Some furniture and cabinets built by commercial shops are held together with the equivalent of snot, paperclips and the coat of film finish on top.
Some pieces are even crazier than that.
A few weeks ago I spent most of a week holed up in one of the units at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village outside Harrodsburg, Ky. It was great to be surrounded by the inspiring architecture, decorative objects and the furniture of this colony.
But on my first morning there I visited the store where they sell reproductions of some of the Shaker pieces built by the colony in the 19th century. What I saw there still has me a little bit in denial. I hope I am wrong.
One of the nice originals at Pleasant Hill is what they call the “Saturday Table,” a small side table with tapered and faceted legs. No drawer. Just simple and nice. We published plans for it in Popular Woodworking a few years ago, and Kerry Pierce published plans in “Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture” (Popular Woodworking Books).
Pierce built the piece like I would have: The aprons are tenoned into the legs. The top is attached to the aprons using hand-cut pocket-screw holes (just like on the original).
While in the store, I turned over a couple reproductions of the Saturday Table. To my eye, it looks like the aprons are joined to the legs using staples. Then the aprons are pocket screwed to the top. To give the maker the benefit of the doubt, I tried to peer into a couple of the small gaps between the legs and aprons. Surely there must be a tenon in there. Surely these staples are there only to hold everything together as the glue dries.
But I saw no tenon or even the shadow of one. I saw only a narrow sliver of light that indicated there was no wood-to-wood joint between the apron and leg.
If my vision is correct, we should all grieve.
— Christopher Schwarz