Finishing up my latest project, a pie safe, I made a relatively small mistake and it reminded me of something. Earlier this year, an officer of our local woodworking guild was asked to define the difference between a beginner and an intermediate woodworker. He paused thoughtfully and then replied, "An intermediate woodworker can fix his or her mistakes without starting over with a fresh piece of wood." I found that answer interesting and provocative; in fact, I've thought quite a lot about it. I have put a lot of emphasis on making fewer and fewer mistakes, with some success and at the cost of slowing down my work considerably. Slowing down is not necessarily bad, but the fact remains that most of us will make some mistakes or encounter some unanticipated problem during the course of a project. Learning how to fix mistakes and problems is an essential skill and one I have enjoyed learning about this year.
I have read in various places that, if you disassemble a fine old piece, you will often find evidence of mistakes that were fixed by the craftsman in skilled and artful ways.