Photo by Rick Gush
Despite being an avid gardener, I’m a B-plus-grade carpenter. My cuts are usually off by a 1/16 inch, my sanding and varnishing aren’t so careful, and anything really sophisticated, like a dado joint, is beyond my skill-set. Nonetheless, I make up for my shortcomings with abundant enthusiasm and clever project selection.
The furniture I build can be described as rustic, but there are many situations in which rustic furniture is quite alright. When I married my wife, I built a group of kitchen cabinets and counters decorated with rocks we had collected during our courtship walks on the beaches around here. The work is good looking and sturdy enough, and all the hinges and other moving parts work well. I imagine that those pieces will become family treasures sometime in the future when I’m no longer around. They made the kitchen space much more attractive and usable. Pretty nice stuff if I do say so myself.
This week, I finished my latest project: a pair of Adirondack chairs for the lounge room of my new office/workshop. I’m crazy for these chairs—they’re the most comfortable un-upholstered chairs possible.
I built quite a few Adirondack chairs when I lived in Las Vegas. I had a half-hearted business for awhile building the chairs and managed to sell several dozen at $350 per chair. That sounds like a lot for a chair, but there’s so much cutting and sanding work involved, I couldn’t charge any less.
I haven’t made Adirondack chairs in about 15 years, so in the last few weeks, I’ve had to fumble along, remembering how to get it all done. In the end, I’m extremely happy with the results. These new chairs not only give me a place to sit but act as the decorative anchor for the lounge room.
My favorite “style” of carpentry is painted white enamel with a trim of varnished wood. The white painted basework allows me to use a lot of stucco and wood putty to square up and fill in, and then the nice varnished trim distracts the eye from the defects in the rest of the construction.
For the new chairs I used the 50-year-old fir shelving and old construction beams left behind in the same room where the chairs now sit. I think the wood is happy to have been re-worked in this way and happy to be able to still be in the room where it has been for the past half century.
Personally I’ve found my B-plus carpentry to be a highly emotionally satisfying activity. I know I’m not a real carpenter, but the things I can make are very useful and give me the pride of accomplishment. Sure, I’d enjoy being more competent and producing quality pieces like the big boys, but in the meantime, I’m more than happy within my limitations.