Al Campbell, Field Editor

August 5th, 2002

Rough Edges
By Al Campbell

Have you ever tried to do something new? I mean, have you ever tried to accomplish something you never attempted before? I mean, have you ever attempted something that you had no idea how to do it? I mean; well, you know what I mean, don't you? You know; something new and you didn't have a clue about what you were doing. Heck, now I'm not too sure I know what I mean. Must be an age or overworked sort of thing.

Anyway, I'm in the middle of this three-year-old remodeling, home improvement project and decided it would be nice to make wall-hanging cabinets to match my basement-remodeling project. The problem is; I don't have any experience in building wall cabinets. In fact, I don't have any idea of how the pro's do it. I just know what I want it to look like, and that means I have to make it myself.

When I'm finished, my basement is supposed to look like a hunting or fishing cabin. I'm using fresh-cut cedar paneling and making all my own trim out of very rough knotty pine and 1 X 3 firring strips, making sure I leave as many knots and rough edges on the wood as possible. All the pine is stained with early American stain to look similar to the paneling, but much rougher.

Old tin buckets and brass spittoons are just part of the décor. I'll hang a rusty trap or two and a couple of old cane rods on the wall with an age-darkened wicker creel to add to the atmosphere. The joints on my trim are intentionally a little out of alignment. It's supposed to look like a back-woods cabin interior when I'm finished with it. You finish your basement the way you want; I'll do mine my way.

That brings me back to the cabinet. I finally decided to just do it. I built the basic cabinet out of 1X12 knotty pine (stained of course) and the four doors out of the same firring strips and paneling I've been using elsewhere in the basement. The thing is 6ft long, 2ft tall and a foot deep with four doors. The door handles are made from pieces of deer antler I cut on the band saw. It looks just like the rest of the basement. The basic cabinet is square, but the doors are just slightly out of square and the 45-degree cuts on the corners of the doors are actually 42 to 44 degrees so the joints will look a bit rough.

My dad helped me with the cabinet. He was visiting and knows less about building a cabinet than I do, so it was a fun day. He kept saying that the thing looked a bit rough. I kept reminding him that it needed to look a bit rough. Finally, my neighbor (a real carpenter who builds finished cabinets for his customers) came over to see how I was doing. My dad was explaining that we didn't have much experience in cabinet building when Mike (the neighbor) said it looked great.

That must have been a shock to my dad. He had to sit down for a while. Maybe the 100 plus degree heat had something to do with it, but Mike's statement caught dad off guard. Mike knows what I'm trying to do, so he knows why I make it to look a bit rough. He said the cabinet would be perfect in a hunting or fishing cabin. In other words, considering that is the look I want; I built a perfect cabinet.

What does any of this have to do with flyfishing? Nothing; unless you consider the attitude it took to build that cabinet. Somebody reading this is considering building a fly rod or learning how to tie flies; but he/she is scared to make mistakes or that the finished project will look rough. What's wrong with that? Your first fly and my first cabinet are supposed to look rough. We're both new at this game, so our projects will look a bit rough. In the case of my cabinet, it blends in with the rest of my basement project. Your first fly will blend in with the thousands of flies you tie after that first one; same with that first fly rod.

This stuff is supposed to be fun. If you expect perfection the first time around, it won't be fun. Tie the easy stuff and lose them in the willows like the rest of us. Trees don't care if the fly looks good or not. Make the first rod or two for your kids or the kid next door. Trust me on this one; they won't care if it's perfect. You took the time to build it special just for them. In time your flies and rods will improve a lot. However, if you're like me, they will never be perfect enough to avoid thoughts of how to make them better; same with that cabinet.

Anyway, my cabinet was supposed to look rough. What's your excuse? ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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