I Concede the Battle, But I Will Continue to Wage the War

 Sometimes the hardest thing to do on a blog is take a second to be honest enough to record your mistakes, so this post is a few months in the writing. I get limited time in the shop in the winter time, mostly due to heating issues, so I decided over my limited time this winter I would tackle what I thought would be a smaller project. I gave Chuck Bender's William and Mary Bookstand a shot and with the judges decision from the first round in, hands down the bookstand kicked my ass.

I understand now what my mistake was, my big mistake anyway. I had a small amount of white oak sitting in the shop, left over from building the Medieval Hutch Chest last summer, and I wanted to use it up, I also wanted to build the bookstand, and both of those things seemed like serendipity. The result was closer to trying to fit the proverbial round peg into the square hole.
Pieces of the bookstand assembled together.

I know about making good stock selection for a piece, but I haven't had a poor choice result in the piece blowing up in my face before. The biggest issue I had was getting this stock machined flat and getting it to stay flat, This resulted in never having an easy time getting the outer frame of the stand to square up and flay down flat. It also equaled what turned into a couple big gaps in my joinery. Sometimes woodworking is not as much forcing the wood to submit to your wishes as much as it's coming to an understanding and partnership with your medium. This is a simple lesson I misplaced along the way with this piece.
Work on the bookstand in progress

I think I can blame myself for the bad blood that turned up between myself and this oak. I purposely went out and found it specifically to gain the experience of working with it, and it proved itself to be a difficult task master. It worked beautifully to build the chest I bought it for, but it wore me out. Every time I would read about a smaller project in a woodworking magazine my mind would immediately jump to the oak. "Aha," I would think, "Here's a good way to use that oak up."
The outer frame of the stand. Such a simple construct that for any of a dozen reasons I couldn't get it to square or lay flat.

I think it was that eagerness that was my undoing. There's a quote that is attributed to a psychologist named Abraham Maslow that says, "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." I guess I fell into this trap. Every woodworker builds up a collection of boards that there is no plan for, they are around to be the right thing at the right time. At one point I had a pretty nice and significant collection. If I wanted to build something I would go down to my shop and sift through the wood, looking for inspiration to strike. the wood would tell me what it wanted to become. When we moved to Maine back in early 2009 I gave my whole collection of odds and ends to a friend. Since then I have had no good way to store a decent quantity of boards, something I now realize I'm going to have to remedy soon, and so I try to stuff the small amount of stock I have into whatever dream I come up with.

I guess the end question is this, "If this piece handed my ass to me once, does that mean I'm done with it?" The answer is -- Of Course Not! I am too stubborn to give up, besides I do have a little bit of stock that has been seasoning a little while and by this late spring it will probably be ready to work, and once I mill some boards from it we'll see but I think I can hear a voice from the pile of black walnut calling out.
A pile of black walnut I had split this last fall, the logs had weathered in the woods for at least a year before I got my hands on them, They are showing me signs that they'll be ready to work some by late spring / early summer.

It only says one word




  1. It's a wise man that knows when to quit. Sometimes its best to just move on to something else. Of course, the trick is knowing when...

  2. when is often just a few minutes before I throw the damn thing across the shop :) just kidding, You have to learn to pay attention to yourself and learn to listen to that little voiice in the back of your head that's telling you "back away slowly"

  3. Yes, but you also have a secret weapon. You live up north where problem pieces become BTUs for heating the shop :)

  4. Derek,

    Keep at it. From the photos, the work looks good. Sometimes I find it useful to stand back, take a deep breath and then go do something else for a while. From what I can see, you'll conquer the stand without any trouble. The great thing about the stand is, it looks simple enough but turns out to be a great hand tool workout. If you run into troubles in round two, feel free to drop me a line. I'll help if I can.


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