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. jvduncan

    I would lose sleep at night even thinking about cutting up the Moser table, as much for the history of your family around that table as for the artistry of the table. My choice would be enlarge the area for the table. When your whole family comes to visit they have their familiar place to sit in an area large enough for them to do so. One of your sister magazines has plans for enlarging a room. Don’t downsize the wrong thing. Thanks for reading.

  2. jimfoley

    A table with that history has a soul and a memory. Within its fibers are the joys and, no doubt, the pain of a family growing up. What is important isn’t not that it’s a Moser but stories it can tell. It needs a life within your family, intact. It would make no more sense to chip pieces off a headstone to make marbles. The value is the history.

  3. GLJacobs

    As a Cabinetmaker at Moser I have cut up pieces unfit for first quality shipment to our customers and I have even taken two Continuous Arm seats and carefully spliced them together cutting off the blemished parts to make one useable seat instead of having two unusable seats. I’ve also seen table tops re-purposed to be made into completely different objects of first quality. With that said cut and shape away. Make your new table and do it the best you possibly can and nothing will be better than having your table and making it too.
    -Cheers

    1. Cosmo

      Kinda says it all, don’t it.
      “Make your new table and do it the best you possibly can and nothing will be better than having your table and making it too.”

  4. mrphil

    Hey, you paid for it, it’s yours…anyone who has sold their woodwork knows this. You can cut it down to size, modify it, refinish it or cut notches and make an ashtray out of it if you want. I would advise judicious restraint,however,it is a really nice piece and could be very valuable some day – but still, it is valueless if you don’t get use out of it.So have at; don’t get too caught up in the intangible, you can’t sit down and eat at an intangible

  5. jack_alan

    My first thought is “Would you cut of the tails off a Maloof rocker if it was too long for the room?”
    My next thought is If you’re qualified to do the table justice with resizing…then “Go for it.”

  6. loloane

    I feel your pain, new space, old furniture, lots of memories. Ofttimes they just don’t fit together.

    That said, no disrespect, you’re nuts!

    Find a new home for the table, build a new one like you want/need. You have the skills, yes? Make it nice, write an article.

    A hermaphrodite is a proper class of sailing ship, not a cut-down, re-purposed Moser, even if executed with style and grace.

    Cheers,
    Larry

  7. Quis

    I had to make a comment, so I went and registered for the site, as much as I’ll hate the junk mail that will be coming. I think there have been some great recommendations for something other than cutting it up, that you should seriously consider. Eventually one of the kids may well treasure the table they grew up with, and have the space to make it their own daily user, though this isn’t certain. But I suspect that none will want it in an empty-nester size. I think its worth the wait to see, especially as it comes from a recognized cabinet maker. It may well become the center point of family gatherings, and enhance the desire to make long trips to be with family on the special holidays. Building something new, without the dings and other beauty marks does not mean you’ll forget the fond memories.

    But whatever you decide, follow your heart.

  8. byrdman61

    Absolutely make it work for you and your family in the new dining area. I think that it may be even more special to you and your family with your craftsmanship added to it. The other negative replys talking about the signature, the serial# etc… That would carry weight if you were planning on selling the table which I am sure that you are not. The only reason that I would not resize the table is if you and your family feel that there may be another move in the near future that may have more dining area room. If you and your family are planning to stay where you are presently at, well get to work so you and your family can continue to enjoy this memorable piece of furniture. Good Luck and God Speed.

  9. sandylns

    Just do it. Years ago, I was faced with the same problem. Our coffee table, an expensive imported Danish teak table, was too long for our new living room furniture. So, what to do? With much trepidation I cut over a foot from the table. Milled new end boards and, today, you can’t see that is a different table.

  10. PhilS

    Please do not modify the table. as you said, the table is signed and dated as a Moser table. If there is a serial number or other identification, you might be able to determine the craftsman who built it.

    That aside, the table that has been in your family and acquired all those memories and developed its provenance is the table you see today. Don’t put an asterisk next to that by changing it.

    Instead, find another use for the table somewhere else in your house or give it to a family member who can carry the tradition forward. If they’re not ready to provide a home yet, let the table continue to live, unchanged, in the garage until they are ready.

