comment is now gone.  I still like the table.

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