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Thread: Fine furniture?

  1. #1

    Fine furniture?

    What is fine furniture exactly?

    I scour the net everyday to get my fix for new methods and techniques to use in my woodworking projects. I don't believe in there is only one way to do something. Never have and never will!

    It seems that alot of people believe that if you use metal drawer slides your fine furniture piece isn't fine furniture and that it's not quality work.

    That if you use nails or screws in your joinery that it's not fine furniture.

    That if you use pocket holes or biscuits it's not fine furniture.

    That if you use god forbid a belt sander your not building fine furniture.


    Last I checked this is the 21st century and we have all these items available to use in the making of our woodworking projects. Why not use them.

    Now people will start to say thats not how they traditionally built fine furniture but I say they didn't have these items available to them and if they were they were cost prohibitive.

    Why is it that alot of woodworkers only consider it fine furniture if you only used hand tools?

    I understand that some people enjoy using only hand tools and more power to them but how does that make a piece of furniture any more "fine" than one built with power tools?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Austin, Texas
    Some people want only solid hardwood, and classical construction. Okay, if they want to pay for it. See for a piece I built that way recently for a client. But I also figured that I could sell it for half the price with some shortcuts that I would take if I were building it for myself.

    And I did NOT use a belt sander. I used a 38 inch drum sander.

    My square steel nails to attach the shiplap back came through my nail gun.

    but the sides were wider than my power planer so they were partially planed by hand.

    And I bought drawer boxes from a factory.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Decatur, Alabama
    This obviously is going to have a ton of different opinions. To me it's about not compromising your design to make it easier. Building to last a lifetime, versus the standard disposable furniture we see in stores. A drawer doesn't have to have dovetails, but to shouldn't be butted together and brad nailed. Finished with care and thought, not picking something just because its easier or cheaper.

  4. #4
    Thats the purpose of this thread Jeb. I want there to be some discussion.

    Charlie I'm interested to know why you call them short cuts? I don't call using plywood a shortcut but I see it as a more effecient way to use our materials and get the same or better product.

    As for the belt sander i believe it's a useful tool if you know and understand how to use one. I'm thankful I was taught the proper way to use a belt sander and can sand solid wood edging flush with the surface of plywood without burning thru the veneer.

    I can tell you right now a belt sander has touched everything I have ever built.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Thomasville, GA
    The usual argument I hear is that classic fine furniture was built by the masters using hand tools. Well, duh... How many power tools were available way back then? And, do you think for a minute the masters would not have embraced power tools and high-quality plywood? They were master furniture builders, not dummies!
    Bill Arnold
    Citizen of Texas residing in Georgia.
    NRA Life Member
    Member of Mensa
    Live every day like it's your last, but don't forget to stop and smell the roses.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Dennison, MN
    To me what defines it is how long it l lasts, how well it's sanded, how good the finish is, and how well any moving parts operate.

    Technique, level of ornate mouldings, and design have nothing to do with it.
    Last edited by Karl Brogger; 12-02-2012 at 06:02 PM.
    "Do, or do not. There is no try."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Reno, Nv
    I have a Deacons Bench from the 30' the 60's I teethed on it, still has my teeth marks in the backrest. It's been in our family since 1951 and although it sucks to sit on (just not comfy!) it's a great example of fine, in the well built catagory, furniture.
    Your Respiratory Therapist wears Combat boots

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Austin, Texas
    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Bienlein View Post
    Charlie I'm interested to know why you call them short cuts? I don't call using plywood a shortcut but I see it as a more effecient way to use our materials and get the same or better product.
    On the web page I referenced, I explain how plywood provides better stability (even if moving to different climates), simpler construction because of the stability, and a lot less work (given the quality of the "premium" hardwood I can buy today). If somebody still wants hardwood cabinet sides and will pay for it, fine. If somebody wants to pay me to mill shiplap hardwood and nail it to the back, rather than just putting on a plywood back, fine, I will take their money. It is a shortcut because plywood is a lot less work, and IMHO gives as good or better results.

    I even go more modern on trimming hardwood edge on plywood... I have a (power) lipping planer for that job. I rarely use my belt sander!
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at

  9. #9
    I can agree with you on that the customer will get what he's willing to pay for. If he's willing to pay for solid wood then that's what he'll get.

    Keep it coming folks!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Agree with all the points above, it's going to be different for different customers. I prefer high quality drawer glides. My FIL wouldn't dream of using them, they have to be wooden and waxed. To me the joinery, quality of materials, hardware, and finish make a piece "fine" or "not fine".

    To add, I think seeing some artistry, either by design or proper use of materials and hardware can set a piece ahead.

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

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