It’s OK to Make Mistakes

In woodworking, rare is the mistake that requires completely trashing a project. Folks who woodwork every day will inevitably make mistakes every day. Recovering from and learning from those daily mistakes effectively is the difference between being a true professional and being anything less than that.

Failure is the key to success.

Morihei Ueshiba

Overcoming Mistakes

Personally, my best work comes when I have to improvise to fix an error. Early in my rattle making journey (sounds serious doesn’t it?), I made a significant mistake drilling a pilot hole for the dowel. The hole became too large because I rocked the drill bit too much while drilling. The dowel, now too small, was impossible to glue into place.

As a Doctor, when I have a problem I stop what I’m doing to have a brainstorming session where I write down potential fixes. Here’s a picture of my notes I jotted down (yes, I save all my notes and sketches):

Shelby's notes on potential fixes for mistakes
Shelby’s Notes

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I corrected the problem by making a wedged dowel mortise and tenon joint. And now, every rattle I make includes this joinery. This step has become my personal favorite as I try to honor Bob Ross with my happy little accidents.

Recovery from Mistakes
Notice the Wedged Dowels

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Samuel Beckett

Other Mistakes

Other examples of my fail forwards was cracking a rattle and turning the sealed crack into stitches on a skull rattle, dropping a turned bead in the floor and it broke almost into the shape of a fish (lightbulb 💡 moment) which became the bead for a shark rattle and helped spawn other interesting bead ideas.

Practice Makes Perfect-ish

Obviously, not all accidents end up in a redeemed project or something that is able to be upcycled. However, they almost always provide valuable lessons. A second, third, or more attempts allows you to go faster and still avoid repeating mistakes you’ve made before. Practice makes you less imperfect.

You learn more in failure than you ever do in success.

Jay Z

Maybe you’ve given it that fourth attempt and are hitting your proverbial wall. Take a break, set the project aside, and revisit it in a few days or weeks. A fresh start with time away usually provides clarity. And with that fresh perspective, you may look at the project in a different way and be successful on the next attempt.

Fail Forward.

Somebody. Not me, but I’ll claim it if no one else will.

If none of the above works turn your woodworking mistakes into some s’mores with family and friends. Burn it. Burn it down.

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