If you were hoping to read about making coffee tables at the North Pole, or kitchen cabinets in the Sahara Desert, I can save you a lot of time – this isn’t it (although hold the thought, we may well do that one day).
What I’m talking about here are two projects that left my workshop in the last week, which are at what I consider to be extreme ends of my woodworking spectrum.
This Whisky Stand is a 50th Birthday gift for my brother-in-law, housing a pair of Dartington Crystal glasses and a bottle of Jack Daniels Single Barrel.
The single piece of beautiful American Black Walnut was shaped to curves and profiles to please the eye and it was finished with many coats of hand applied shellac polish. Working to show the timber to its best advantage whilst complementing that with the form of the piece is an enjoyable and creative process.
This kind of woodworking makes me feel alive; when the form of the piece starts to show itself from the natural material.
The living room cabinets inhabit the other end of the spectrum. Made from MDF, a stable manmade material with no variations or character, spray finished to a durable, but unchanging surface. The process of making these units is more akin to factory production – cutting the elements from sheets with a track saw, joining the parts with machine cut dominoes, machine sanding and spraying the components to a finish. There’s still a satisfaction at the end, but it’s more the achievement of ticking something off the list than an expression of creativity.
In my view there’s room for both of these in the life of a woodworker. They demand differing and diverse skill sets; having both in the woodworker’s arsenal makes a powerful combination.
I think we can all agree that the TV would never fit on top of a little walnut stand, so you need to be able to turn both modes on from time to time.
As ever, the cruel twist of fate is that the piece giving the most creative satisfaction is the one that’s for somebody else and has already left the building.
Consider this though – drinking that whisky might only serve to shorten my life whereas the formaldehyde fumes gassing off from the MDF for the next few years could well preserve me for decades to come.
A good result for all, I think you’ll agree.