Newfound Respect for Carpenters

As you may know if you read my previous few entries, my dad and I have been at work building a shelf for our garage. We decided that since we need a bunchload of shelf space, it would be more economical and better for experience to build them ourselves. Needless to say, my first stab at carpentry was an interesting experience.

If there’s one thing I didn’t realize about woodworking is that it’s a very exacting and precise science. It’s also a sort of art in the sense than the whole (your product) is much, much more than just the sum of its parts (the wood). The reason I say it’s very exacting is due to the fact that a few millimeters off on each of the support beams could mean your shelf doesn’t stand up properly or the boards don’t actually make contact with the supports. Careful plans must be made beforehand for the project to succeed. And when they say no plan survives first contact with the enemy, they must have been talking about amateur carpentry as well. There were so many things we had to remove or at least modify from our plans. Some things worked while others plainly did not.

We started off with the utmost lowest efficiency I’ve possibly ever experienced on anything. For the most part, me + drill = destruction. For some reason or other, I could never perfectly get the screws to line up with the dots I had drawn. At times I wanted to smash my head into the wooden boards because of the tedious measurements I had to make. I just wanted to fly by the seat of my pants at times, but in reflection, I’m sure that would’ve resulted in a contraption that wouldn’t have easily passed off for a shelf. So I did make the measurements and I drew all the placement lines to get everything lined up properly.

It took us about two days (not working non-stop mind you) to make a 6 foot high, 8 foot long shelf. By the end, I had gotten the hang of measuring everything and discovered on my own a few shortcuts. Some measurements I noticed were redundant so I could cut them out of the plans for the other parts. It probably would’ve helped to actually have read something on designing and building shelves, but it was definitely an exercise in creative thinking this way. The next shelf we make will take much less time because of what I learned this time.

In the end, we ended up with a generally well built shelf. There are a few things off a millimeter here and a few millimeters there, but it stands by itself and is sturdy so I’m happy enough. I actually quite enjoyed the process. It was more the planning and epiphanies I use that word in the loosest sense) that I enjoyed most. I can’t say I’d ever make carpentry anything more than a hobby. But then again, that’s why I’m taking engineering and not carpentry/architecture (my mom’s asked me if I wanted to do architecture more than once though…).

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