Can you just "slap something together"?

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 01-23-2011 04:08 PM 3769 views 0 times favorited 47 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 4136 days

01-23-2011 04:08 PM

In December a lady from the church told me that the manager they normally use for the children’s Christmas pageant was broken. She asked if I could fix it. I looked at it and determined that it was not worth fixing. It had been made of pine and everything had been nailed together poorly. It looked like someone had fallen on it.

The lady said “We don’t need anything fancy. I don’t want you to put much time into this. Please, just slap something together”

As I thought about the project I decided that oak would be much better than pine. Besides, I would rather work with oak. Then I decided that the Xs at each end should be joined with a half lap joint. I attached the slats with wood screws (and glue), but I drilled into the wood with a 3/8” bit for the screws and plugged the hole with oak plugs (hiding the screws). Of course, I sanded the plugs flush with the wood.

When it was done it looked pretty good and I was pleased with it. Then I realized that I had not just “slapped it together” as I was instructed. I think I discovered that I can’t just “slap things together”. It goes against my nature.

Have any of you had similar experiences?

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

47 replies so far

View BigTiny's profile


1703 posts in 3949 days

#1 posted 01-23-2011 04:20 PM

If someone asks me for a “cheap job” on something, I direct them to the nearest WalMart.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5279 days

#2 posted 01-23-2011 04:22 PM

I think I can successfully fight the urge to be a perfectionist when the situation calls for it.

Just recently I needed to replace the old, falling apart potting table on the side of my house. It’s in a place where almost no one but me ever sees it, so it is purely functional rather than decorative. Off I went to the big orange box for some ugly green treated pine and a box of deck screws, and about three hours later I had a newer and better version of what I was replacing. I had all those woodworker thoughts about countersinking and plugging screws, chamfering edges, etc., but in the end I convinced myself that time wasted on trying to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear could be better spent on other projects.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Manitario's profile


2818 posts in 3944 days

#3 posted 01-23-2011 04:48 PM

My mother in law commisioned me to make her TV stand/shelving unit. I think that she was under the impression that I could do it in a weekend. Maybe I could if I had more than 6 months experience as a hobbiest woodworker. Maybe if I didn’t have 10 other projects on the go. I’ll get to it eventually, but it won’t be slapped together.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4226 days

#4 posted 01-23-2011 04:51 PM

Rich, I definitely have the same problem, at least to a degree. I will quote myself….........(-:

1) “I Cannot do Quick and Dirty AnyMore… a melody?”

2) “Dirty Dancing, and Quick as well- Garden Honey Do”

Now the first one is definitely a lament, I really can’t make total crap anymore. Here is a piece of junk I literally threw together, but of course it lasted 15 years, but now has been replaced. Notice that it is unfinished, the wood is splintered where I drilled holes with the old time spade bits, etc.

It has been replaced with this:

Notice the cute little oak footies, the WATCO finish, the carefully designed curves. I have subsequently added a group of punches to the rack, and I use it all the time. This is a clearly overkill.

The second, well, I took some absolute junk wood, and made some very simple planter stands, and painted them. This one shows the evolution away from just slapping something together. No fine woodworking joints, but definitely designed and executed in a fashion that makes them attractive and durable.

So, no. I cannot just slap something together anymore. Probably the only place I am even coming close is the installation of my new sanding machines on a ancient built in tool bench that came with the house. It is scheduled for demotlition to make way for first class cabinets, etc. No sense in getting fancy there.

I am getting a very bad case of LJ Overkill. I think it is getting worse, and is probably incurable….........(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View swampjack80's profile


53 posts in 4110 days

#5 posted 01-23-2011 05:18 PM

Yeah, I kinda have that problem too. I’ve only been building for about a year, so I am constantly wanting to top myself on my next project. My attitude has always been this..I never know who is going to see one of my projects, so I don’t want them to see something “slapped together”. They may not know that it was a quick fix for something and assume this is how I do all my work, then you lose a potential customer. I agree with BigTiny, if they want cheap, walmart is the place.

