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  • alpineflower

Progress over perfection

Two years ago, when I took a basic woodworking class at Rockler to refresh my 20-year-old woodworking knowledge, our project was to build a box. We used white mahogany and walnut, two beautiful wood species that I'd never worked with before, and which deserved better than being turned into a mediocre box built in six hours by someone as new to woodworking as I.

There wasn't time during the class to apply a finish to the box, so when I got home it sat in the garage for awhile, and after awhile, I decided to stain it. With black stain. I have since learned that if you want to showcase the wood you use in a project, your best bet is to use a clear or barely-tinted finish like mineral oil or shellac. It emphasizes the grain patterns and adds depth to the surface that you can't get with stain. Unfortunately for my white mahogany and walnut box, that lesson came too late. I am now the owner of a black box that I keep stuff in, but it's not the showpiece that it might have with the right finish.

But that was two years ago! I know better now. That's very encouraging. As I embark on this business-owning, woodworking journey, I'm confident that my skills will improve, and that my frustration with my ability to interact with social media will decline (or change - those algorithms mutate just when you think you've got them figured out), and that I'll continue to find different, better ways to approach challenges and processes. Turns out, once you come to terms with the fact that trying to achieve perfect results when you're living in a world chock-full of things you still need to learn is a waste of energy and time, once you are able to look back and congratulate yourself on how far you've come instead of looking forward at how you failed to meet your (overly stringent) standards - once you've done those things, it's a lot more enjoyable to engage in the process of learning.

So I'll keep my black-stained walnut-and-mahogany box, and give myself a little pat on the back every time I see it, knowing I won't do that again. Something else, for sure, but not that.

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