Reap the Reward of the Proper Sacrifice

Wood window shop with sash and jigs in the background


Next door to our window museum studio in Tampa, a baseball coaching enterprise moved in. We hear the unmistakable sound of someone making their proper sacrifice, putting in the time, giving up something else to be there.


The Sacrifice of Practice

Scott, who’s been working windows with me since before Wood Window Makeover was a thing, brings to my attention the Fthmp sound. I lean in closer to try and catch it. “I don’t hear it, ”TING! But I do hear that. I listen in even closer. It’s subtle. If you’ve ever played little league or anything like that, you know the sound when you hear it and it takes you back. Finally, I hear it.

Scott helping make sashes in 2008. Shaper in the background was the first machine I bought in my quest to learn how to make them. There’s a meeting rail at the bottom of the picture. Mortises were made with a plunge router. Used lots of glue.

Fthmp…. TING!!!

I ask Scott how fast the pitch is going and we both wait and listen in again.


He tells me it’s gotta be going 80 or faster. He tells me that the other day he heard that someone threw a pitch clocked at 106. “Man, when a balls coming that fast, you can’t even see it, you can’t even blink” We both agree. At that level of the game its instinct, muscle memory and a mastery of connecting with the ball that only comes with years, maybe a decade of dedicated practice and proper sacrifice.

An Apprentice Makes the Proper Sacrifice

“Scott, you want to know what an apprentice is? The one hitting the ball in there? THAT’S an apprentice.” An apprentice is a person who has decided to make the sacrifices necessary to master the movements of a particular discipline, whether baseball or Window Craft.

Whoever that is in the next room over, hitting pitches coming in at 80 miles an hour, is in there because of the dream of hitting that pitch at 106. So what does the batter do? While some show up at the team’s regular practice, this batter is sacrificing time and money, hiring a coach to improve his game even more.


How many hits? How many pitches does it take? How many strike outs? Singles to first? Sacrifice flies? When does the home run come? And at what pitch? At what speed? Using what bat? Under what pressure?

Hitting a baseball is a skill. It’s also an art. It’s a science too, all blended together to do something that looks impossible. For me? It IS impossible because I haven’t made the sacrifice it takes to get there.

Mastering Window Craft Takes Sacrifice

But in MY sport, Window Craft, I have made sacrifices. My ability to make a window sash didn’t pop out of nowhere. I described the journey to Scott, that he no doubt witnessed part of. It was a long and started with desire. I sincerely wanted to learn how to make sash, not for the money, but for something deeper. I made mortise and tenon joints before, but wanted to master the technique, to make them in my sleep.

Sash making in the early days was complicated but I got it done. I got rid of the shaper and went another route not long after this pic was taken. It was just too much.

My first set ups were crude, spread out, cumbersome and inefficient. The first sash took days and it wasn’t very good. There were days when I made every part wrong, ran out of wood and had to start over. Some sacrifices were met with immediate reward, others brutal and followed by anxiety and loss. There was nobody to teach me but it didn’t matter. Nothing detered me. Now, almost 20 years later it’s become automatic. I made a set of complicated double hung sashes in just a few hours today and took my son on the journey.

How do you know if you’ve made the proper sacrifice? If you’ve sacrificed enough? I don’t exactly know how to answer that, but one thing I do know, no legitimate sacrifice goes unrewarded. You reap what you sow. People run into problems when they want their reward up front or try to extract their reward too early.

Scott has been sacrificing to practice joinery in Tampa while I’m away with the team in San Antonio. He’s been through the basics enough to have a strong command of many of the most common sashes, enough so that he can make some on the side, using the Wood Window Makeover Sash Factory.

The Reward of Sacrifice

The other day I got on the sash factory and something was different. It was subtle, almost imperceptible, but I caught it almost immediately. The fence had moved, not even a 16th, but I could tell, instantly because of the way it felt. I knew it would affect assembly, so I stopped and investigated and invited Scott along to see if there was anything new he could learn.

I made this particular sash factory in 2019 and it’s been in daily use for what will be five years in February. It has literally made tens of thousands of window parts.

A few dozen sash parts I whipped out today. Nice clean lines and consistent results takes a lot of practice. I don’t use glue anymore because I can rely entirely on my joinery, just like the ones I copy.

I opened up the box, cleared away the chips, took a metal straight edge to check that the wood fence was still true and flat and it was. I found the screws that hold the fence in place. The vibration inherent in the machine had finally loosened the screw just enough to let the constant pressure against the fence move it just a hair. But that was enough to affect the assembly.

A little turn, a little tap and another little turn and we were back in business. I’m glad it happened because Scott needed that lesson. He might have experienced some difficulty in assembly and not known why, not known what to look for. Now, because of today, he’s that much more prepared, more equipped, better able.

It Takes Time to Reap the Rewards of Sacrifice

Mastery of sash making didn’t happen overnight. It took many sacrifices over many years. Click here to see a window I made in 2005. A tweak here, a solved problem there, a rearranging of the tools this time, an elimination of an unnecessary step the next. I showed up every day, intent on mastering the movements placed before me that day. A year went by, two years, three, four, a decade, almost two and there I was, diagnosing a problem that I didn’t even know I knew the answer to.


Me and the batter next door, we are practicing different trades but we’re exactly the same. Scott is the same. We are apprentices who sacrifice until mastery appears, until either hitting the ball or making a perfect window sash complete with mortise and tenon joinery, we’re doing it without even thinking.


The proper sacrifice isn’t always fun while it’s happening. However there comes a day when you are able to look back and realize that you crossed a line somewhere and arrived someplace you wondered if you’d ever get. Now I help others with lessons learned from the sacrifices I endured, and that is fun. The apprenticeship I’m in now is in learning how to pass on the joinery I’ve mastered and the lessons learned, and believe it or not, that has sacrifices all it’s own.

Set of sashes me and my son made today in just a few hours. Started with rough lumber, made lots of sawdust and assembled these without any fuss.