For those interested in learning more about Arts & Crafts furniture, I’ll be presenting “Unknown Arts & Crafts–Design Sources” for Popular Woodworking University. You can read more about the class here. Conversations about American Arts & Crafts furniture tend to begin and end with the work of Gustav Stickley. His reputation is deserved–and he inspired countless imitators–but some of Stickley’s contemporaries produced Arts & Crafts furniture that offered unique interpretations of the Arts & Crafts ethos. In this session, we’ll examine seminal works from these noteworthy makers.
It’s only after building this variation on a Børge Mogensen design that I fully appreciated the original. Normally I like an apron set back from legs to vary the plane of a base, but here the legs are set flush with the base aprons, and the entire base is flush with sides of the case, presenting what should be a monolith, but the cove along the top of the base interrupts the facade. Too, Mogensen creates variation elsewhere, making the shelves thinner than the case stock and setting the edges of the shelves back from the plane of the case front.
Aside from the mitered case sides, construction was pretty straight forward. Mortise and tenons join the base, which is then coved, and dadoes house the dividers. To cut the miters, I used a large chamfer bit and clamped a fence to the edge of the board to guide the bearing–a simple setup that let me bring the tool to some large pieces of stock and also avoided fussing with a router table. I cut the miters in multiple passes, slowly easing into a finished cut. Sadly cutting the joints was the easy part; glue up proved a little more problematic. For such a large assembly, I couldn’t tape the edges and roll the case up after applying glue. Instead I glued the dividers to the case top and bottom, then glued one side at a time, clamping the side to a diver and using clamps to along the side to bring the miter together. After considering options for base attachment, I drilled some pocket holes in the aprons and screwed the base to the case. Shelf hole liners finish the raw shelf pin holes.
Researching my latest book project, I cam across this modular shelf unit by Mogens Koch. The case can be oriented on either axis depending on storage need. And since the units are modular, they can be built up into multiple configurations. A stand and doors allow further customization. The cases are dovetailed, which surprised me a little, but it makes sense since these are made from solid stock. Here’s a group assembled as a wall unit at 1stdibs.
I’ve been looking at a lot of wall units as part of my latest book project, and my favorite has to be this one by Finn Juhl. I didn’t think shelf brackets could look so good. Part of it is the excellent staging and photography by Wyeth, but the piece itself shows good design coupled with capable manufacturing. Tt uses the rosewood grain to good effect, and I like the contrast of wood and reed. The piece is completely wrong for our space, but I’d love an excuse to build something like it. Not a situation very forgiving of mis-measurements, though . . .