The Value of Switching Gears

Reader Contribution by Robert Maxwell
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If you’re anything like me, slowing down and shifting gears in the middle of an important job doesn’t come naturally. Especially if the job’s unpleasant and you want to motor through it as fast as possible. But giving in to this impulse isn’t always wise, as a job at my cabin recently showed me.

My dad and I were working together to finish the cedar shingle 

siding on one end of the building. We were up on scaffolding and nearing the peak, the end in sight. That’s when we got the idea to cut some shingles into fancy shapes to make the gables more attractive. We’d both seen examples of fancy shingle work before, and it certainly make the finished wall look nicer. There was just one problem: cutting and installing fancy shingles involved a whole lot of extra time and effort.

First we’d have to select and cut a bunch of shingles to a uniform 

width on the table saw.  Then we’d have to lug them back to the shop, trace the shape we wanted with a pencil, and cut each of them to shape on a scroll saw. Finally, they’d all need to be cleaned up on the edge sander. My first instinct was to forget it. I could live with out a few round and pointy shingles at the peak of my building. It would look nice, but it certainly didn’t seem worth the extra time and effort I’d have to invest. I’d already spent long enough putting up regular shingles – I didn’t need yet another delay in the process. But luckily for me my dad had a different opinion, and he talked me into taking his advice.

Together we made pretty quick work of turning regular shingles of various widths into rounded and pointed shingles of a standard size. I reluctantly admitted that it hadn’t taken nearly as long as I’d feared. Before long we were back at the cabin nailing the finished products to the wall. It didn’t take me long to realize that the beauty of what we’d created made all the extra work more than worthwhile. 

The shingling job taught me an important lesson. I realized that sometimes taking extra time and effort to do a nice job on something is a good idea. Work shouldn’t just be about speed. It should be about beauty too. In my case, this viewpoint has led me to a much prettier siding job than I would have had if I’d let efficiency trump aesthetics.

Robert Maxwell is a videographer, photographer, web designer and young homesteader who lives in Ontario, Canada. Learn more about Robert’s work, life and projects at

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