Play Nice With Others

Let's face it; as makers, we almost always work alone. Our shops are generally our sanctuaries, organized the way we like them, and rarely understandable to outsiders. So what happens when "someone else" shows up in your shop to do a project? That's a whole different ball game.


Last weekend, my wife decided we should make a menorah for Chanukah, and we should dip into my scrap bin to get it done. It was a good idea, and I was all for it. She grabbed my iPad and used Procreate to draw a theoretical design.

I really dug the design, and I have a whole bunch of LED tea light candles in my stash of cool maker stuff, so making something like this seemed totally possible.


We went down to the shop and figured out what pieces would work and put them through the planer to get them to look less chunky and to flatten them out. We worked like a team putting all the pieces through, then moving the planer down, then putting them through again. After a few trips through, the pieces were all the same thickness, flat, and had great surfaces for gluing, but after laying out what we had we realized we didn't have the right lengths for the plan, and here's the crazy part: our approach to figuring out what to do was actually hobbled by my preconceived notion on how to solve it.


As someone who works with wood, my instinct is to figure it out on paper, then transfer measurements to the material and cut. My wife has no such biases and in looking at the pieces that I could not work the math out on, she just instantly said "Why don't we just change the dimensions of these two pieces, instead of marking center just find the center, and drill the holes?" And she was right. I was so hung up on measuring in calculating I had completely stalled the project. Her idea of "find the center of each piece and line them up and glue them" ended up not only being efficient, but looking back on it was actually brilliant.

That's what we did and it worked great.

Even half-finished, you can see that it's her vision made real. And I love it.

This morning I started sanding it and I had to put risers on the bottom so that on our window sill it actually shows up in the window, but I'm so happy with how it turned out and it's really a project that we're going to enjoy for years to come.


The lesson on this one is clear: don't turn your shop into a private place that you keep to yourself and don't share. Sometimes letting in a fresh set of eyes, perspective and someone with an absence of biases about processes can be liberating as it was for me. The semi-final result is really amazing and I can only imagine that as it gets closer to being done we're going to be even happier with it. Share your shop, play nice with others, and you may just enjoy doing this even more than you did by yourself!

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