Text Resize

  • -A
  • +A
  • Your rating: None (2 votes)

    Tips for Fixing Mistakes

    Mistakes can happen at any stage of a project, and sometimes the fix is obvious. Got two surfaces that don’t line up, you’ll have to handplane or sand them flush. Did you wipe on a stain and suddenly see deep sanding scratches that you left behind? You might not have any choice but to attack the surface with rough sandpaper until the whole stain job is gone.

    And the best remedy for mistakes is not a remedy at all; it is prevention. Slow down to speed up, some say. That means take your time. You’ll save in the long run.

    But there are also lots of tricks that can get you out of a pickle. Here a few good ones:

    Cutting on the wrong side of the line

    Woodworking mistake

    Every woodworker remembers the sinking feeling they got when they made a cut on the wrong side of the line! Argh. But there is a fix.

    Gluing in new piece

    Because this woodworker saved the cutoff from when he cut this board to length, he was able to make this long patch from the end of the same board, with the grain running in the same direction.


    He glued in the patch, clamping it down firmly, and then handplaned it flush after the glue dried. Then he cut the dado in the place he should have cut it the first time!

    Problem tenon

    Problem tenon

    Got a tenon that just doesn’t fit? No problem.

    Fixing tenon

    Just glue on a piece of thin wood or veneer, and re-trim the tenon.

    Dovetails with gaps?

    Gappy dovetails

    Not all dovetails come out just right. The big gap on the left needs fixing.

    Fixing dovetail

    Save some of the cherry wood used to make the dovetail pins, make a thin wedge, and tap it into the gap.

    Repaired dovetail

    After the glue dries and you trim it flush, the repair is invisible.

    Dealing with surface prep issues

    Checking for scratches

    Prevention is the best cure. You often won’t know if you left deep sanding scratches behind until you put on a finish. To preview the finish with no risk, wipe on some mineral spirits. It will disappear quickly, and you’ll know if you still have some work to do. Star with a medium grit, such as 100 or 120, sand the surface evenly to remove the deep scratches, and then work your way up through the grits to 220.

    Sanding out finishing scratches

    But if you don’t see the scratches until the finish is on, don’t freak out. But don’t let the finish dry either. Put on some more oil or stain, and use it to wet-sand the scratches away with finer grits of paper. The work will go much faster than dry-sanding, you won’t have to go as deep, and you’ll know when the scratches are gone.