Woodworking 101

It is a well-known fact that hobbies contribute to our mental and bodily health, particularly those that combine the exercise of the mind, the hand, and the eye. Much satisfaction is found when even the simplest objects of craftsmanship, those that may employ the common-sense ingenuity used in traditional methods of construction are used to produce a favorite household object. Something you made by hand yourself can be very satisfying.

One of my favorite classes in grade school was shop. We were invited to use real grown-up tools while taking care to keep them in good condition. When we respected them they seemed to work best for us. They were, after all, the extension of our own abilities to use them.

Of course, they started us off with a tiny, simple six-board box that happened to employ many of the techniques we might use later on more significant projects. Only the final product told how much you have paid attention, the final result quite telling of your skill. 

Once I was out of school, I came across a book ‘The Pine Furniture of New England’ by Russell Hawes Kettell. It is a book that almost shouts for us to have a hand at reproducing these simple pine objects of furniture. And to do it using the same bag of tricks used by cabinetmakers of yesteryear would be best if you can manage it.

Being interested in antiques at an early age, I found the book exceptionally interesting because it was filled with pictures of furniture in period settings. I found that the complimentary juxtaposition with other everyday objects was instructive as well as providing a peek into the aesthetic consideration of the original settlers. Good taste was evident on every page. All told, I probably have executed five or six examples from the book while having great fun doing so. I still have one piece that draws a lot of attention, perhaps because I had painted it that old Indian red about sixty years ago and it does look centuries old. It’s an adjustable pine trammel that carries a hog scraper candlestick. Kettell calls it a hanging ratchet light holder. The form probably hung from a ceiling beam and that’s how I used it in our log house. Collectors who visit seem sure it is an early nineteenth piece and sometimes even earlier. They only back off when I tell them I made it when I was a teenager.