by Patrick Harper - Blood, Sweat, and Sawdust

Small mistakes can be the bane of many great wood working projects. Our friends, family, and customers may never notice them, but we know they exist; a constant reminder of an overlooked detail, inspiring feelings of inadequacy or ineptitude. Everyone makes them, so we can’t let them kill our love of the craft. Besides, they can be a great opportunity for learning.

I recently made a mistake while building the base cabinets for my shop. I thought I had everything square during glue-up, but I forgot to double-check. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this error until I went to install my drawer fronts. As a result of the cabinet being slightly out of square, the right edge of my drawer fronts stick out past the face-frame. This bugs the crap out of me. Fortunately, no one else seems to notice.

As a result of this error, I discovered a better way of designing cabinets. Not only does the new method do away with relying on clamps to square up the carcass, but it will simplify the construction process. The important thing to take away from this, is not to be discouraged. Ask yourself, what can be done better next time.


The old construction method. This method squares the top-to-bottom nicely by using strips in the back and the top/bottom face frames on the front. However, this isn’t really necessary since the back is installed before the glue dries. This also makes it difficult to square the front-to-back, since there is no bottom and the top won’t be installed until later.


The new construction method. This uses four strips (two at the top and two at the bottom) to square the front-to-back. The back is installed before the glue dries, which ensures that the case is square in the other direction.

What lessons have you learned from past mistakes?