Would You Cut Up This Table?

My Thos. Moser table in the old dining room.

Just over 30 years ago I bought a dining table from Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers and it changed my life. How? When the 8′-long Shaker-style harvest table was delivered, I studied it for awhile and naively concluded I could build it. At that time I knew almost nothing about woodworking. But I was curious to know how it was built and bought Mr. Moser’s book, “How to Build Shaker Furniture.” Soon after, I was in the garage hacking away making crude mortise-and-tenon joints and gluing boards together. This experience was the start of what’s become a 30-plus-year career in woodworking.

Over these many years the table became the gathering place for family and friends. It was used almost every day. Our children ate their first messy meals there. We held wedding parties for friends around it. Family gathered there for countless holiday dinners. It wasn’t always good times. More than one wake was held there, too.

With our children grown my wife and I “downsized” a few months back to a house we love. But sadly, the dining table is unusable there – it’s just too big. We now have a dining space, not a dining room. Since the move in February the table has been parked in the garage. I can’t even think about letting it go. It means too much to us. What to do?

After sketching numerous designs for a new table I’ve come to decision. I’m going to use our dear old table to make the “new” one. Some people think I’m crazy for considering this. It’s a pretty table as is, and, after all, it is a Moser table, signed and dated. In fact, there’s a darn good chance it was built by Christian Becksvoort, one of maybe three employees Moser had at the time. So I wonder what you all think of this idea. Am I nuts?

Just so you know, my plan is to convert the drop-leaf table to a race track oval extension table with a couple leaves. Here’s a a version of the table now offered by Moser as a custom build. Mine will be about 54″ long with no leaves and 72″ fully extended. I can use the original base and take a section out of the long aprons. The top will be reused as the top, just shorter with round ends (the round ends fit the shape of our dining space). Being very careful, I think I can do everything and keep the well-aged oil finish as is, “beauty marks” and all. Those dings, dents and scratches are its written history.

I’ve given this all a lot of thought. What does remaking it mean? Does it ruin it? When done, will it be even more “my” table than it is now? Can I have my table and eat at it, too?

Drop a comment and let me know what you think!

– Steve Shanesy

98 thoughts on “Would You Cut Up This Table?

  1. Dave Beauchesne

    Steve:

    As tough as it is now to consider optionw what to do with the table, modifying it would lose value beyond any gain re-purposing it right now.
    Like others said, cutting up a Krenov, re-finishing an original Stickley, selling an original motor from a numbers matching Hemi Cuda – they don’t make them any more and knowingly making a major alteration, without REALLY needing to is somehow sinful in a way, IMHO.
    Find out if Christian built it, document that tidbit, and hang on to it if at all possible.
    Good luck with a difficult decision.
    Dave Beauchesne

  2. trailerman

    Never in a million years would I cut into it with the family history it hold in your heart. I like the idea of passing it along to your childern with the same purpose of passing it. If they can’t use it, then have them give it to another family member.
    Furniture use to be modified or “repurposed” because of necessity ($$), but I don’t think you are in that situaion. Family and memories are priceless.
    Just make sure you almost emotionally let go of the table when you physically let it go. When you see it years later, it may be a little more used and may not be in what you consider the exact condition you last saw it.

  3. Ryan Fee

    Hmm, tough decision. I’ll admit, my initial gut reaction was an emphatic ‘no’. As I though about it more though, I realized that had you been talking about sending it back to Moser to have the conversion done then I would be in favor. I also realized that had you been referring to an equally well made 30 year old table of unknown lineage, I would have also been in favor. Taking all of that into consideration, I’ve got to tell you to go for it. This isn’t some antique that you just picked up and are now talking about butchering, this is Your Table. Every scratch, scuff and wear mark belongs to you and your family. What’s more, I think you’re the only person qualified to do the modification, as you have both the time (no deadline or budget constraints of a commercial woodworking shop) and emotional investment to persevere at the project until you get it ‘right’.

    Best of Luck to you, whatever you decide.

    RF

  4. jdm925

    Would you cut up an original Stickley or Green and Green? Thos Moser is probably one of the handful of modern furniture makers that could one day be as sought after. Once it has been cut, it will never be the same. I am sure you could sell the piece and give it a new home while making enough money to buy top quality materials to build a new one.

  5. 7-Thumbs

    If it were a Krenov or Frid would you cut it up? Moser may well be valuable in the future. I would leave the table alone ans pass it on to the kids and just make a completely new table.

  6. Steve ShanesySteve Shanesy Post author

    Many of these are really thoughtful often creative comments. Keep them coming. They are helpful.

    For those suggesting I sell it, it’s odd but it’s difficult to find any comparative values. Even Ebay searches come up empty for any sort of Moser furniture. But I really don’t consider selling an option. Five, 10 years from now maybe one of the kids would have a place large enough for it, and I suspect one of them will want it some day, certainly. At our age, I figure my wife and I will get another 20 years use of it if I remake it now so we use it again. I’d like to think that in 20 years it would mean even more to the kids – all the more history and shared memories. And by the way, I have spoken to both my son and daughter about this. And my son is a woodworker so he has a full understanding of the implications of all this.

    Someone commented that even though it is a Moser piece and maybe Becksvoort made it, it’s still a commercially made table. I tend to agree. The maker built it for wages. He’s built thousands of pieces over a long career and likely has no attachment to it.

    Steve

  7. jerryolson19

    I just finished an exact copy of this table for my Daughter. I think I would be devastated if some day someone were to consider “re-purposing” the table.
    Give the table to one of your children who do have the room for it and make your own version of the 54″ oval. This will then become another piece of your furniture legacy.

