Even on my final project – pre-worm-food – I’m sure I’ll remind myself to “begin at the bottom or the back.”
What does that mean? Basically, whenever I perform an operation that will be repeated, I start by working the least-visible area. In a blanket chest, that means dovetailing the least-visible back corner first. When fitting drawers, I begin with the bottom drawer (which is the hardest to see when you are standing before the finished item). When installing hardware, I begin with the hinge, plate or pull that is hardest to see.
This should be obvious to everyone all the time. But when I teach classes and observe other woodworkers, almost all of them begin instead with the most visible joint, drawer, hinge etc.
Today I started installing all the strapwork and corner guards on this Nicholson three-tiered campaign chest. And I remembered to begin by first chopping out the mortises that will eventually face the wall. That allowed me to warm up and work out any details of my chopping and fitting process.
As luck would have it, these mortises (which no one else will see) also happened to be my most-perfect ones.
So drat. But still, always begin work at the bottom or back.
— Christopher Schwarz