Turn Your Mistakes, Tool Slips or Accidents into Features

For my wife’s birthday the other day I made her a nice cheese board after seeing some in the store and thinking crikey, they’re expensive considering how easy it’d be to make one in the workshop…

So I headed out and found a nice piece of old pallet wood with some interesting colours and set about cutting a heart-shaped hole in one corner (my signature move with anything I make for my wife, smooth huh?). So, kicking the snow away from the workshop door and firing up the old diesel heater I cleared some space on the bench and made a start.

Remember to clamp some scrap wood onto the back of your workpiece (or clamp it to the bench if you don’t mind drilling into it)  This saves the backside splintering too much when the drill bit makes its hasty exit. I drilled a pair of holes no trouble but when I jigsawed out the rest of the heart shape, boom. A largish chip flew up on the edge of the heart shape… and on the face side too. A drawback with rough and coarse old pallet wood!

Hmm. That’s a pain. Okay, let’s try and sandpaper it out. It was pretty deep so I ran the edge of the sander all around the edges of the heart shape rolling over the edge until the chip disappeared. And WOW! The result was actually a big improvement, the sloped edges added an almost 3D depth to the hole, giving it a much better look and feel.

To make the design uniform, I sanded the outer edges of the board to match the heart-shaped hole and the whole thing came together perfectly, real harmony. Great looking result! Adding a homemade tag makes the whole thing feel more authentic as a gift and take seconds to do. Make up what you like on them!

So the moral of this story is two-fold, first not every mistake is a disaster so don’t jump to conclusions or get disheartened and second, some mistakes offer you the opportunity to turn the mistake into a feature.

It’s a common mantra that you shouldn’t try to hide things because it’s often difficult if not impossible. Which leaves you with two options, first you could start over, which means wasted material OR, you could turn it around and make a feature of your little problem.

I’ve done this on-site many, many times. In a similar vein, only this week I swapped out some tiny original trims a carpenter had used to ‘hide’ a join between two different wall materials, (the shift from grooved panel to plasterboard in this case). I thought the trim looked fiddly and out of place and since a change in material is difficult to hide, I made a feature of it, I exaggerated the difference with some larger, deliberate trims to make the break. These trims looked like they were supposed to be there, not hiding away like the little trims. It pays to be bold sometimes. 

So next time something doesn’t work out exactly like you wanted, stop a second before reaching for more material and think, how can I get around this? I’ll keep coming back to this page over time and tag a list of examples on the bottom so bookmark it for future reference. 

That’s all for now, 

Stay well


List of Examples

Want to start the ball rolling? If you tuned a mistake around into a feature, drop me a line in the comments…


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