Stop Panicking And Think



This past week was a roller coaster ride of emotion working on a project for a customer. As part of the order, which was for two custom cutting boards, I was working on a beautiful board with maple and bubinga. It turned out good, but the client wanted a juice groove in the board. For those of you who don't know my history with juice grooves, it isn't good. I've yet to accomplish one successfully, but I didn't have a choice on this one. This board needed one for its intended purpose. I finished the board, nailed a jig onto my workbench to run the router on, put the round bit in my router (a trim router, yes, I know, that's part of the problem, keep reading) and dropped it into the corner and the router made the first side. Then the second. Then the third and it started moving. Then the fourth and it completely gouged the board.


I made so many dumb mistakes here that it's a litany for beginners on what not to do.


1. Don't use a trim router unless you have one with a plunge base. Clearly. Putting the spinning bit down onto the middle of the board is stupid and probably dangerous. 2. Be aware of where the router is in relation to the jig. 3. Make sure your speeds and bit are set right.


Okay, now that we've screwed up the board and recognized all the dumb ways in which we did it, we need to make the board. My first reaction is "Dammit, I have to make this whole thing over" which means sourcing more bubinga (which isn't easy for me), and buying another huge piece of maple and ripping it all down to strips to glue together. Then gluing it up for 24 hours, planing, sanding, etc.


I was not happy about having to re-do the entire board but I didn't see any other alternative. Then it hit me on Wednesday evening. I didn't have to re-do the whole thing.


I made the board over-thick and even though the router did abstract art all over the face of the board, it was only about 3/16ths deep. I could just put it through the planer and take off that top layer until it was flat again. The big question, of course, is would that work? Here's the final result.

The board after re-facing.

I still have to sand it, round over the edges, round off the corners, and put a juice groove in, but the upside is that I also just bought a Dewalt 618 router with a plunge base; basically the best router they make. It's all set up and this weekend I will be plunging that bit into this thing again trying to make a nice juice groove before sanding it and shaping it.


I'm going to get this right if it kills me, and it just might.


My first reaction when it got ripped up was pure rage then crushing sadness. I hate seeing something I made get wrecked by my own stupidity, and this fit that category perfectly. The wreckage was my own fault and it could have set me back a ton. Materials alone for the two boards was $120 and even though I'm going to eliminate all profits from this whole thing (and then some) by buying a router, I'm lucky enough to have a patient client who I've been keeping abreast on what's taking so long for his boards. I'm going to nail this for him and he's going to be happy and that's that.


I panicked, though. That's not productive. I had so many thoughts of panic and fear and anger when the mistake happened, and instead of thinking clearly, I went for the worst outcome possible: redoing it all after rebuying all the lumber, and still having to buy a router. Instead, I only came away needing the router because, when I wasn't panicking, I was thinking more clearly.


That's the takeaway from this situation: walk away from the disaster if you can, and think about it while being detached from it. The more removed you are from the problem, the more dispassionate you'll be when trying to find a solution. In this case my solution was a simple one that I almost missed because I went to the worst outcome and stopped thinking beyond that. That would have been a total waste. Don't panic. It's not good for business!

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