Editor’s Note: The Centerbrook Chair Workshop is a design/build exercise offered semiannually to architectural staff and is led jointly by Patrick McCauley, the firm’s Master Model Maker and Industrial Designer, and by Bill Rutan, Master Carpenter and Facilities Manager. Images of the recent harvest of unique chairs follow, along with prose comments by Patrick and the six participants; Bill’s review is in rhyming couplets, well mostly.
The moral of this second (and every) Chair Workshop is: Everybody makes mistakes. I know. I made one once…
In order to learn, we have to practice and, most importantly, we have to fail. This is what we call experience. Sure, the goal of our chair class is to create beautiful, comfortable and well-crafted pieces that awe everyone, but first things first.
Chair crafter Dan Batt told me while working through his piece: “Jeeze! There’s like a thousand decisions you have to make doing this!” Sage, only I would say closer to 10,000, but who’s counting? Guess what? It’s impossible to make them all correctly.
Some of our chair people were loath to accept the fact that they are not expert woodworkers as soon as they stepped over the woodshop threshold. They would justify and modify and deceive themselves into thinking that they hadn’t screwed up when they had. They changed their design in order to accommodate their error. They often spent much more time and energy justifying and accommodating the mistake, as opposed to admitting it and fixing it right away.
Think about it, when did you do a good job at anything the first time you did it, like riding a bike? Woodworking is no different. An old craftsman once told me; “It’s not the mistakes you make, but how you fix them that counts.” Boy, was he right on. Remaking a part is not a sin. The most experienced and capable woodworkers screw up; they just do it less and they are better at fixing their mistakes.
Mistakes in the woodshop are never a waste of time or material. The woodstove can always use the kindling, and God knows, while I may have only made one mistake that I can recall, I’ve somehow made enough kindling to keep me warm all these years. Continue reading The Moral of Making Chairs