The Philosophy of Furnituremaking
2006 Barnhouse Products, LLC
... bringing out the colors in the wood, is often regarded more from an emotional point of view than from a practical one. For
while some finishes do accentuate the visual characteristics, usually by differentiating light and dark features, others can discolor
the wood far more than one might wish. Staining is a complete topic in itself, but it ought to be said that in the main it kills the
visual qualities of wood, making it bland and lifeless. So much of the furniture one sees is adulterated in this way, and it's sad
that so much beauty is stained away for spurious reasons.
The principal spurious reason for this state of affairs is usually given as economy. Manufacturers take wood randomly from the
pile and cut whole sets of furniture "en suite," in whatever manner wastes the least, and then employ men to stain it all to
uniformity. The public has come to expect walnut or maple always to have the same color it does in the furniture store. It
probably would cost the industry less to employ a man to select the lumber at the start, as does a maker working alone,
according to subtle variations in color and figure. The saving in finishing materials would offset any additional waste in cutting.
And despite industry's perception of the public's expectations, most people—once they are given the chance—quickly come to
relish the juxtaposition of heartwood and sapwood on a surface, and the beauty of the wood in all its color and variety. Indeed,
this is a part of what gives custom furniture its quality. - Ian J. Kirby, from Fine Woodworking #11, Taunton Press
This will be my "rant and rave" page, where I ask your pardon in advance. I feel it necessary to explain my
viewpoint of the current state of commercial furniture (and non-furniture for that matter).
Electronics from Heaven
One of the reasons I'd given up on electronics design is how the public is enamored by what is the latest phone/mp3 player
available. I used to get trade magazines in which they would occasionally take apart a piece of electronics and see what
parts were used to make it. Take the Apple ipods for example: they are selling these devices for huge amounts of money
which cost so little to make, and are made with conventional off-the-shelf components. Anyone with a little know-how
could make these things. People see these ipods as magical little boxes and don't realize they are getting ripped off, and
they're willing to buy this brand over another brand because of hype. This electronics worship is just disgusting! I think our
resources could be put to better use.
Why buy junk that barely passes visually (let alone functionally) because the price is low? You'll pay as much buying
replacement furniture through the years as one set of decently made furniture. I toured the local furniture stores one day to
see what they were offering. Most was made in Asia and was held together with staples, screws and hotmelt glue. The
legs on tables and chairs were made to be assembled by the furniture retailer. When pressure was applied, the legs
wobbled. You can't make a strong, permanent joint on a piece that takes so much stress with a bolt and a nut! The designs
were caricatures of traditional styles with overly bowed and fantastically carved cabriolet legs. Once you have an idea of a
Loony Tunes animation (ever notice that furniture?).
Just recently, another store came to town selling all kinds of electronics and furniture guaranteeing "the lowest prices."
Why even bother going into that store for furniture? There was a big hullabaloo about Ikea opening an outlet in the Portland
area. Now even more people's furniture can look the same!
Over time, people have come to think of furniture and the materials they're made of as something far removed from what
they were in the past. Furniture should make you feel good when you see it. You should walk into a room that contains a
nice piece and you should feel good that you bought it and it should maybe even inspire you to greater works! I have my
prototype swivel stool and a bar height table in my home that I use for a computer table and for quite a number of months
after I placed them there I really enjoyed seeing them there. The wood in furniture should have some character and be
unique, not something that came out of a mold. Generations are growing up not even knowing what to look for when they
One might think that by making a thin veneer of a nice wood (vinyl woodgrain?) and applying it to particle board that this is
good for the environment because fewer natural resources are used. But in the end the item gets bumped against and no
one is going to fix that damaged place (after all, it will cost a good portion of the original cost), and after enough knocks the
item gets taken to the local 2nd hand store or the dump. Fine furniture is made of solid wood (or at least thicker veneers)
and will just need a little sanding and finish. Cheap furniture (or anything else for that matter) is just a way for companies to
steal from you.