As a furniture maker, it is always an interest of mine to gain inspiration wherever I can. Sometimes it is looking up at the skyscrapers in the city and using architectural designs for ideas, other times it comes from looking at a suspension bridge. But, my favorite source of inspiration is to look back in time.
My favorite activity, aside from creating pieces of furniture for family and friends, is to take a Sunday drive into the country and walk into antique shops.
The furniture found in these shops has most likely had many owners, been moved from here to there, and been hit in the foot by a vacuum or two.
There is no surprise that these pieces have lasted this long, whether they were created 250 years ago or just 60 years ago. Furniture is art which is used, and if it is not built properly it will only last for a short time.
When designing furniture, I make sure to use the experience I attain in the antique shops. I make sure to look closely at the joinery and construction of the pieces and implement many of the principles found there into my new pieces.
What I do see more than 90% of the time are dovetails. Pull out any drawer from a piece of furniture which has been on this earth for some time, and you will see solid construction and joinery. One cannot find a stronger joint than dovetails.
Back in the day when many of these pieces were constructed, dovetail joints were created by hand. Two signs of handmade dovetails are small inconsistencies (which are not found when machining) and an etched line which was drawn into the side in order to mark the depth of cut. This mark was typically not sanded out.
As I take these construction methods back to my shop and design my pieces, I tend to like to work smarter and faster than doing all my work by hand. Therefore, my dovetail jigs are one of my most prized tools. My investment in a high end router and bits has made my job of creating high quality pieces much easier. I hope to one day have my pieces of furniture in antique shops 250 years in the future…and don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I etch that line into the edge in order to give it a bit of a handmade look.