Woodworking Mistakes to Avoid When Designing Pieces


Treatment of the surfaces, ends, corners and edges of woodwork makes a big difference in its overall effect. These cannot be adequately specified in a measured drawing or CAD rendition. They must be added with the good judgement of the craftsperson, much as a violinist adds tone, nuances of rhythm and volume, and so forth to make a written composition become real and rich. A drawing can never move us as can a real piece of woodwork and this is one of the essential reasons why.

One of the great joys of woodwork is experiencing it with multiple senses. Unlike an oil painting hung on the wall, woodwork is not only a visual experience but also tactile, auditory and even olfactory. There is a cabinet in my living room that I enjoy looking at but I also greatly appreciate feel of the wood surfaces and curves, the sound of doors and drawers, and the scent of the cedar interiors. The late great teacher James Krenov emphasized that no piece is complete without careful attention to such detail.

Below, the contrasts among the visual and tactile silkiness of the pear wood, the shimmering curly maple surface, and the relatively rough live edge are delights to the eye and the hand. Drawings and CAD cannot represent these experiences but they certainly are an important part of this piece.

woodworking mistakes


The loveliness of wood gives us other potential woodworking mistakes. With spectacular looking wood, it is easy to get lazy and assume we can show it off without it being supported by good design. However, even a purposefully understated design that features the beauty of the wood needs judicious proportions, consistent elements, and so forth. The design may be very simple but it must be a design, not a use of the wood as an excuse not to design.

Finally, woodworkers, including me, I have to admit, seem reluctant to decoratively mix into a piece other materials such as stone, metals and glass. Maybe it’s because we like wood so much but that shouldn’t cause us to limit our creativity. Other materials just give us more opportunities to make exciting things.

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