Perfection is Overrated

Since I retired, I’ve rekindled my fondness for working with wood. My workshop consists of the 43 inches between the front bumper of my truck and the east wall of my garage, although the truck moves when I need more room. Still, space matters, and I depend almost entirely on hand tools. And because space matters, I built a Dutch tool chest to store and protect them.Dutch Tool Chest

This is a classic design, with a lid that slants forward to discourage using it as a place to set things down “just for a few minutes,” and a fall-front door in a lower section. I also built a rolling cart, with a similar fall-front door, to keep it mobile. Loaded with tools, it weighs nearly 200 pounds.

I won’t bore you with the details of the mistakes I made, from lumber selection to design flaws, to flaws in the dovetails and dadoes I cut to join the case together, to rework as I learned to mix and apply milk paint. I’ll just say that, as I introduced errors, I corrected them. After thirty years in project management, I’m used to things not working out as expected. I even left a few errors exposed, to remind me that perfection is not only unachievable, but overrated.

Looking down into the chest A wise man once observed, “It isn’t a mistake until you can’t correct it.” And we’ve been acting on that sage advice for thousands of years. You simply have to accept the notion that good designs evolve, that adjustments are desirable, and that the result matters more than the process.

I could point out dozens of flaws in this project, but what people look at is the totality of the end result. From the Eddie Van Halen paint job to the intricate tool racks to the wainscotting on the back, to the bottle opener on the left side, it’s decorative as well as functional. And that is what matters.


“The relentless pursuit of perfection has been my problem over the years. It’s maybe held me back.” Ronnie O’Sullivan had it right. If we fear making mistakes, we won’t get started. Even worse, we won’t finish anything. And since we spend time and money on projects to deliver benefits, we have to define acceptable quality based on the benefits we want to deliver, not the egos of the personalities involved.

Perfection is Overrated
Article Name
Perfection is Overrated
Building a tool chest reminded me of a critical lesson: the end result matters more than the errors made along the way.
Grandpa Dave's Workshop