Thos. Moser On Steve’s Table Dilemma

Tom MoserA couple weeks back I posted a blog titled “Would You Cut Up This Table?” The table in question is my dining room table. I bought it from Thos. Moser back in 1979. Our kids grew up around this 8’ long harvest table and we have many fond memories associated with it. In fact, the table was more than the center of our family life, it inspired me to get Moser’s book, “How Build Shaker Furniture,” which sparked my interest in woodworking. The kids have moved on and a few months back my wife and I “downsized” to a much smaller house. The bottom line: the table won’t fit in our new home.

What to do? I proposed I would undertake a careful “remake” of the table so that we could continue to use and enjoy it. This created quite a stir. More than 100 readers posted comments or sent emails about it. Opinions ran about 50/50 between those who believed I should do it and those who basically thought I was crazy. Cut up a piece of Moser furniture? A few people even suggested I contact Mr. Moser and at least seek his advice and counsel if not his permission. Hmmm, What Would Thos. Moser Do?

Well, now I know. Last week the phone rang and much to my surprise and delight, it was Tom Moser. But then it occurred to me that I might now be taken to the woodshed by one of the most famous furniture makers in America! After exchanging the usual pleasantries, he said “You know Steve, as a furniture maker I’m obligated to tell you the right thing to do is buy a new table from me.” Ha, ha, but still no clue about what he really thinks. Then, “I’d be happy to buy it back for what you paid, a full refund,” he offered with a laugh. “Sure Tom,” I said, “that was $650 in 1979 and you now sell a 6’ version for close to $5,000.”

Then it came out. “Steve, it’s your table and you should do whatever you want. You’ve got the skills and clearly the table means a lot to you and your family,” he said. Whew! We talked for at least a half hour. He further explained his thoughts on why it’s OK to modify and reuse furniture to suit a persons needs. It has to do with the difference between craft work and art work. “We’re craftsmen,” he said, “not artists.” He explained that in his early days one of the ways he learned how to make furniture was by cutting up and disassembling old pieces and reusing the parts. He also mentioned that his shop routinely reworks new pieces they’ve made for various reasons.

Then he made a very generous offer: If I wanted to rework the table or build a new one I could come to his shop in Maine and work on it.

Now even more to think about…

– Steve Shanesy

18 thoughts on “Thos. Moser On Steve’s Table Dilemma

  1. pskvorc

    FINALLY! Someone making a living in furniture making that isn’t a snob and an idiot. THANK YOU Mr. Moser!

    When a person buys an OBJECT, they OWN it. They may do what they wish with it. (At least for a little while longer in this country.) If Mr. Shanesy wanted to to cut it up for firewood, it would have been his prerogative to do so. That would have been an unwise choice in my opinion, and I would have given other advice had I joined the conversation early enough. Nonetheless, I would have shed no tears BECAUSE IT IS THE DESIGNER AND BUILDER, NOT the built that warrants our respect. The alternative is to assign ‘spirits’ to inanimate objects and start hanging them when they ‘commit crimes’ as the good people of New England were inclined to in the witch-hunting days.

    “Art”… a term coined by people with no skill used to part wannabes from their money, or, dropped by those that want to appear ‘important’. One is a thief, the other a charlatan.

    I’ll make no apologies for the harshness of my comments. I’ve been working with wood for 45 years and I am nauseated by what I have seen MOST of the fields of skilled labor become – “art”. Ptooey!

    Again, thank you Mr. Moser.

  2. jazzman

    I must take Issue with Mr. Moser’s comment: “We’re craftsmen, not artists.”
    People of Mr. Moser’s caliber have attained a level of skill and understanding in their medium such that they ARE indeed artists. Stating you are a craftsman does you a disservice.

    That being said, artists modify their works regularly, An X ray of any classic painting will show changes as tghe artist works through theur design.

    Dean

    1. Chris652

      I seem to recall, Sam Maloof carried the title of ‘woodworker’ on his business card. When asked, he said he thought it was a fitting title for himself.

  3. 7-Thumbs

    “Now even more to think about…” Whats to think about, it’s Tom Moser offering to let you work in his shop. I would have thought you would have tripped over the “Yes” coming out of your mouth.

  4. scooteruk

    Steve,
    For all your readers who’d love to build a piece of Thos. Moser furniture at the shop, you can! Thos. Moser has a customer-in-residence program that allow you to stay and build a piece:

    Our Customer in Residence (CIR) program officially launched in September of 2007 when five long-time Moser customers spent a week with us here at our shop in Maine building furniture and staying in Freeport’s historic Harraseeket Inn. What started as an experiment has blossomed into a full-fledged program that, much to our amazement, has attracted interest from all over the globe. Below you will find a general overview and FAQ about the program. If you have additional questions that we haven’t covered here, please feel free to contact us.

    Program dates for 2012 are listed below. Please note that dates may be changed/added based on session interest and shop capacity. Sessions tend to fill quickly, especially during the summer months, so please call as soon as possible to check on availability and reserve your spot.

    2012 Program Dates:
    April 15-21, 2012
    May 6-12, 2012
    June 3-9, 2012
    July 8-14, 2012
    Aug. 12-18, 2012
    Sept. 9-15, 2012
    Oct. 7-13, 2012
    Nov. 11-17, 2012

    My father-in-law lives just up the road from the shop and has been trying to get my wife and I to do this for years. Maybe this year…! Don’t cut up the table, the sum of it’s parts includes your growing family. A good place will make itself known.
    Scott

  5. John Hutchinson

    A man in your position should probably be accompanied by a proper tool caddy – as in “Hand me my Bailey Jack Plane #05 and be quick about it.” I’m your guy!

  6. Amos

    Hi Steve,

    I’d take the left over pieces and build a small plant stand or something.

    Be sure and bring some Maine lobsters home for the christening!!

    1. Steve ShanesySteve Shanesy Post author

      Amos, I haven’t made a final decision about reworking the table but if I do I’ll likely make a miniature model of the table for each of the kids. And +1 on the lobsters.
      Steve

      1. UTDeere

        Steve,
        It might be nice to save even the smallest pieces and make your children writing pens that they can use daily and carry with them for life, pass on to their children and leave a legacy story that will always be fun to tell.
        Tom

      2. jaspertops

        Steve, you could leave this table to one of the kids, take up Mr. Moser on his offer to use his shop, and build yourself a new table to fit the new house, and in the process, get a great article from it. And since the table has fond memories associated with it, the memories get added to as the old table gets passed down through the generations.

  7. adams.rt

    Why not have Thomas contribute some thoughts and some examples of his reworked pieces for the magazine. A discussion of the table could be the lead in to a more in-depth discussion of the topic using real-world examples from his shop.

  8. tsangelltsangell

    Pedigree makes all the difference. If a piece is reworked with that type of story and backing from the original craftsman, then it may even improve the story and provenance of the piece. Like a layer of patina, this is too good to pass up.

    I was agin’ it, but now I’m fer it. Do what you want.

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