Learn From Your Mistakes

Octorara_LRGYesterday I told you a story about a little old lady from Cincinnati (I said, “story,” not limerick…). And there were life-lessons learned in that story. Today’s post isn’t going to be much different.

A few years before I moved from Pennsylvania one of my best local customers ordered, among other things, a copy of a Chester County Tall Chest. She lived in an 18th Century Chester County home that had many additions over the centuries. The piece was for her bedroom, which happened to be in one of the newer additions. Now, this isn’t a dainty little piece of furniture. Can you see where this is headed?

If you’ve never spent any time in an 18th century home, the floors, door openings and stairways are usually anything but square, level or plumb. Often hallways are narrow and staircases wind upward precariously.

In case you’re wondering, the feet on that chest are 11-1/2″ tall, and they presented a most difficult problem. Even though her bedroom was in a newer part of the house (it was probably build 50 or 60 years ago) access to it was a staircase that had been crammed into an alcove created by the addition. The stairs ran parallel to the front wall of the house, went up six steps, then turned 90° to the left where another five steps brought you to a narrow hallway. Five feet past the top of the stairs a branch of the hallway turned left and ran eight feet to the bedroom door. Did I mention the chest wasn’t petite in any way?

After managing to get completely stuck on the first landing, followed by several hours of trying to figure out how to get the chest back down and out of the staircase, the chest returned to my shop. The entire time I spent in the staircase I continually heard Maxwell Smart saying, “Missed it by that much.”

There’s a little known foot/leg attachment method unique to Octoraro furniture (a region within Chester County, PA) – they’re attached with threaded wooden screws, but that’s a topic for another post. Suffice it to say, I managed to reduce the height of the piece during the (next) moving process by exactly 11-1/2″, which gave me plenty of clearance to get the thing up the stairs and into the lady’s bedroom.

Sometimes trying to get it all at once isn’t the best option. Occasionally, in spite of careful planning, you come up half an inch short (or in this case 1-1/2″ long).

When I look at the 360woodworking website, I often feel like I’m stuck on that landing trying to figure out how to go forward, or how to go back. Usually the simplest solution is the best. Stay tuned for the coming simplification. In fact, you may have noticed some already.

— Chuck Bender





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6 thoughts on “Learn From Your Mistakes

  1. Did you leave instructions for removal of the furniture from the house? It won’t be any easier to get it out unless you did.

    1. I’ll send the owner an email with a link to this post.


  2. Don’t short-change yourself so much on the website Chuck. Sure, most everything can be improved, but what you have works well enough to communicate the great content offered.

    Best regards, Mark

    1. Mark,

      Thanks. It’s worked well enough but, just like the content, there’s so much more we want to do. When the switch begins this weekend we’ll be able to start doing some of those thing where the current framework and theme have been holding us back. And hopefully, the new format will make it easier to navigate to the things you want. That’s been the feedback I’ve gotten on my initial tests anyway. Let’s hope it holds for the greater membership as well. 🙂

  3. Thats why sawzall’s were invented. I see an excellent project for a future issue. That piece is gorgeous.

    1. Fran,

      I had a Sawzall in the truck, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut a hole in the lady’s landing…there’s no way I’d have cut the tall chest (at least not in her stairwell anyway).

      And I’ll run the project request by the wife and see if she’d like one for the house, but we might have to get rid of the dog to make room.

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