Garage Sandals: a Title, Not a Recommendation

I really enjoy reading blogs and articles about peoples’ projects and their tools and techniques.

But something that tends to stick in my mind even more than these little “how to” stories with their various tips and tricks are the mistakes made.
I like it when a craftsman has the honesty to point out the errors they made, and the various ways not to accomplish a goal.

Being a mistake-prone person myself, it’s nice to have a hefty knowledge of what not to do while figuring out what my next steps should be.

This weekend I made a couple mistakes, but I fear that their value lies in entertainment more than education, since I’m fairly certain that very few people out there would have thought these mistakes were a good idea to begin with.

I suspect that I have been gifted with a peculiar form of creativity: the ability to think of and carry out completely unprecedented errors.

I will share with you my lessons learned:

  1. Do not wear sandals while welding
    • Sparks and slag are subject to the effects of gravity, and as such they will tend to move down from the work piece and on to your feet
    • Many of the pieces of hot falling metal will fall elsewhere or harmlessly bounce off your skin, but a small (yet significant) percentage will either stick to your skin or lodge between your toes
    • Lesson Learned: the resulting distraction is likely to cause a poor quality weld
  2. Do not use Masking Tape to protect items near your weld
    • Although the sparks and slag may seem more likely to deflect off the tape, the quantity or sparks involved greatly increase the likelihood of detrimental effects to the tape’s integrity
    • Lessons Learned:
      • Burnt masking tape is much harder to remove than raw masking tape
      • The resulting flames from the tape itself likely pose a significant threat to the item or surface you were trying to protect




Working with Friends, and Other Stupid Mistakes

A couple days ago I had a friend come over to help me work on a project for my church.

The project was simple enough: we were starting construction on two small mobile sound booths for the elementary school age kids.

We had the afternoon set aside to work and we had made up a good set of plans with material layouts made up in advance (we ended up slightly modifying the design, but we had a good starting point).

Working with another person is great; especially when dealing with heavy 4×8 sheets of plywood. Assembly work is also a breeze when one person can hold a plank in place while the other person fixes it in place; and since I don’t have an outfeed support on my table saw yet, it’s a huge help to have someone else to support the ends of the larger cuts.

But there’s a dark side to having a coworker in the shop. I’m not sure what the technical term for it is, but two people are dumber than one.

I think it may be a combination of factors. Maybe it’s because we’re both trying to work fast to ensure we don’t waste the other person’s time. Maybe it’s because there’s an unspoken competition to prove who can drill the most holes in a given amount of time. Maybe it’s because we skipped lunch…

“okay, the offset from the edge of the circular saw is 1.5 inches.”

“We need the piece to be 64 inches long.”

“<mumbling> okay, so 64 plus 1.5 inches…</mumbling> So we need to set the guide at 66.5 inches.”


<cut completed>



“We’re stupid.”

Whatever the reason, we had moments like these with increasing frequency as the day went on.

At one point, we even installed supporting rails for shelving on the wrong side of the cabinet, not noticing our mistake until the glue had set up (TitebondII is really strong).

Eventually we completed what we set out to do for the day.
When I’m working alone I can gladly spend hours tweaking settings, checking measurements, and getting things just right (full disclosure: I was working alone when I cut two boards in a row 1/2-inch too small while working on my metalworking station… but that’s aside the point).

In contrast, when I have friends in the shop, instead of thinking things through at each step, I try to keep up the pace and keep my friend entertained. The result is a good time, but with unnecessary re-work and a product of only sufficient quality.

All that said, I will maintain the stance that I would rather work with friends than work by myself, but I can only justify that because I value my time with my friends more than my workmanship.

…or maybe that’s the source of the problem…