Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fine detail...

This week I am attending a week-long class with a renown furniture maker and prolific writer of woodworking articles and books. Garrett Hack is quite well known throughout North America for the detail and hand tool skills he brings to woodworking and furniture making. In the course I'm refreshing some existing skills and techniques along with learning a multitude of new skills. The essence of the course is fine detail such as inlay, stringing, banding, cockbeads, etc.

One soon realizes how much patience and attention to detail this type of fine work demands. It is fairly easy to make a mistake and in the process waste a component of a furniture piece. The individual details are called elements and are added to a piece to both accentuate the piece and to add elegance. I am learning that good judgement is necessary to enhance a piece of furniture with these detail elements. It's sometimes best to add fewer rather than more elements to avoid simply having too busy graphics on the furniture.

Delicate hand tool skills are the main ingredient of this type of work. Good, sharp tools are also very important. I find myself picking up a optical loupe to examine the recesses and grooves I have prepared for inlay and stringing, this demonstrates how small and precise the work is. A few periods of furniture style in past centuries featured adornment of furniture with these fine detail elements, notably the Federal period of furniture. As I once mentioned, furniture often denoted the status of an individual in these periods and therefore more detail and ornamentation made the piece more alluring and exclusive.

I have prepared this sample of abalone inlay, a fan detail, dots and squares, a diamond ebony inlay and curved stringing which can be seen in the photo above. These are very nice touches to furniture in both my opinion and from the feedback I am receiving. It was a very constructive week with many new techniques and processes acquired.