anatomy of an ugly joint

In my faith tradition, healing begins with the existential realization that no one is perfect and that the first motion toward wholeness is coming to terms with your brokenness. Come to think of it, that’s a lot of faith traditions. Perhaps there’s something to that.

In our house, when one of my daughters does something wrong, the first step (after time-out) is to go to the person you hurt and admit that you were wrong by saying sorry.

I’m detecting a theme.

Here’s another universal truth. Unless you have attained woodworking kung-fu, you will make mistakes. You will make an ugly joint or two. You know the one – the one that doesn’t go on Instagram.

Sometimes it’s just an errant saw stroke, sometimes it’s complicated joinery. Sometimes it’s both.

Here’s an ugly one for you on the saw till I’m building:



Not only did I go wide of the mark with a slip of the chisel in cleaning out the pin board, but look at that groove shooting through!

The groove  on top (small one) was caused by the internal housing for the back of the till. On the tails I was able to make one tail thinner to mask the joint, but it didn’t line up as intended on the pin board. (Lesson learned here, try to lock that groove solidly in the middle of a wider tail.)

The big gap tooth hole was caused by the groove that houses the french cleat “tongue” that locks it into the carcase. I thought about taking forever to cut a stopped groove, but it seemed like a better use of my time to plow through with my 48 and come back later.

In the mean time, the joint was solid so I decided to patch the end-grain with a block of cut-off material. I also worked some wood into the gap of the joint matching the grain on top.



After patching, assembling, trimming and cleaning up, here’s the final result.


If I were making this to have a clear finish I may have done something different, although I did take care to try to match the grain up as best I could. In the end, the joint is solid and  as paint is going to cover the joint anyway this will all disappear under the finish.

Aspiring toward beauty and perfection is good training as a craftsperson, but it’s also good to know that none of us are, after all, perfect and we all make mistakes. When we can share that knowledge, we encourage one another in a different way.




2 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian Clites says:

    While sugar pine is fun to cut, I find it tough to dovetail. Ironically, these same issues may not have been an issue in maple or oak…


    1. So true. I would far rather work in hardwoods when it comes to dovetailing, but one of my primary concerns being weight, even the SYP I used for the back of this till felt too heavy. My next project (after the KD Nicholson ) will be in cherry so I’ll get a break from the pine for a while 😉


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