When I work with beginning woodworkers, I’ve noticed a strange and consistent tendency relating to the tidiness of their work.
When building something small – like a marking gauge or a dovetailed box – they fuss over every fiber, inside and out. That’s a good thing because small objects receive close scrutiny.
But when building something large – like a trestle table – they are much more sloppy and tolerate a surprising array of defects and mistakes. For some reason, the overall form is more important than the details.
I see the same sloppiness creep into projects that are simple. Because the thing is nailed together, it’s suddenly OK to have some tear-out on a show surface or to spelch a corner. Complex projects, on the other hand, tend to get a lot of love and attention.
The best woodworkers I know will build a crate with regularly spaced nails, flush surfaces all around and even chamfers where you grab it. They take the same care with building a shop jig as they do a veneered chest of drawers. There is only one level of quality.
This is a hard lesson to learn when you make furniture for money because you can starve. But if you put in the long hours doing everything the best way possible, you will quickly become swift at setting nail heads flush without damaging the wood, your show surfaces will be clean and your doors smartly hung on the first try.
Start small with this approach. The next time you have to hang a picture for your spouse or install some hooks for coffee mugs, aim for perfection. Then let it creep into all aspects of your work.
— Christopher Schwarz