Monday, August 25, 2008

Dealing with Guilt

I had the great pleasure of enduring a guilt-laden lecture this weekend.

Apparently in my attempt to live my life and do what was right for me, I crossed someone else’s line of acceptable behavior and had to spend hours hearing about it.

You see, I made some drawer sides from stock that was something other than CRAP. It wasn’t luthier quality 5A Birdseye maple, but my drawer sides weren’t knotty pine, either. This simple action on my part incensed a friend of mine, and John spent the better part of Saturday constantly telling me that I was a wasteful, short sighted, selfish, arrogant, immature, and foolish spendthrift. Then, just for good measure he added that I was at least partially responsible for most of the actions carried out by the Khmer Rouge, the genocide in Rwanda, and the introduction of New Coke.

The ironic thing is that I actually thought I was being frugal. The only ½ inch stock I had was the pretty stuff. And it was just the right size for the drawer sides I needed. This wood was a perfect fit for what I needed. So rather than run a lesser wood through the planer and turn 30% of it to chips….I just made my drawer sides from the good stuff that might have otherwise sat in the cutoff bin for years. I thought I was justified in my decision.

Because my friend has 40 years of experience building drawers, he has an unwavering opinion of what drawer sides can be. In his world they have to be the worst wood from the cutoff bin. Drawer sides are made from wood you “settle for.” I guess I wanted more. See, I thought since it was my life I could have drawers that were beautiful on the sides, too. I bought the wood. It was my sweat and tears that went into the construction. (Wait….you guys know me…let me rephrase that…). It was my BLOOD, sweat, and tears that went into the construction. I’m an adult. I have a right to make my drawer sides from anything I want. My friend just doesn’t see it that way.

Perhaps I should start a new policy of including one ebony sided drawer in each piece of furniture I make. If I had great talent (and infinite time) I would add marquetry on top of those ebony drawer sides (not on the drawer front…on the sides). And then, I would NEVER point out to anyone that one drawer in the cabinet had hidden beauty. Like a woman who wears her prettiest Vicki Stuff under the faded jeans she dons to shovel out the horse stalls in the barn, my cabinets would always have one little beautiful hidden feature that I put in there just for me. And even though most of my contemporaries are making drawer sides from whatever stock they decide to “settle for”… on at least one drawer per project, I will make it in a way that shows my very personal decision to rise above the level of mediocrity and reach for that brass ring just one more time.


JasonB said...

Your friend is an idiot. Using his own reasoning, why wouldn't he make all of his projects from particle board? Wouldn't that be the least wasteful? If anyone tried to lecture me, in my woodshop, he would quickly find himself outside the woodshop, permanently. Your shop, your project, your rules.

Anonymous said...

But ebony drawer sides?! What has the world come to? And New Coke! What were you thinking? In the large rule book of life, your copy apparently is missing the sections on drawer construction and patented cola formulas.

Great post...

Jason M

Mac in Indy said...

Jeff, I agree with you. You had the perfect wood and because it was 1/2 inch thick it was likely to sit unused for a long time. I like making the drawers nicer than is absolutely necessary. I like to use a nice contrasting wood to show off nice dovetails. I like to celibrate the details not just get by with the least effort and cost possible.


Ethan said...


I have an older craftsman-style two-drawer desk (I don't believe it is a Stickley; I've checked it up and down several times for tags). Aside from the general lines and appeal of the Craftsman design, my favorite part of the desk is the beading detail the creator added to the top edge of both sides of each drawer.

What's wrong with finding joy in (or even "not being worried about") little embellishments like that in your finished piece?

I find that to be the primary way I make my woodworking into something more like art.

Just because somebody has been doing something for 40 years doesn't mean he hasn't been doing it WRONG for 40 years.

Oh, and I love the idea of making the drawer sides of one drawer out of something exotic like ebony or blackwood! Great idea, Jeff!

Anonymous said...

How dare someone criticize your personal use of your personal property. I can't stand it when some holier-than-thou blowhard tries to foist their own opi.........Wait a minute. You used ebony?

Jeff Skiver said...

Everyone...thanks for the support.

I did NOT use ebony for the drawer sides....yet. That's just my reactionary approach to saying "If someone wants to freak out over my using some nice pinkish/red cherry for the drawer the future why don't I use ebony and really give them something to have a conniption over???"

I'm just glad no one latched onto that tiny little snippet about horse farm ladies wearing their best undergarments beneath their work clothes. I was prepared to get to suffer the wrath of the American Horsewoman for even bringing up her Vicki Stuff.

Ya know....comments like "Isn't it enough we have to shovel manure, but now you want us clad in the latest Victoria's Secret fashions underneath our jeans????? What kind of controlling pig are you?????"

Casey G. said...

You are absolutely right. The sides can be whatever you want!!! I have a beautiful solid mahogany dresser. When I say solid mahogany, I mean solid. The carcase, drawer fronts, drawer sides, drawer bottoms and even the drawer runners are all solid mahogany. I've never seen another piece like it. It's gorgeous and I love that someone 100+ years ago put that effort into it.
I totally support you on the shoveling subject too. That way, everyone wins!!!