I've learned a lot of lessons (sometimes more than once) while working on these projects. I thought I'd try to share them with anybody who cared to read this page.

Several times during the layout of my recent cabinet, table, and cradle projects, I've carefully designed and measured and cut members without remembering to allow for the length of the tenons. Unless you draw very good pictures that always show the tenons, it's easy to forget about them, because you don't see them in the finished product. But the wood has to be there!

When laying out joints like mortise-and-tenon joints, the dimensions of the tenons and mortises is absolutely critical for a good fit. Avoid the temptation to measure inward from opposite edges of a piece of stock, assuming that the "difference" is accurate enough to be a tenon. It's not, unless all your stock is exactly dimensioned, which is rare.

Instead, pick a "reference face" of the lumber, and measure each side of the tenon (or mortise, or other element) from that same reference face:

Here's what happens when you're plumbing under a house that's on the side of a hill. You need ladders -- lots of them, actually. Plumbing is hard enough at ground level, but gets kind of complicated when you're up under a house on a ladder.

In this case, I had been plumbing in new pipes for an outdoor shower, and after a couple of hours of plumbing, I decided to move one of my ladders a little bit -- only to discover that I had happily plumbed right through the top rung of the ladder!

The ladder is still there under the house. To get it out will require cutting the ladder, cutting the pipe, or disassembling about 10 joints to get back to the ladder. None of those options is worth it; it was a cheap ladder anyhow, and will be a good mystery for the next homeowner years from now.


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