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I know it's supposed to look like that

What's the difference between a carpenter and a woodworker? 1/8 of an inch.

Let's get this out of the way - my idea of woodworking is planning a project to specific tolerances, building it with care, sanding it smooth and adding four coats of the appropriate finish. So when a friend of mine asked me to build her a "rustic" picture frame, I was enthusiastic, but also a little hesitant.

Well...I tried. I really did. I had some old lumber taken down from a fence 20 years ago (the fact I held on to fence boards for 20 years will be the subject of a future post...). I cut it. I assembled it. Then I looked at it and thought maybe I'd just sand it a bit. You take off the really rough spots. Then I sanded it a bit more, because some spots looked better than others and I wanted it to match.

You know where this is going. By the time I was done, it looked pretty darn good. But sadly, it was teetering on the edge of what anyone would actually call rustic. My friend was ecstatic to get the frame, but confirmed my overzealous finishing methods when she said she thought it would be "a little rougher."

It seems the latest trend in home decor is what I like to politely call "urban outhouse." Barn boards, old crates, crackled paint, rough edges. Sure, it looks nice in the right space, but the thoughts of actually building that stuff is the woodworking equivalent of biting on tinfoil.

However, to appease the masses I've built a few barn board frames ('s really the old fence boards). Every time I finish one, I cringe a bit when I show it to my spouse. The conversation always goes the same way:

Her: "It looks lovely!"

Me: " looks like hell."

Her: "It's supposed to look like that."


Me: "I know..."

Then I retreat back to the shop and make another exotic wood cutting board. I sand it a little extra to make it really, really smooth and buff to a shine to look anything but "rustic."

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