-- "I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey." - Mark Twain

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 5067 days

#6 posted 01-23-2011 05:25 PM

Sometimes slapped together is just what’s needed. Otherwise you’ll build something that looks out of place and doesn’t belong.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 4496 days

#7 posted 01-23-2011 05:31 PM

Rich: I completely understand where you are coming from. Many customers have a no idea of what is expected from the demeaning instructions they give. “Slapping something together” simply means as cheap as I can get it, but generally they expect a masterpiece. It seems they have no respect for the craftsman, his skill and his pride of work.
Although I am not in the category of being a seasoned woodworker and don’t advertise to sell anything I make, I do have a lot of experience where as a mechanical designer I have been asked to make a “Thumb nail sketch”, when what was really expected was a full set of drawings including assembly and details with materials list etc. These customers would be aghast if I asked to belittle their skill/craftsmanship implying that what they earned their living at could be done with inferior materials, methods and finished products.
Anyone insisting on a “slapped together” project needs to sign a waiver illustrating direct instructions to builder/designer for non recommended production, else the product does not get made as demanded.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 4015 days

#8 posted 01-23-2011 07:06 PM

Great question Rich. Gave it some thought.

I guess I’ve reached a point in my life when I make what exactly what I want to, the way I want to make it, with the materials I want to use, and when I want to do it. I don’t make things for money, so that makes this arbitrary stance a bit easier, but when you made me think about it, that’s just the way it is. There’s a good feeling about making things that will be around a lot longer than I will. Thing is, the junk you “slap together” will be around a while too. How do you want to be seen/remembered/thought of? I don’t have enough time left to work on stuff I don’t like.

I’m hardly a perfectionist. Ask my wife. But I like the challenge of making things the best I can, and learning to ever do it better. Keeps me going working on the same box for 6 or 8 weeks. :-) Thanks for the question. It’s even helped me understand myself a bit better. Hope there is no additional charge for therapy.

So, from my viewpoint, your realization is very healthy. (Remember: “Life is hard. But, death is long.)


-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3928 days

#9 posted 01-23-2011 07:15 PM

I generally don’t like to ‘slap anything together’ or ‘throw anything together’. If anything is worth making it needs at least a basic level of care. I don’t mean that it has to be a masterpiece obviously. However, I have probably used those terms myself. I think the terms are rather meaningless really if you think about it. I saw a project this morning where the person used the term slapped it together. It was really very nicely done. It obviously wasn’t slapped together. I think it’s just sort of a slang term to mean that it was something that you didn’t spend and inordinate amount of time on.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 5067 days

#10 posted 01-23-2011 07:47 PM

My definition of slapped together = Customer has no money for anything else or the project is of a nature that slapped together needs to be matched. A door for a shed that someone slapped together as just an example. Too much attention and it looks out of place.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View woodcompass's profile


9 posts in 3748 days

#11 posted 01-23-2011 07:50 PM

When you build something, you put your name on it.
I recently had the same experience. A friend asked me to build him something and expected me to slap it together. When he came to pick it up he was blown away at how it was crafted, like any other serious project.
I said, “I am a woodworker. I don’t make crappy things”.

richgreer…psst… it’s manger.

-- I AM in a world of wood!

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 5085 days

#12 posted 01-23-2011 08:06 PM

“Slapping together” is a relative term that varies greatly with your skill/experience level. There are some that might think your manger was indeed slapped together since you didn’t research examples of actual first-century mangers, build to accurate scale using period-appropriate hand tools, and fill it with straw grown from plants that are indigenous to that part of the world. Me, I think that’s a bit excessive.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View spunwood's profile


1202 posts in 3897 days

#13 posted 01-23-2011 08:48 PM

Personally, that manager sounds like he needs to be slapped, but I am beginning to see that at the end of a project, all those little things I thought would be okay to leave alone bug the heck out of me.


-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5222 days

#14 posted 01-23-2011 09:25 PM

reminds me of a LumberJock story from long ago – the wife said, “I want (a box)—just a box. Don’t go making it fancy. Just give me a plain old box” ... don’t think it happened.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 4270 days

#15 posted 01-23-2011 09:30 PM

Funny you should ask…
I slapped together a real manger (trough for feeding animals) just last week. I had a mechanical feeder with a timer in my yard that was supposed to spew out corn several times a day. Small critters got into it and chewed on critical parts making it unreliable. With blizzard conditions and hungry deer and other wildlife hanging around the yard I felt like I needed to build something quickly. It would have been a shame to make the wildlife wait while I fussed around making perfect dovetails!! So, in a couple of hours, I slapped together this manger out of scrap plywood, some screws, and a short piece of 2×4. It is not what anyone would call fine woodworking; there is nothing fancy or elegant about it, but I got it done in a hurry and it serves its purpose very well. Maybe I’ll build something nicer in the spring. For now, I am happy with it, and judging by all the tracks around it, the wildlife is very happy with it. Sorry, no pictures of it being used yet.

OTOH, for a children’s pageant, I probably would have taken more care and built something similar to yours. For something on more permanent display, I might have added even more details and a nicer finish. To answer your question, it depends on the situation or the use for me.

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