Posers need not apply

The following is a short excerpt from Making Things Work.

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It was a spacious shop, well lit and outfitted with a tidy mix of old and new equipment. “I’m working on a dining table and chairs for a client in Miami,” [my host] told me. “Quite a famous bloke, actually. To tell the truth, he’s got such a big name that I’m not allowed to say it. Not that that’s anything out of the ordinary in my world. These days it’s rare for me to work for anyone who’s not routinely written up in Esquire or Vanity Fair, that sort of thing.”

“Which part of London are you from?” I asked, curious as to the origin of his accent.

Ignoring my question, he turned his head to the right, saying “Come an’ take a look at this table and chairs” as he strode toward his workbench. The dining set was inspired by the work of French Art Deco designer Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann. The table, made of rosewood, was stunning. A cross between Deco and neoclassical, it had an extending top that could seat an intimate foursome or expand to accommodate 10. It was waiting to be finished, as soon as the chairs were ready.

“Double tenons hidden in those miters around the seat,” he remarked. “Ever use those darlin’s? I’m telling you, they are quite the challenge to pull off. But what a sturdy bit of join’ry they are. Those chairs will last forever. On the other hand, so will everything I make. That’s one of the reasons my clients are willing to wait years for an opening in my schedule.”

“I took a look at your website,” he went on. “Nice enough work, but really….’Period-authentic furniture and built-ins?’ It’s all been done before, ‘ain’t it? You couldn’t pay me to do that type of guff for common punters. On the other ‘and, someone’s got to do it, so I daresay it might as well be you.”

Now that he’d established I didn’t even rank high enough to engage in a pissing match (not that I am ever inclined to take part in such b.s.) I thought he might answer my question. “Which part of London are you from?” I asked again.

You can read the scintillating remainder of this tale and learn the origin of my host’s accent in Making Things Work.

About nrhiller

cabinetmaker and author
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9 Responses to Posers need not apply

  1. This excerpt is enough to make me buy the book. I am ordering it as soon as I get home.

  2. SSteve says:

    I just started the book. Read Chapter 1 yesterday. I even read the acknowledgements.

    • nrhiller says:

      The acknowledgements are so important. Wait ’til you see the acknowledgements in the Popular Woodworking book on English Arts & Crafts furniture.

  3. Richard Mahler says:

    Just received my copy yesterday and read the first few pages before lights out on a busy day. Look forward to reading all of it.

    I can admit that we share one thing in common: I am inclined to precisely the sort of colorful language you quoted yourself using when something was not going as planned, except that I engage in solitary work and mostly escape being overheard! Comforting to know that I am not alone in predicaments mostly of my own making, or in venting my spleen before settling down to make it right. A few moments of temporary insanity helps sometimes. My wife once told a friend who was admiring a creation, “Yes, well, he probably swore it into existence!”

    • nrhiller says:

      Oh, that is excellent. Your wife sounds fun. These occasional moments during glue-ups really do come down to a kind of temporary insanity that allows for a return to perspective. We get so focused on details — understandably; it’s the nature of craftsmanship — and allow so much of our sense of competence to depend on the fit of a joint.

      For what it’s worth, my employer’s response was a direct quote. I will always admire how adroitly he used humor to manage an extremely awkward situation.

      • Richard Mahler says:

        My wife with her wit and pithy comments is somewhat like living with a three-ring circus. She also tells people that my shops (a large external shop for large projects, and an in-house smaller one with miniature power equipment for small ones) “look like a goat exploded” most of the time. Guilty. It does not bother me until it impedes functioning.

        I am probably fortunate she doesn’t introduce me as her “current husband”, but it has been 49 yeas now!

  4. Brent says:

    Great story, great book. Well worth it.

  5. This is my favourite anecdote from Making Things Work!
    Worth buying just for the denouement.
    Brilliant.

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