Old dogs, new tricks

Those of you who know my friend Les, know that the driving interest of his woodworking avocation is building furniture true to the 18th century style known as “Queen Anne”.  And, he’s damned good at it.


Framed top Lowboy and Spanish footed Gaines style chair

Well, you can imagine my surprise when I walked into his shop and spied a beautiful, natural edge chunk of Bocote.  I asked him “what in the world are you going to do with that?”  His response was simply “I’m going to build a contemporary hall table and you and our friend, Scott are going to help me.” “Contemporary!”  I mean, you could have knocked me over with a feather!

Period furniture has rules, a certain “ductus” that, if the craftsman follows, can, nearly always, guarantee an acceptable result.  Not so in the modern contemporary styles.  There’s much more nuance and far less outright decoration.  The fine balance between weight and line is incredibly important and the importance of individual craftsmanship gives way to the overall impact of the design.  Hey!  We were casting off and headed toward uncharted waters!

We quickly agreed that some prototyping work was in order.  You need to see it “in the whole.”  2 x 4’s became the name of the game.


It’s funny how many times you can position and re-position legs, aprons and stretchers before you start to feel comfortable about the direction you’re headed.

There was one thing about the project that was always a “given”, good traditional joinery practices would be followed.



And while one might be tempted to believe that there would be little hand work in this project, it didn’t take us long to realize that Les’ No. 20 compass plane would be very useful on a design that’s going to have a substantial number of curves.  (BTW, the No. 20 is, in my opinion, is a far better design than the 113, which is the compass plane I own and regularly use.)


Stay tuned to see if Old Dogs really can learn New Tricks.






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