My Biggest (Woodworking) Blunder

I don’t like to dwell on my mistakes. I tell myself, “It’s just wood. You are not saving the world. Shut up, cut another piece and get back to work.” Most of the time, the mistakes aren’t that big and they are really nothing to worry about. Sometimes they are harder to shrug off. And sometimes, they are legendary.

I’ll paint the scene for you. I was young – 22 and fresh out of college, working at my first and only “real” job. I was an art director at an advertising agency surrounded by creative types. I played the role of maintenance man and wasn’t afraid to jump in when something needed fixing. I had some woodworking experience and thought that I knew enough to keep me out of trouble. Boy, was I wrong.

It started out simple enough. Our boss, who was becoming more scarce in the office, had a roll-top desk that was always open. He used it when he was in the office, but he wanted it closed and locked when he was out of the office. He couldn’t lock it because of the wires from the telephone and other electronics that had to go out the front of the desk and wrap around the side to get to an outlet. Simple right? Just drill a hole in the back of the desk and run the wires through. No problem.

The next day I brought in my drill, decided where everything should go and figured out the placement of my hole. I drilled a big hole through the back. It was a chippy, two-holes-next-to-eachother-wiggle-the-drill sort of operation. I made sure that all of the wires, especially those with the big plugs, would easily fit. It didn’t matter too much how it looked, after all it was totally hidden in a little cubby-hole.

I ran the wires through, plugged everything in and cleaned up the debris. All that was left was the basking. I love to bask after a job. So, Chris the accountant who asked me to do the job, came in to take a look. I proudly showed her what I did and pulled down the roll-top to show her how nice it worked. I should say, I pulled ON the roll-top. It seemed to stick. I thought well, maybe there is something in there, maybe it hasn’t been closed in a while, maybe it is just a little – Oh No!, Oh No!, Oh No!, Oh No! (the Oh No’s! went on for awhile). It didn’t take me long to figure out what the problem was. Yep, I drilled right through the roll-top that happens to hide in the back when the desk is open. I pulled out the wires and pulled down the roll-top (by the way, it worked great without the wires going through it). Down it came and there is was, right at eye level. The biggest, chippy, two-holes-next-to-eachother-wiggle-the-drill hole you have ever seen. The basking was officially cancelled, and after I got done changing my pants, it was decided that someone else should “fix” it.

This is by far my biggest blunder and one by which all others will be judged. I have often thought about writing it up and sending it in to American Woodworker magazine’s Oops! section, but it just didn’t seem right to get paid for messing up that bad.

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About wunderwoods

Hi! My name is Scott Wunder and I am the owner of WunderWoods Custom Woodworking. We build wine cellars, built-ins and furniture from local woods, here in St. Louis, MO. Recently, I finished a three-year term as the President of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild, which had me writing a monthly article for our newsletter. I love to write, especially about wood, and found that I still had more to say. Every day I run into something wood related that I realize some of my customers don't know and this seems like a great forum for sharing what I have learned (instead of telling the same story to each person). The main thing to remember is that I try to keep it light and as my wife always reminds people that have just met me, "He is joking."

8 responses to “My Biggest (Woodworking) Blunder”

  1. Lisa says :

    We all learned something from that one. Who woulda thunk it!

  2. Chris says :

    I remember that day well and still can picture the look on your face when you realized what you did. Absolutely PRICELESS!

  3. Mike Sanders says :

    Wish we had a picture of the mangled tambors. That would have been a real nice add to this all too real life event. It contributed to making you the great craftsman you are today!

  4. john l w says :

    PW and FW says buy 120% of the BF you need my error rate is way higher than that but the mills love me

  5. Olly Parry-Jones says :

    You’re very brave to admit to something like this but, I’m sure we all appreciate the time you’ve taken to share this, as it’s something many can learn from! 🙂

  6. Mike says :

    Great story. Who amongst us is beyond the major boner like that one. 🙂

    Can I share a story, admittedly not as good as yours but one that I will never forget.

    I once tried to move a wall switch over a foot during some remodeling. It was a complicated little sucker with three switches in the plate, two of which were 3-way switches so it had wires coming out of everywhere. I made absolutely sure to draw a diagram where every wire was to go on the new insert, one stud over.

    I got the new one all wired up and set up a test lamp in one of the outlets. It didn’t work!! Say what? Man, did I rack my brain and drawings to figure out what the heck I did wrong. Nothing worked. What the heck did I do? Needless to say everything was buried behind dry wall. Everything worked before I started and now it doesn’t.

    Four hours later, sweating bullets, I decided to walk my test lamp over to another outlet to check it out. Would you believe fate had decided to surreptitiously blow out the light bulb in that test lamp right at that moment in time between when I first tested the original switch configuration to when I rewired the new one.

    A simple bulb change in the lamp announced that I had wired it correctly four hours before.

    • wunderwoods says :


      Thanks for the story. I always use a hairdryer so I can hear it (especially helpful when working alone), but I guess I would have had the same problem if Chris burned it up just before I grabbed it.

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