Murphy’s laws for woodworkers

I’m pretty jazzed about a couple of design classes slated for this upcoming year. First up is a weekend workshop at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking this June 26th and 27th. If you are feeling the itch to begin creating your own designs, this might be a great way to try the water. Rest assured you will learn some of the basics on proportions, forms, the classic orders, but this class is really about learning to see and visualize. I’m working hard to put together a program that is inspiring and at the same time down to earth and practical at your workbench. Something else you should know before signing up. I like to have fun and try not to take myself too seriously. Come prepared not only to learn about design but also share a few laughs. Speaking of which, I dug this out from the last class I taught at MASW along with Dr Tom Young a few years ago. It’s sort of a collection of woodworking proverbs or Murphy’s laws of woodworking. Many of these I have learned the hard way:

  1. Off square parts will assemble for maximum ill effect.
  2. Your workshop is never big enough.
  3. The workshop of your dreams won’t be big enough.
  4. Mobile bases aren’t mobile in seven inches of sawdust.
  5. Plastic wood isn’t.
  6. A Safety guard hasn’t been invented that can prevent stupid.
  7. Sawdust coating the laundry basket usually precedes a storm.
  8. Finding one of your good chisels in the kitchen junk drawer is another sign of an impending storm.
  9. The ideal number of clamps is two more than you will ever own.
  10. The ideal sized clamp is two inches longer than the one you are making do with.
  11. It’s time to sweep the shop floor when:
    1. You start losing tools bigger than a router.
    2. The kids start digging tunnels and building forts.
    3. You start bumping your head on the ceiling.
  12. Amateur woodworkers don’t have clocks in their workshops; professionals don’t have enough time in theirs.
  13. Hammering a bent nail into a board will not make it go away.
  14. A tool tray at the back of your workbench was the original inspiration for the discovery of “Black holes” in the universe.
  15. The original cost of a router is insignificant compared to what you will spend on router bits.
  16. The amount of years spent woodworking is directly proportional to the amount of extra lights and outlets installed in the workshop.
  17. Flying objects are never a good sign in the workshop.
  18. Smoke is never a good sign in the workshop.
  19. A popping sound when removing clamps is never a good sign in the workshop.
  20. Re-attached fingers never work as well as original equipment.
  21. Lumber always costs more than you planned.
  22. You never have enough tools until you have at least three of everything.
  23. “Natural material – no two are alike” means this wood is full of knots.
  24. Your biggest goof will take place nearest the end of a project.
  25. Experienced woodworkers still make mistakes; they are also more adept at hiding them.
  26. All blueprints contain errors; it’s your job to find them the hard way.
  27. There are six different ways to solve any woodworking problem, and at least thirty six ways to flub it up.
  28. Calling it a day after really screwing something up will not make it better in the morning.
  29. A dull drill bit will not magically become sharp by throwing it back in a cigar box.
  30. If you never scrap anything, you probably don’t make anything either.
  31. No one appreciates a door that closes smoothly, but even a moron will crab about one that sticks.


I’ve been compiling this list for some time. If you have any to add, I’d love to hear them.

George R. Walker

About walkerg

Woodworker and writer
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Murphy’s laws for woodworkers

  1. Adam King says:

    “After scraping for over an hour, you realize there IS such a thing as too much glue.”

    Great post!

  2. Morton says:

    Awesome post, thank you. Made me laugh out loud. Now to find a clock with more time on it…

  3. Jack Plane says:

    • Animal glue can double as a training aid for dogs.
    • Gluing a co-worker’s bench vice closed is not (very) funny.
    • Making artificial dog turds from sawdust and left over glue and then leaving them in inappropriate places is.
    • A drill press’ main function appears to be for snatching short lengths of wood from the operative’s hands thus causing bodily injury and/or damage to expensive polished surfaces.
    • The sanding disc is a multi-purpose tool capable of hurling small, important pieces of moulding across the workshop at a scary rate. It can also instantly remove fingerprint whorls and hard-earned calluses. It’s occasionally used for colouring wood a pleasant shade of dark brown in the absence of a suitable stain.

  4. Pingback: A Surreal Moment « Pegs and 'Tails

  5. Ed Miller says:

    Better more off than moron

  6. Steve Eichman says:

    1. The scrap wood you just threw into the wood stove will be the perfect size for the next jig you build.

    a few from a friend:

    1. Measure twice, cut once … only works if you don’t make the same measuring mistake twice in a row.
    2. A join always goes in easier the wrong way around.
    3. You’ll only discover the hidden nail in a piece of wood once you fit a brand new sawblade.
    4. As soon as you get everything square, the floor will be crooked.
    5. The off-cuts you’re saving are always 3” smaller than what you need.

Comments are closed.