    Jerry

  8. TerryR

    Perish the thought. I can see repurposing furniture that comes to you in parts. I recently fount a parquet table top; (no legs, no apron), that will turn ito a sofatable and a hall table. Think of some to the things that you have created and are pround of. Do you still have any attachment to them?

  9. David RandallDavid Randall

    It’s your table Steve.

    In the 1960s my mother wanted to switch from a draw table to a gateleg table that took up less room in the smaller dining area of our new house. My father dismantled the draw table and over time the parts became parts of other furniture.

    When my wife Christine and I moved to Seattle we brought one of the leaves and the top which are all that remain of the original, and I’ll use them in something or make another table.

    These parts retain their emotional interest for me with the dings from table tennis and building with Meccano,, burns from soldering radio parts

  10. Jim McCoy

    If it were me I think I would contact Christian and ask him what his opinion is. If he did work on it he may have a good reason for or against repurposing it. As a woodworker myself I think I would like someone to ask me before they significantly modify or repurpose something I made. Curtesy is a fast dying virtue but it seems to me it is kind of basic to this question. Maybe it’s not just about who owns something. I like to think the person who invested the time and creativity in making it have a vested interest in what happens to it.

  11. xMike

    As others have said, there is a long tradition supporting re purposing/rebuilding furniture. Go for it.
    I like Antiques Roadshow but I have to laugh out loud when the appraiser swoons over dirt (“PaTiNa!”), tisk’s over clean-and-polished (i.e., actually used in a home), and drones on about how an antique would be worth zillions if only “someone” hadn’t modified it. Modification is as valid a part of its history as is cleaning it periodically.
    Plus, if you could preserve the original manufacturing mark and add your own with the date you rebuilt it, you’ll give some future ARS appraiser a reason for a 5 minute segment.

  12. ejosgood

    Steve,DON’T DO IT!

    My father was from a family of 9 kids. They had a large dining room table. It was one of the few things that he kept when my grandparents were no longer with us. I grew up in a small house, so the table didn’t fit. My dad had stored the table for years in his sisters barn which had a nice workshop area. Dad’s plan had always been to build a larger house, one which would accomodate such a large table, and where his brothers and sisters and their kids could all come and be comfortable. He loved the memories of growing up with that large family and mealtime.

    One day much to his surprise he visited my aunt and was surprised to find that my uncle had cut the table up to use the wood to build some book cases. You cannot begin to imagine the hurt and disappointment my father felt when he learned the fate of the table that meant so much to him. My father had a good heart and I’m certain that he forgave them for what they did, but you knew that it was if a part of him died when that table was destroyed.

    I’m certain that if that table were still a table, that one of our family would still be using it today as we knew what it meant to him, even though none of us have large families or homes, we would have made it work.

    Give it to your children and share its meaning with them. They and future generations will cherish it when you are long gone.

  13. Maurice

    SELL IT! If you value the integrity of the piece, chances are someone else will to. With this table out of the picture, you are freed up to create the appropriate table for the space that you have. I just went through this experience, and will be making a table shortly.

  14. oldfox

    A Moser, is a Moser, is a Moser. It has only been a few months since you have had to make this, obviously, heart wrenching decision. Put it away for 5 years. Then take it out, set it up and have a family reunion dinner. If you still can’t make the decision, do it again in another 5 years. In the meantime, pick yourself up a “Sears Once-in-a-Lifetime Annual Sale” table. Or another Moser. But don’t destroy it now. You need the time to decide. “Time changes all things.”
    Hurricane Ike flooded my home and I lost ALL of my accumulated woodworking tools, material, everything. I am just now coming to grips with that, so I know. You have the choice.

  15. Kevin Fitzsimons

    It’s a beautiful table and MAYBE built by CB. But, it is a production table, with no really unique construction techniques or hand carving. It’s really pretty basic. Probably hundreds were made so the second hand value might not be what many people assume. If you modify it because you want to keep the memories close and visible, modify it. Keep it in the family. With families moving into smaller homes, it will be more useful when you hand it down and will mean more to the family because this is now dad’s table. It’s just a table that any woodworker can make. It’s the memories you’re preserving.

  16. j_a_wolfe

    Steve,
    The fact that you’re wrestling with the thought of “destroying” an art piece to retain the sentimental piece of furniture is very telling. While you’d be eliminating its resale value, your comments seem to tell me that the value in your heart greatly exceeds the market price. Cut it up and retain as many nicks, dings and scratches as you can.
    Moser table in original condition ~ a few thousand dollars.
    A piece with the mileage, laughter and tear stains ~ Priceless.
    YMMV,
    Jiim

  17. aspicer

    One of the things I love about our craft is the ability to make or modify what we need. There is a LONG tradition in our craft of modifying, adding and re-purposing wood to suit a new purpose. The piece you are talking about is not an irreplaceable museum specimen. It’s valuable only in the context of your life. I say modify it in whatever way serves your current purpose and keeps your valuable memories intact for your own enjoyment.

    I’ve read enough and hear enough from both Thomas Moser and Christian Becksvoort over the years to believe that both of those men would applaud your approach.

  18. Dazzzle

    Altering pieces is something that happens regularly in history, one only has to look at old English pieces to see that. It is obvious that Steve has a connection with this table, why not ask the man/firm who made it for an opinion before you do alter it. You have the requiste skill to do the work, so unless another family member is willing to adopt the table I would be tempted to press on.

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