The Encyclopedia of Shaker Furniture

Yesterday I went to an antique show in Columbus, Ohio when I stumbled upon this book in one of the booths. When I first saw it, I thought the book was huge so, I browsed through it to see what was in it.

After looking through the pages for a few minutes and seeing the book originally sold for $125.00, I decided the $20.00 the guy wanted for it was too good to pass up.

I’ve had several books on Shaker furniture over the years, but none are as comprehensive as this one. The first 85 of 576 pages in this book goes into detail of how the Shakers came to be, their daily life, the tools and practices they used, and the different types of furniture each community made. There were over twenty different Shaker communities during the 18th and 19th century with a few of them only lasting a few years. The book talks about the different design and building practices the Shakers brought to their community as no one was born a Shaker. When you compare the furniture of one community to another, you can see suttle design differences between the two.

There must be over 1000 pictures of furniture along with the dimensions and descriptions of each piece. If nothing else, it makes an excellent reference book on Shaker design.

The book is so nice, it’s no wonder why it still sells for over $100 on eBay and Amazon. If you can find one that’s affordable, get it, you’ll be glad you did.

Here is the Introduction from the author himself to get a better understanding of the book’s purpose.

Making a Shaker Table from a 2×8

Earlier this week I grabbed a 2×8 that was 8 feet long for $6.00 at Lowe’s with the intentions of making a shaker table out of it. I’ve made a lot of furniture out of Southern Yellow Pine dimensional lumber over the past couple of years. One of the best things I like about it is that it’s dirt cheap. The other is that it comes 1 1/2″ thick so when making legs, I don’t have to laminate two 3/4″ boards together exposing a glue line down the leg. The biggest downside is that the wood is very soft and easily dents however, lately I’ve been building things to look old, and a few dings and dents will only add character to the piece.

Making the legs of the table is a synch. Rip four pieces 1 1/2″ wide x 1 1/2″ thick. The next is ripping down the stock to create the carcass of the table. Because the 2 x 8 is exactly 1 1/2″ thick, getting two pieces that are 3/4″ in thickness is next to impossible. I settle for ripping it down the middle and yielding two pieces 5/8″ thick after I clean them up in the surface planer.

After I rip the stock to 5 1/2″ wide, I don’t just rip the piece all at once on the bandsaw. I set my table saw up to rip it in the middle and run a kerf on each side of the board.

Then I take it to the band saw and rip the rest of the way. This does several things. One, it saves my band saw motor as it doesn’t have to fight ripping five and a half inches of wood. Instead it only has to rip about 2 1/2″. Plus the kerf of the table saw blade creates a channel for the band saw blade to ride in so I don’t get blade drift. It’s also much faster than ripping 5 1/2″ and it also creates less dust.

Once I have my side and legs milled, I need to route the joinery to attach everything together. Using my handy-dandy Colt plunge router, I route all the mortises in the legs and sides to accept loose tenons. The process is so fast and simple I wished I would have created that Micro Fence jig ten years ago.

After the joinery was cut, I tapered the legs with my taper jig.

For the top I wanted to use 3/4″ wood as 5/8″ would be a little too thin. This is okay because I still need stock for the drawers which will be 1/2″ thick. So I simply rip the next pieces at 7/8″ on the table saw and follow-up on the band saw like I did previously.

The parts came out clean but the two pieces for the top were a little narrow. Together they were about 15″ but I needed the top be 16″ wide so I grabbed a piece of off-cut scrap and glued it in the middle.

After the top was glued, I flattened it with my 16″ surface sander and beveled the edges with a 45 degree chamfer router bit.

I needed to assemble the carcass so I dovetailed the rail on top of the drawer and loose tenoned the bottom rail to the two front legs.

The carcass fitted together nicely so I sanded the parts with 150 grit sandpaper and then glued it all together. Now I needed to work on the drawer.

The drawer sides and back are made with the 1/2″ stock. I planed a groove down each side and the back of the drawer front. I then cut them to size and routed a dado in the side to accept the back.

I cut half blind dovetails into the drawers and used my Colt plunge router to rout the majority of the waste and cleaned out the joint with chisels. Luckily I had a piece of scrap plywood for the drawer bottom lying around so I didn’t have to buy more wood. After I cut all the joinery for the drawer, I glued it all up.

As far as scrap goes, this is about it. Nearly everything from that 2×8 was used when I finished installing the drawer runners. Luckily I didn’t have any major screw ups where I would have to use more lumber because I didn’t have it.

The table came out pretty nice for $6.00. I plan on painting it (or my wife will) and give it away to my local PBS station. Next month they have an on air auction they call “Action Auction” where they auction off items from local businesses. I participated in it a couple of years ago donating this same shaker table only out of cherry. Back then, the table sold for about $135.00. It’ll be interesting to see where this one ends up. But for $6.00 and a few hours of work, it’s a good investment for getting my name on TV.

Since when do woodworkers buy furniture from other woodworkers?

I have to admit, I’d never thought that a woodworker would buy a piece of handmade furniture from another woodworker. After all we’re woodworkers, we could just easily make it ourselves. But what has happened over the past few months has changed my opinion.

It started a couple of years ago when I made four Shaker side tables out of cherry. I had plans of listing them on Etsy and turning a handsome profit. At first it seemed easy with a sale within the first week. The problem was that the person who had “bought” the table was a scammer trying to pull some over payment cashiers check trick and then have me send him the difference back. Luckily Etsy saw the scam and cancelled the transaction.

I had the tables out on Etsy for a few months with no other bites so I decided to delist them. I was them stumped as to what to do with them so I had the idea of donating one to my local PBS station’s Action Auction. The auction went well and I had my table on TV for several minutes as well as MVFlaim Furnituremaker listed on the PBS station’s website. So, the next year I decided to do it again. Even though I didn’t get any money for them, I felt good about the exposure and helping out my local PBS station with the donation.

Then last summer I got a call from one of the people who had won the auction for one of the tables. They wanted another one! So I gave them a price and went over to their house to deliver it. I met with the woman’s husband and he started talking about woodworking and took me out to his shop. I looked around in his shop in confusion. The man obviously had a nice set up. Nice enough to be able to build the table himself. Why was he buying mine? I asked him why and he told me that while he dabbles in woodworking, he doesn’t possess the skills that I have to build the table as nice as I did. I was extremely flattered by that.

Three tables down one to go. My wife decided to stick the last one in our spare bedroom and use it for a few months. It looked nice but didn’t quite match the French country decor she was going after so she listed it on Craigslist. A couple of days ago a guy called and asked if he could have it for a certain price. My wife and I agreed to the offer and told him to come pick it up. The man came to the house, introduced himself and started asking about what type of joinery I used to build the table. I couldn’t believe it. Another woodworker! Here’s another guy who would rather buy a nice handmade table than make himself. What is going on? He told me that he spends all his time at work and really doesn’t have time to build things he wants but appreciates nice furniture when he sees it. He even told me that he went down to Tennessee to Lonnie Bird’s school to take his Dovetailing class a few years ago so he definitely had a passion for woodworking.

All I know is that I learned something new today. Even though people possess the skill to build something themselves, they’ll still pay a fair price for the work of others. I didn’t get rich from the sale of the tables. In fact, I barely got my money back from the cost of the wood, but it still felt good helping out my local PBS station the past couple of years and meeting new friends.