In mid-April I started a project that I estimated would be about a 50 hour build. Last weekend, 185 hours later, I delivered that finished product. The journey from lumber yard to living room took longer than anticipated but in the end I am incredibly grateful to Kevin and Lori for providing that opportunity for me and for the experience and lessons learned during that time.
When my friend Kevin and I were on our annual Christmas shopping boondoggle last winter, he was eyeballing entertainment centers at Restoration Hardware. The designs were essentially variations off standard cabinet construction and I flippantly offered that I could do those and probably at a fraction of the cost. It came up a few more times after that and we eventually began to talk seriously about the project. He and Lori sent me images of different designs that caught their eye and I began doing rough sketching’s of what I thought would meet their needs. Within a relatively short time we had a basic design and they gave me the go-ahead to start.
This would be my first commission and it provided an ideal situation for me as a hobbyist woodworker. I now had a client, who is actually a trusted friend, who was in no hurry, and willing to essentially provide the funding for me to “play” in my shop. Also, they were very flexible on the design details. They had an overall design direction but I was empowered to execute the details as the project evolved. It was not lost on me that this was quite a vote of confidence on their part. They had seen several of the smaller projects that were made for our home but this would be the first time I built to someone else’s specifications. I immediately felt the need to make this project surpass anything I had done before.
Thus the great amount of time I spent on the entertainment center. I was determined to make this a fine piece of furniture worthy of their faith in me. Since I knew that they didn’t wish to take delivery for several months, I was free to experiment with new techniques and to rebuild anything that didn’t quite measure up. Using shop scraps, I would practice particular joinery over and over again until I was confident enough to cut the actual pieces. Although the time spread out, my estimates of the amount of wood required were dead on from the initial calculations. In fact, at the final stages I thought I needed to buy one more board but ended up getting what was needed from a shelf that was to be cut down.
The reason I call this a bitter sweet journey is because of how much I found of myself being invested into the project. Beyond just the time, which Hollee graciously accommodated, it occupied my thoughts and conversations on a regular basis for the last three months. When I listened to wood working podcasts this project was my reference point as I considered the topics being discussed. I bought a few tools along the way, built 4 new jigs to facilitate the build, and as mentioned, learned new techniques and refined skills that I will now be able to apply to future projects. So delivering the finished piece, at the risk of being mellow dramatic, was a semi-emotional event. But now that the baby has left the nest, it’s on to the next project!