The Value of Imperfections

Published by Jim Bell, Woodworker     July 15, 2021

Custom woodworking is defined as any product that is special in some way, individually created for a specific project or customer which is unique to their domain; as opposed to generic or off-the-shelf products.  More specifically, attaching the word handcrafted to “woodworking” and you have a unique wood piece specific to your style and the dimensions to a space or area in your home.

How would you define custom woodworking?  Over the years, I have struggled with the terminology as it relates to perfection of a workpiece that I create for a customer. Whether a piece of furniture, cabinet (built-in), bookcase, or fireplace mantel, I consistently strive to create “perfection.” The common traits of measurement, finish work, symmetrical aesthetics, or even color code of stain or paint all combine to have a bearing on “perfection” in the art of woodworking.

Over time I have learned to rely on my instinct, abilities and the sixth-sense of a skilled woodworker.  I have realized that because all woodworking pieces are made completely from scratch, there is always some “character” to the wood piece. Because my woodcraft of design (cabinetry, built-ins, fireplace mantels, or woodworking oddities) is made by hand and not computerized machinery, slight imperfections are inevitable and are not something to avoid or dread. These characteristics are the intrinsic beauty of a handmade product; you will know by these “imperfections” that it was made with passion, dedication, and warm hands, not cold steel.

Don’t get me wrong, the customer should never compromise structural integrity. Every good woodworker knows that the sustainability of their work relies on several important traits, such as proper joinery, accurate cutting dimensions, fine measurements, skilled application of finish work, and other geometrical aesthetics. I know that my customers are passionate about the products they buy, where the products come from, who made them, from which wood components they were created, and, most importantly, the longevity of the created work piece.

If you are thinking of purchasing a handcrafted wood piece, there are some things you need to consider:

  1. Embrace the Imperfections - there will always be some slight imperfections; this what handcrafted custom woodworking is… the beauty of the imperfect. Remember, these imperfections in no way affect the quality of the pieces and can actually make them more special. These small imperfections are usually not noticeable and often are hard to spot. Not every piece will have imperfections, but it is important to understand that anything handmade will be different each and every time. What many may see as imperfection, the wood craftsman loves because of its uniqueness. 
  2. Expect the Beauty - when you purchase a handcrafted wood piece, remember, you are buying one of a kind that is unique to your specifications. Your custom woodworker has carefully designed your piece with passion, dedication, and time. You won’t find a custom pieces that are exactly alike, and that is beauty of handcrafted woodwork.
  3. Choose the Highest Quality - when you purchase a wood piece from a retail store, you are purchasing something that was factory made, and, in many cases, in a factory overseas. Factory wood pieces are made from bulk supply and simply are not the highest quality.  

When you purchase a handcrafted wood piece from a custom woodworker you know that the woodworker took the time to carefully create your wood piece and that it was uniquely designed and created with love, passion, dedication, and skill.

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