Ever had one of those last minute failure when wood splits in the middle of glue up or you miscalculated something that almost ruined your project. Yesterday I was putting my bed head together and suddenly the top of the bed post just popped. It was a no-way-back moment even though I had rehearsed the assembly four times during joint testing and so on. Here at the Castle is a major collection of art work and furnishings not the least of which is a Rembrandt worth £60m. The property is well protected and my workshop falls within the parameters of set alarm times and locked doors that are beyond my control. I had only a few minutes to reverse my work and was thankful I knew exactly what I must do, even though it seemed so impossible. With straps and ratchets I manages to separate the offending component and found the source of the problem beyond that. One wrongly located piece had twisted the whole and caused the undue stress. I missed it and in my efforts to seat the joint the post split. I had to then dismantle 42 mortise and tenon joints to make one minor yet major change.
I don’t get dispirited very often, but here I was, constrained to make right the wrong that, had the ticking clock been more lenient, I could have fixed in a few minutes. Alas, I had to leave.
Today, I returned to the scene of the crime. The errant post stood sadly in the corner and the crack very self-evident. I learned not to cry over such issues when I started work at 15. Things go wrong and you have to deal with them.
In this case I new to correct the wrong was not complex. What was more difficult for me was the self examination of whys and wherefores. All the parts were numbered correctly and in order. The problem was simple to see, but what was difficult to accept was that in the smallest failures there is almost always a knock-on domino collapse we don’t see the significance of. The work did bother me, but it caused me to reflect on life itself. Sometimes we make small decisions without realising others are affected by what we did or did not do. In my experience it’s always good to go back to the point where something went wrong and there you almost always find the answer that somehow doesn’t let you off the hook but helps you better understand that there are consequences to what happened.
The dismantled parts had small but relevant tell-tale signs I could retrace forensically to regain myself. Soon I saw that one piece was irreversibly misplaced. Had I not failed on the one hand, the misplaced piece would have been facing the wrong way. I mean this was one of three of the inlaid panels central to the whole bed facing the wall.I was glad for the mistake today as I refitted and reassembled the components for an absolute final rehearsal.
I don’t see everything and neither do I understand everything, but one thing I know is that woodworking is a totally reductive process for any craftsman. It’s a refining process whereby opinions and experience often need dismantling so that we can take a different perspective, change direction and absorb some painful things to refine and define who we are and what we are.