Saturday, April 5, 2014


You know that perfection often exceeds our capabilities. We may strive for it, but we'll invariably slip just a little bit. I'm told that the aim of a marksman will jiggle a little with each heartbeat. The olympic competitors learn to slow the heart and time the shot in between beats.

I found myself with a bit of woodworking that needed doing. Keeping the saw blade on the line is nontrivial. The longer the cut the more likely you'll grow a little tired or your hand will shake a bit.

You have to tolerate small errors that detract from perfection.

Or know how to hide them: If you look at the woodwork in your house, you'll see the boards do not line up perfectly. They are offset by about a 16th of an inch. The eye will see every tiny discrepancy, but the offset will hide smaller variations.

I had a task which had me flummoxed. I had a piece of plywood that needed to be cut with a four-inch radius on two corners and a couple uber straight runs of several feet. I have a circular saw and a saber saw, but I lacked confidence in my skills.

So, I went to my neighbor who is an expert woodworker. While I looked on and helped him, he cut the plywood. And he did a great job. But it wasn't perfect.

This showed me something: He used the same tools I had and it wasn't perfect. It was more than good enough. That 64nd of an inch where he drifted from the line is nicely hidden by a bit of trim.

I learned that I'll tolerate errors when someone else does the work, that I won't tolerate when I do it myself. The standard of "perfection" is higher when I do something myself.

It is lower when I ask a favor from a friend.

And when I hire work from an expert, he's must know the craft well enough to hide the inevitable imperfections.

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