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. Katoom

    Steve, I wouldn’t modify your Thomas Moser table. It’s too beautiful. Keep it in the family and let someone else use it. Keep the legacy going. You are fully capable of building another table and it would be “your” craftsmanship.
    Terry

  2. Jallens47

    Hello Steve,

    As I see it, if the table is in good shape and you feel it has 15 or more years of service left, leave it alone and pass it on to someone who has a need for an 8′ table and appreciates a Moser design. Then build your own from scratch. The table you build will truely be your own and will be treasured by your children as “the table that Dad built” a lot more than “the table that Dad cut down”.

  3. Reidtired

    Steve, I have to agree with g-dresser and hodgman. the memories embedded in the table are not just yours, but the entire family. Build a new one and new memories. Your kids will value both. Too many times I have seen beautiful pieces of work “improved” only to the regret of the owner and others.

  4. hodgman@gmavt.net

    I agree precisely with g-dresser–don’t cut it up. It is not a table. It is a family treasure, beauty marks and all. Moser really has nothing to do with it. I am 79 years old, which probably colors my perspective. Build a new table from scratch. One of the kids will want the Moser table. Another will value the replacement table that you design and build with your own hands.

  5. Festus1960

    I have an old woodworking/cabinetmaking book I purchased at a garage sale. One of the projects is how to “update” an old, out of fashion Morris chair into a table. I know it’s not quite the same thing, but I always wondered if some Stickleys ever suffered that fate….

  6. g-dresser

    Steve, I’m with the don’t cut in up group. I would hope that a family member who grew up eating at that table would love to have his or her kids continue the family traditions that are a part of their family heritage. If not, then give it to a relative or friend who would, in time, treasure it as you have. Do build a new table that will fit in your new eating place, one that you will come to treasure.

  7. xMike

    OK Steve, the magazine owes you a bonus for this one.
    Great interest – I’ll bet this garnered a record number of comments.
    Now, what are you going to ‘threaten’ to cut up for the next issue?

  8. cahudson42

    Hi Steve,

    If it were mine, I’d save and store it until one of my kids was ready for it. If more than one wanted it, then flipping a coin or drawing straws..

    I’d then enjoy making the new table! I believe a similar table to what you want shows on pg 136 of the latest edition of Moser’s How to Build Shaker Furniture.

  9. winthrope

    Why don’t you talk it over with Moser? He is still kicking, it was his table before it was yours, and he may have some pertinent suggestions.

    1. Steve ShanesySteve Shanesy Post author

      Perhaps I’ll get a chance to do that. I heard from someone at the company who was sending the post to Tom. Would be interesting to get his take on the subject.

      Steve

  10. bluengle

    I can’t help but be reminded of the Aesop fable of the man, his son, and their donkey by this blog. Anyway, when it comes down to it, the value in any object is only in what it means to you. If the value is in the memories it represents regardless of minor change in form, then keep it and trim it. If it means more in its original form for that same reason or because of who made it, then don’t trim and save it for one of your kids. If its value was merely what it was worth as a collectible, well, you’d have probably sold it by now. At any rate, one thing is certain–woodworking has always been about form AND function. I don’t think anyone, including the original builder no matter who, would prefer it see put out to pasture just to preserve it as artwork alone. That’s not what we do.

  11. Paul

    Steve,

    Before I retired from custom Gunsmithing & stocking, When A customer had Valuable antique to rework and or refinish. I would ask for a little history,if he just wanted a hunting gun, and did not care one way or other. I would put him in touch with some one who does care, Usally he would sell or trade for something I could build what he wanted.

    Sorry to ramble, It is your table Do what you want, it will just make others of like kind more valuable!

  12. lastwordsmith

    Yes, you should modify the table exactly as you have planned. My rationale is too long to post here, so I wrote it up on my blog instead:

    http://literaryworkshop.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/what-is-this-worth-to-you/

    In short, you do no service to the table itself letting it sit in the garage. You restore its intrinsic value as a dining table–and as a centerpiece of your home life–by bringing it back into the house, even if you have to modify it to do so.

    (another) Steve S.

  13. frankgilbert

    Here is the deal. Use the cut off pieces to build a box or whatever and enjoy the whole table in different form. Non replaceable and part of you so keep every scrap.

    Best of luck with your decision. Another thought is call Mr. Beck… for his opinion.

  14. scot

    In restoration we redo and remake, in conservation we do the least amount of change and always make sure the piece can be returned to its previous state. If the piece is worth conservation then it is not a redo. If it is just a table with no historic value then the sentiment and sentimental value, is yours and it is up to you what you do. There is only one real path and that is the path with a heart; follow your heart.

    1. sandywaters70@hotmail.com

      Almost exactly my thoughts about this. I registered as a user just so that I could post a comment. “Please do not cut up that table.”

  15. LMJF

    I AM SURE YOU COULD FIND SOMEONE THAT WOULD LOVE THIS TABLE… JUST AS IT IS… AS MUCH AS YOU DO.
    BUILD AN HEIRLOOM ONE FOR FUTURE FAMILY MEMBERS.

  16. gb560

    Document whatever you do with the table, pictures, receipts, etc. Contact Moser and see if they have any suggestions. Maybe they would be willing to guide you through a reconstruction, even refinish and recertify the table. It looks like a work of art and will last generations with lots of story behind it. Best of luck and let us know what happens.

  17. georgeandgracie

    Are you sure you wouldn’t feel sort of guilty after lopping parts off the table? I can’t see how modifying it will make it more “yours”. If your kids develop a sentimental streak over time they may well bemoan what you did to the table.

  18. waltamb

    I would never re-construct a classic.

    I would consider trading the table with one of woodworkers to make you a smaller one just like it.

    There is also a Moser showroom that could sell the one you have.

  19. PFSchempf

    I’m with Derek on this one. Relatively speaking, there are a lot of Moser tables, but only one the Shanesy family grew up around. Although it is a beautiful table from a well known maker, it won’t mean more to anyone else.

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