Epic Fail

This is me, staying true to documenting my days in the shop, even the days when things don't go right.

I'm gonna start by saying I dislike carving signs, I can do them and I think I do them alright, but they are picky, tedious, exacting things that people usually do not want to pay enough for. I'd rather give the business to the router guys with the pantographs.

I agreed to do this one as a favor, the client is one of my wife's good friends who wanted a sign for her parents camper. I checked and double checked the spelling with her and even made her text message the spelling to me. But I once again proved my humanity, because as I was typing the words into the computer to print out my template I focused very particularly on the word "Reineke's"  Seems like the tricky one in this sequence doesn't it.

"Clair" is supposed to have an "e" on the end of it.

To make the matters worse. . . I wasn't the one who noticed. I stopped at the point I took this picture because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with the open areas on the sides yet. I took another pic with my iPhone and sent it to the client to show her the progress.

My mistake was the first thing she noticed.

I've looked and I've looked at it and there's not a good bail out at this point. The right thing to do is to start again from rough board. It's a shame to waste a nice piece of cherry like this but this one will hang around with me for a while to remind me, so maybe it's not a waste of cherry after all.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. Can you plane down the board? Or how about relieving inside the center portion and then recarving the letters?

    BTW, I think your letters look very good. Is that done freehand with a v-tool?

    1. Scott, I'm afraid this board is a goner, there's no saving it Doc.

      I consider what I do for my letters to be cheating, but it's the only way I get something consistent. I use a document program on my laptop (like MS Word, but I use the free Open Office available online) There are at least a hundred different fonts in these programs and I file through those until I have one that feels appropriate. Then I type the words I'm going to carve and print them out in two or three different sizes, for this sign I printed 3, a 125 pt. a 150 pt and a 200 pt.

      I bring those pages out to the shop and decide what size is going to work best for the board I end up with, This time it turned out to be 125 pt. I cut out the words and letters (because they rarely print nice, long words end up in two or three lines on a page because of sizing) decide how the lay out is going to go.

      Then I grab my big cheat, a sheet of carbon paper, I pin the carbon paper to the board using thumbtacks and tape the words and letters to the carbon paper in the layout. Then I shade in the letters with a pencil, transferring their likeness to the board, pull off the papers and carve out the letters with the appropriate chisels.

      It makes me feel guilt everytime I do it because it feels more like tracing than creating, but it gets the job done.


  2. Ouch, I feel your pain. It's gotta be worse to have the client notice it.

    Pretty much everyone makes mistakes though. Swear, stomp your feet, throw it across the shop (make sure nothing fragile is in it's path first).

    Other than the "e" it looks great. Maybe you can claim it's an alternate spelling? (smile)

  3. One day you will look back at this and laugh. However, probably not today. When I make a mistake I usually quickly sweep up and walk away. I do really like the sign!

  4. I don't see why you consider that cheating, Derek. There are surely very few carvers doing lettering free-hand!

    In fact, I watched an episode of Rough Cut Woodworking featuring a carver doing some lettering. He took a printout of his lettering to the local copy shop and had them make a stick-on vinyl template, and then he put that on the wood and carved!

    1. LOL, I don't get to catch Rough Cut very often, but I do like the show, more than some others.

      I call it cheating because that's how it feels to me. I won't deny that it is a valid way of getting the work done, but it just doesn't feel right when I do that. I'm not judging the carver featured on Rough Cut. It's a personal thing that comes from within me. I just feel like I can do better.

      Unfortunately I feel like lettering is almost a discipline all unto itself and I'm just not that interested or excited enough about it to take it on and master it. So I'll take my precious carbon paper and hang out with Smeagol in the corner.

      I do appreciate the support Scott! Thanks.


  5. Ouch. I feel your pain.

    At this point, I make a point to get the client's ok whenever it's practical. Drawings get signed when they sign the contract, finish samples get signed, and cut in half, so each of us knows that the other one knows how it should have turned out... I can understand the desire to lay everything out by hand, but printing out the layout gives them the opportunity to give their ok before you get going. Even just a shot of your pencil layout, if you don't want to print something out on the computer...

    Point to ponder... I'm a pretty fair craftsman, and I was always good at drawing, but penmanship eluded me. And I read recently that back in the day, draftsmen had special triangles, in addition to the 45 and 30-60-90, specifically to help them lay out their lettering. And there are a number of other templates, line guides, etc to help with this. Point being, if you're happy with your layout, that's great. If you ever have second thoughts, you wouldn't be first guy in a long line of recorded history to use a jig or layout crutch of some sort to help with the task of lettering


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