    No mater how good a job you do, and I’m sure you’ll do great, it won’t be the same table. Leave it as it is today.

    Phil

  11. Jim Maher

    You should do what YOU want.

    If it were me, I’d give it to one of the kids (or store ’til they’re ready). This ain’t just a table, its an heirloom – imbued with FAMILY.

    AND, I’d make a table to fit the dining “space”. In time, that’s an heirloom too!

    The kids can argue about who gets which and who got the better one for decades. They’ll cherish every moment of those debates. And then the grandkids get to play.

    But that’s just me. YOU should do what’s right for you and yours.

    Enjoy!

  12. mattyk

    I too have been moved to serious woodworking by an early and maybe naive purchase of a Moser table. My family is at a different stage of life than yours…we still do homework at the table most afternoons before clearing for dinner. So I know the power of a first simple, beautiful, solid piece of cheery centering…no, anchoring the heart of our home. And so for the love of everything that is good and right in this world, Man, you can’t do it!!

    What you love is that table and the memories and transformational experiences iit represents…not the raw board footage it possesses. Cutting it up, no matter how successful the finished piece is will not do much to replace this icon of a life well lived. Cutting up its bones and gluing them into a new corpus, well, to me that is like stuffing a beloved family dog or mounting its head in the living room after a long life of loyal companionship.

    If you really love the table, find someone who too will be moved to a lifetime of inspired woodworking by it.

  13. Derek Cohen

    Hi Steve

    I would cut the table down. What is important is that you have the table and its associated memories – the marks, stains, scars, scratches – that remind you of the times the children spent there, and the laughter and tears of the family over the years.

    The new shape will not alter the soul of the table the way you plan to go about it.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  14. Sawtooth

    You’re not talking about turning a stradivrius into a banjo. Downsizing the table for your new digs is, I think, not the issue. After all, the table has been a part of your life and family, and you want that to continue. The real question is what do you do with the remnants? Make them into keepsake boxes for yor kids or something for the grandkids. Don’t throw the cuttoffs into the fireplace!

    1. Steve ShanesySteve Shanesy Post author

      You are reading my mind. One thing I haven’t mentioned here is that I would do something for the kids with the fall-off material. One thing I’ve considered is a miniature of the original table for each of them.

      Steve

      1. wdworker@bellsouth.net

        While I agree that it is yours to do with as you please, I think you’re NUTS. I modified a bentwood table that I thought wasn’t valuable because it was built with Phillips head screws & found out later that they were used in the 19th century. had I left it alone it would have been valuable. If you leave it as is It could be the means to help pay the schooling of 1 or more of your children. JHB

  15. roncampbell

    What a beautiful table and what great memories. If one of your kids does not have a place for it in their house then I agree with your plans to modify it so you can continue to enjoy it for many years to come. Good luck.

  16. Cosmo

    I would offer five options:
    1. Donate the table to a charity auction and build a new table.
    2. Call Moser and see if they would be interested in buying back the table.
    3. Offer the table “for sale” to the Popular Woodworking readers.
    4. Do you have children who would welcome the table into their home?
    5. Modify the table and keep it in your home.
    I vote for #5 as I have been through the same problem with downsizing.

  17. Stuart Hough

    Steve, while many would accuse you of sacrilege, in the end the table is just a thing. If you want to keep it, and modify it, do it. I have altered a lot of “things” over the years, and while some of my siblings have thought me crazy for “destroying” some expensive things, I still have them, and they are even more valuable to me because I am still making memories with those items, to add to the past experiences with those items. It becomes sort of a zen thing…if you honor the piece by taking great care in the modification, all will be right and just. Good luck!

  18. mvflaim

    If the monetary value of the table has no interest to you, have you thought about donating it to a local church or charity? I’m sure whatever family acquires it will build as many fond memories from owning it as you have.

  19. Ixzed13

    Seeing that you have thought a lot about this, I don’t think there is a wrong solution because we could each have different point of views. In the end, it’s your own choice, based on your particular circumstances. Make a decision, stick with it and don’t have regrets. :)

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