Good, Better & Best Furniture

Somewhere amongst the 130 books selected as the best books on woodworking in our article “The Craft Classics in Just 5’” from June 2011 issue (#190), is a copy of “The New Fine Points of Furniture: Early American” by Albert Sack. Antique dealers, collectors and woodworkers in the know refer to this book as the “Good, Better Best” book. This is one of the first books I studied as I became interested in furniture and power tools.

To examine similar pieces and see what makes one better than another helps train our eyes to good design. It also helps us choose pieces to reproduce if that’s your game as it is mine. The most fascinating part of a study like this is how market prices are affected by the subtle differences found in furniture.

I found an interesting blog post at an antique auctioneer web site, Skinner Inc. (Skinner is a leading full-service auctioneer and appraiser of antiques and fine art.) The post discusses three pembroke tables that the company handled at auction. Click here to read about the subtle differences in the tables and why one is better and one is best, but most interesting is the variation in selling prices achieved at auction. While at the site, read the piece about flawed masterpieces. If you’re a furniture junkie, you’ll appreciate it too.

We think this is a great way to learn about furniture. In fact, one of the proposed classes for Woodworking in America 2011 (WIA) is a session discussing this very subject. If you think this would be a valuable addition to the WIA schedule (or not), leave us a comment. We’re in the planning stages and you have a say.

— Glen D. Huey

2 thoughts on “Good, Better & Best Furniture

  1. psanow

    Please do this kind of stuff. This is what I want to learn more than anything. I see one WIA session taking apart a reproduction of an antique and I can’t wait. These kinds of discussions with real examples and what makes them tick is what I’m looking for. I bought the Sack book a number of years ago and have learned as much from it as books on joinery.

    PWW spending time on traditional design and methods is why I’ve subscribed and dropped other magazines.

    I’ll be in the front row.

  2. griffithpark

    To me that sounds like a great class.

    Handtool folks tend to be so hung up on tooling and technique that design can be a tough sell.

    At the first WIA conference, I remember some attendee (who owned a Woodcraft franchise)giving Steve Shannesy (sp?) unshirted hell after the Economaki/Glenn-Drake session on design. He was sure PWW would lose it’s subscriber base if they started running design articles.

    Have the Class and let’s just hope he was wrong.

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