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.”
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…