Recently I built a project for a customer. It was a simple, rudimentary patio bench. Nothing fancy for this project. This was going to be made out of 2×4’s and 1” by. The construction consisted of butt joints with screws to fasten it together. I was so convinced that my skill level was way above this project that I bid it fairly low. I knew I could build it in a day, but my overconfidence turned out to be my first mistake.
After making my measured drawing, I quickly began the building process. The 2×4’s made up the frame structure. I cut and screwed them together not really checking things with a square. I felt confident that my saw was cutting at the angle I set it and didn’t feel the need to double-check it with a square or an angle reader.
I was on a roll and making good time. I wanted to keep this pace going to end at a record time. When I started to do some assembly, I was in such a hurry that I didn’t bother to use a level to make sure things were plumb. I used the age-old expression, “That’s good enough.”
This is where my problems began to add up and then multiply.
As I was adding the boards to make up the seat back and top, my sense of urgency now brought me to a screeching crawl. My ill-planned build just gave me a heap of trouble. You name it, I was faced with it. Boards that didn’t fit because of gaps or inaccurate angles. My haste in not properly leveling it resulted in straight boards now being forced to fit giving them twists and bows. I was frustrated but I trying to convince myself by saying, “It’s good enough”. I pushed through it and decided to just deliver it to the customer. I kept telling myself that only a skilled woodworker with a trained eye would notice the flaws of my design. I had nothing to worry about. But the biggest mistake was yet to come.
I delivered it to the customer and set it up. It was very much like the original drawing I had sent them. I was again telling myself, “Victory is mine! See Chad, you know what you are talking about.” My worries about the look and build were nothing to fret over. The customer never knew a thing. I could tell myself this but I wasn’t convinced. I felt as if I had let down the former craftsmen who lived before me and honed their skills developing high works of art, and I just churned out a subpar piece of work. Yet, I am also a businessman, and sometimes I need a quick win to score the money to pay the bills. However, my win was short-lived and I was about to lose my title as victorious.
At 9:30 at night I received a text from the customer. It turns out the customer said the seat height was too tall. What?!?!?! How could this be?!?! Originally in my email for the quote, I told them I would make the bench “at standard chair height.” For any woodworker, this is common knowledge that a chair height is approximately 18”. But I was talking to a homeowner, and this should have been more clear. I did not specify the height would be 18”. In addition, the wife of the homeowner bought some big cushions to go on it. With the added thickness of the cushions, the height came to over 21”. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the wife was a very short lady and even a standard height chair could be too tall for her. My biggest mistake is now relieved.
I was initially upset and felt they should pay for the change. But then I realized I didn’t do my homework and I failed to spend time talking with the customer beforehand. I was just simply rushing to make a paycheck. I should have asked if additional cushions were going to be added. I should have asked about the height. It all seemed like such common sense, after the fact.
I made the changes at my expense. It turned out good in the end because the customer has more projects for me to design and build. But it also taught me the biggest lesson of all, to respect the work no matter what skill level the project demains.
From now on, “It’s good enough”, really means, it’s not good enough. Try harder.
Chad Stanton- Owner of Stanton Fine Furniture