Furniture Hacks Throughout History

Furniture hacks, unite!

Furniture hacks, unite!

Of all the pithy quotes I heard or saw tweeted at Woodworking in America a few months ago, the one at left has been banging around in my head the most. I want to look at the process of furniture design for today’s post, and so-called “hacking” makes a good entry point for this topic. Furniture hacks are everywhere – maybe even in your shop!

The word “hack” has various meanings in a woodworking context, almost all of which apply in some way to what I’m talking about. Hacking can refer to technique or method – utilizing whatever skills you possess to get the job done. The word can also refer to the basic act of banging away with a chisel on a piece of wood, as in hacking it apart. In the 17th century, the phrase “hacking stock” was commonly used to mean dimensioning and dressing lumber. But I’m mainly referring to a design process wherein the designer digs into a project plan – possibly someone else’s project plan – takes it apart mentally and puts it back together in the way he or she sees fit.

Perhaps I’m at the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, but I think it’s important to remember how much the history of furniture design is actually the history of furniture hacking. Every time you look at a project plan and consider how to make it really work for your needs, that’s what you’re doing – and that’s what most furniture makers have always done. In fact, if you’re not doing much hacking yet, I would encourage you to start now! Design modification is how you really stretch your brain and grow as a practical woodworker. Furniture hacks put themselves on a fast-track to being better craftspeople.

Who are some of the most notable furniture hacks in woodworking design history?

Tell us your answers in the comments section, and help other readers find the best sources for learning furniture design! I can tell you that a few notable furniture hacks appear in our latest value pack (link coming soon). This is a fine set of resources – probably my favorite so far – that we call the “Woodworking Fundamentals Collection.” Buy it as soon as it’s available!

Or, if you want to be a total DIY-er, learn how to computer hack our website and get all of our furniture design resources for free.

Dan Farnbach

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Dan Farnbach

About Dan Farnbach

Dan apprenticed and worked in two professional shops during the years after college. But sweeping shop floors only goes so far toward learning woodworking. These days Dan is online editor for Popular Woodworking, and is learning new skills every day. He divides his time between Boston and Maine.

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