This week, my town had its semi-annual "Bulky item curbside pickup" day - affectionately known as "Big trash day". Driving through town on my way to the shop, I could not help but notice the amount of furniture put out to pasture at the curb. Dilapidated desks, battered bookshelves, treacherous tables, and splintered seating all meeting their demise at the end of so many driveways. It got me thinking about what makes furniture furniture. Why did all of these pieces meet an early end when so many antiques survive hundreds of years intact. The answer is easy: but we can look at it from a practical standpoint and a philosophical one.
One of the things that separates fine furniture from factory furniture, or even lower quality hand-crafted furniture is material selection. In the past, I have ordered my cherry lumber to be delivered from a distributor. I might take in 250 or 500 board feet at a time, but when it comes delivered in a pack from the distributor, it is random width, and length, and although it is certified as "Select and Better" grade, much of the lumber is unusable because of knots, sapwood, or other imperfections that will not make the cut (or more realistically, will need to be cut.)