Home > Woodworking > Shop Adage – “practice on scrap first”

Shop Adage – “practice on scrap first”

These days I just haven’t had a great deal of “quality time” in my shop. When I have had time it takes me a while to get oriented. What should I work on? What was I working on? Where are all those great ideas I had collected over the last month? If practice makes perfect then I’m out of practice on virtually everything. Woe is me, chaos abounds!

Well it isn’t as bad as all that but I do feel disoriented and out of practice after time away. Everything I do seems like it is for the first time and to my surprise, many things work out fine. Often, they work out even better than anticipated.  Then it happens; the unexpected…. disaster!

In hindsight I have to ask myself, “was this result really unexpected?”

In the case of “router vs headstock” I should have acknowledged that I had never made and used a router template, never routed mahogany and never used the new albeit groovy Whiteside router bit before. Would it have killed me to practice on a piece of scrap first? I don’t think it was a lack of patience or even over-confidence it just didn’t occur to me at the time. Most of the procedure went as expected but only after I had mangled the end grain.

HF pocket hole jig with thickness info.

HF pocket hole jig with material thickness info.


In the case this weekend of “pocket hole vs 3/4″ stock” I knew that I hadn’t used my pocket hole jig over a year, maybe even two. I had to look up the proper screw size for 3/4″ stock. Again, I had upgraded to proper Kreg coarse screws and Kreg drill bit. That combined with the HF pocket hole jig was all a winning combination (the HF screws suck, but the jig is awesome). Confidence was high right up until I screwed in the first screws which punched out the side of my attaching piece. DOH! I couldn’t remember which of the two bushing angles I should have used when drilling the hole. Yes, this information is provided on the jig but I stupidly assumed this was referring to the length of the screw I was using, not the thickness of the material. A quick test on scrap would have been quicker and a better outcome than a repair.


Have I learned my lesson? I would hope that these two experiences will guide me in the future. Practicing when it doesn’t matter can be far more relaxing and can certainly give insight on what to expect during “the real thing”. It is such a simple concept, “practice on scrap first!

Learning shop lessons with the Turtlecovebrewer

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