The Consequences of Working Tired

So I’m knocking out the drawer for my shop desk tonight. Simple stuff, right? I mean I’ve done dozens of these so no problem. I sized all of the drawer parts just a shaving or two over sized to allow for fitting the drawer to the desk later. I scribed all of the baselines, laid out the tail cuts on the sides, gang cut the tails and cleaned out the waste. The tails were looking pretty good and I was pretty happy with myself so I decided to press on even though it was a long day and I was getting pretty tired. I figured if I could just get the pins cut I could glue up the box tonight and it would be ready to fit a bottom tomorrow.

So I transfer all of my tails to their corresponding pin board being careful to pay close attention to orientation of the boards. On to cutting the pins. All was going well (or so I thought) until I got to my last corner of pins. That’s when I realized it. I had cut the pins on the previous three corners on the wrong side of the line. Test fitting the sides into the front and back confirmed my unexcusable mistake.

I actually made two mistakes in my overconfidence and haste. The first mistake was a very foolish one made simply by being in a hurry. I did not mark the waste side of the line with big Xs like I usually do. This led to my second mistake, cutting the pins on the wrong side of the line. So I ended up with one nice dovetailed corner and three corners with gaps the size of the Grand Canyon (ok, maybe not that big, but still).

I guess the morals of this story are pretty obvious.

  1. ALWAYS mark the waste, even if you think you don’t need to. No matter how many times you’ve done a particular operation, it only takes one dumb mistake to put your ego right back where it belongs.
  2. NEVER work when you’re too tired. Even though I’m not going to accidentally cut off an appendage with hand tools (I’d have to be pretty determined), there can still be some pretty serious consequences. I’m lucky I just made a mistake on my project, however, a simple misplaced hand during a paring cut or an improperly secured workpiece can still result in a pretty serious injury, even with hand tools. (As a side note, didn’t we just finish Woodworker’s Safety Week?)

I don’t think I’m going to remake any of the parts of the drawer. Instead, I’ll use them and repair the mis-cut joints as best as possible. This will serve as a constant reminder of my mistake and hopefully dissuade me from making it again.

There is one positive that can be gotten from this though. I have my next blog topic all set up for me… to fix loose dovetail joints.


4 thoughts on “The Consequences of Working Tired

    • Mike,
      That’s a good idea and would look interesting, just not my style. Plus, I didn’t intend on the gaps so they aren’t very even.

  1. Years ago I was busy at work in my basement shop, building my Frank Klaus workbench, and was really in a productive groove one afternoon, when a voice came wafting from the floor above about coming upstairs to deal with some situation or other. I was in the process of sawing out some major dovetails for the tail vice. Everything was going along so well that I said to myself “no need to mark the waste, I’ll remember which side of the line to saw on.” Fifteen minutes later I returned to my sawing and, sure enough, sawed on the wrong side of the line. The repair with a thin shim is no big deal, but it is truly a daily reminder to make hatch marks on the waste. As Alan Peters has pointed out, it takes such little time!

    • Tico,
      You are of course 100% correct. It does take such little time to mark the waste. Certainly much less than the hour or so I spent making and fitting little shims to fit the gaps. As you said, the shims are no big deal but should not have been necessary and would not have been had I simply taken the couple of seconds it would have taken to mark the waste.

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