Fix It or Just Split
Each month I receive newsletters from woodworking clubs and guilds around the country. Some come from groups I’ve spent time with and some arrive from people I’ve met while doing furniture and woodworking shows.
This month I was particularly interested in a newsletter from the Washington Woodworkers Guild , “The Wooden Word.” On the first page of the newsletter (open the pdf below to read the page) a man is pictured standing next to a Massachusetts Block Front Chest. That would normally catch my eye by itself, but this article had my name associated with it as well. What did I do this time?
Tom Witzig is an accomplished furnituremaker and member of the guild who decided to build his Block Front Chest using a chapter from my book “Building Period Furniture” (Popular Woodworking Books) as a basis. As I see it, he builds pieces exactly as he should. Tom changes the design to fit his style of craftsmanship, he allows the material on hand to dictate the size of the piece, and he makes the necessary adjustments along the way. In my opinion, not following the plan and directions to the letter makes you understand the process better. Understanding the process allows you to apply those methods to future projects. If you follow the directions, you build one piece. If you understand the process, you can build any number of projects employing the same techniques.
On the downside of the article, Tom nailed the drawer runners to the case (as I indicated to do) and the case side split. That upset him and he vowed to add rear drawer dividers and not nail the runners if he built the piece again.
That would upset me too, but only for an instant. I don’t mind cracks in the case side due to wood movement , although my customers weren’t real fond of them. I think it makes the furniture more authentic looking when building reproductions. If you examine period pieces in museum collections, you’ll notice many case pieces that are cracked at the sides. It’s what happens over hundreds of years. Some of the pieces show old corrections or fixes while some stayed as they were.
You wouldn’t dream of fixing an original John Townsend chest , would you? I let time take its course on my pieces. What would you do?