Small Changes, Big Difference

CoffeeTableNHAmong the most rewarding parts of working for this (and I would assume any) woodworking magazine is to build then write about a project, send an article out into the world, then have pictures come back to you of pieces others have built based on what you’ve published. And while we design and build pieces that (based on our educated guesses) we feel pretty sure will be well-received, it’s lovely to have ocular proof (so please keep sending your pictures). It’s particularly interesting to see how pieces get modified to suit specific needs, tools, wood species and more.

I recently received from Noel Hayward the photo at left of the coffee table he’s made based on my cherry, Shaker-inspired table (pictured below; please excuse the cat hair) from the August 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. Noel, who lives in Sweden, chose birch for his build – but despite the prevalence of said species in Scandinavian furniture, he was unable to buy thick stock for the legs. So he split his own from 12″-diameter firewood. And instead of turning the legs, as I did, Noel tapered them. My rails, stiles and panels are flush with the outside of the legs, his are set back 1/4″.

CoffeeTablemfThose seemingly minor changes – along with a different hardware choice – make a world of difference in the way the two pieces look, despite being mostly the same design. Noel’s looks thoroughly modern and seems “right” with his red leather couch, cool lamp and flokati rug; mine looks like it belongs in my Victorian house atop a faded Chinese rug. His would look jarringly contemporary in my house, and mine in his would look as if he inherited it from an unmarried, elderly aunt with lots of ca…um…never mind.

So the next time you look at a piece and it doesn’t seem quite the thing, consider how with a few changes it might become your idea of perfect. It could be as simple as changing the hardware or wood species, or shifting a panel by a mere 1/4″.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. I think my favorite small table we’ve published is the “Creole Table” by Christopher Schwarz. Had I time to build it, I wouldn’t change a thing. Or maybe it’s the Gustav Stickley “Poppy Table” that Bob Lang built – but if I make that one, I won’t get to enjoy it for long; my mother wants it.

fish_sticks-2037.jpgp.p.s. While I’m pretty good at guessing what will be the most popular build in an issue, I remain amused and surprised by the project of mine of which I’ve received the most pictures from readers: “Fish Sticks.”

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