Thoughts on using modern items in A&C fine furniture pieces

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by Percula posted 04-20-2010 11:29 PM 1455 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Percula's profile


9 posts in 3350 days

04-20-2010 11:29 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question arts and crafts victorian shaker greene and greene traditional

Hi All

Rather new to the site, and find it great.

I want to get some feedback on the idea using modern parts, pieces and technology in arts and crafts style fine furniture items. Or for that matter any classic style of fine furniture items, e.g. shaker or Victorian.

For example using hidden kitchen cabinet slides for drawers on a dresser or chest, the nice fancy types with auto close and all that jazz. Or even some of the “touch to open” slides. Or for that matter just any slide versus the classic all wood methods.

Or using LED lighting in a book case or china buffet. Or rare earth magnets for catches.

What do you think? Why do you think that?

8 replies so far

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 4080 days

#1 posted 04-20-2010 11:33 PM

i think its a great idea why we can not use 21st centuary tech in older furniture i think it adds a new and good twist to just pulling open a drawer or chest

great idea love it


-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4514 days

#2 posted 04-21-2010 08:10 AM

I’m a guy who, given unlimited time and resources, thinks that taking a 1950s car apart, using it for molds for carbon fiber or fiberglass, and rebuilding it around a modern chassis to end up with a car that looked fantastic but had modern emissions, mileage, and safety, would be an awesome hobby.

So, yeah, I see no particular glory in building something with a particular era’s tools and techniques. If that’s what turns your crank, more power, but I think melding good design with good technique is the way real innovation happens.

One thing I do have an issue with, however, is faux. If you’re using a Domino to make floating tenons, don’t pretend it’s a through tenon by gluing a cap on the other side. If you’re going to evolve a style, don’t emulate a technique that’s no longer necessary, Instead, use the design as inspiration to improve on a technique.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3463 days

#3 posted 04-21-2010 02:50 PM

I have a vintage motorcycle and it is important to me to keep it looking like it is all original. However, I had no problem with switching to an electronic ignition because that is a hidden change and not visible. I feel the same about furniture. Drawer slides are partially visible when the drawer is open, but, in my opinion, that’s okay. Rare earth magnets are not visible in the same way. I would gladly replace conventional lighting with LED, but I would not add lighting to a piece that would not have had lighting originally.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View CaptainSkully's profile


1610 posts in 3947 days

#4 posted 04-21-2010 05:07 PM

I have no problem using technology more advanced than Stickley or the Greene’s had a hundred years ago. It addresses problems (like friction) that makes your end product better. As long as the aesthetic is preserved, I say go for it.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 4177 days

#5 posted 04-21-2010 09:48 PM

Isn’t this exactly why all of got into this craft, because we think we can make a better version or we want a piece that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Go for it man, pimp out that 18th century highboy with a flat panel tv lift and an iPod dock instead of candle holders!

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View Domer's profile


252 posts in 3755 days

#6 posted 04-23-2010 10:33 PM

I also agree that there is nothing wrong with using modern techniques in Stickley or Green & Green style furniture.

Gustav Stickley sort of implied that his furniture was hand made when in fact it was all factory made using the latest techniques of the day.

Green and Green was made by the Hall brothers in their factory.

They did not have modern tools or hardware but I have no doubt that they would have used them if they thought they were better.

Sam Maloof said that he used the best tools to get the job done the best in the least time and effort. He was no stranger to modern tools.

In another field, Ansel Adams said the negative was just the starting point and used all sorts of techniques to enhance his photographs. I have no doubt that he would have used Photoshop to enhance his pictures.

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4584 days

#7 posted 04-23-2010 11:14 PM

Ok, let’s look at this for a moment. You mentioned A & C style, or “any classic style”. When you say “classic style” and “fine furniture” I don’t think about the stuff I can find in the big furniture store at the mall…you know, the one that carries the Arts & Crafts ”type” furniture. Not real Arts & Crafts stuff with through tenons & quarter sawn oak That’s not FINE furniture, it’s just production stuff with metal slide drawer hardware…not the same as fine furniture.

How about a Classic cherry Queen Ann Highboy? Do you really think it deserves drawers like your kitchen cabinets? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use newer stuff. All I’m saying is if you do, call it what it is. Lot’s of folks make lots of nice stuff using newer hardware, etc & I don’t wish to criticize that approach, I’ve made projects like that, too.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re are going to build something in the “classic” style, whether it’s A & C, or federal, or Queen Ann, (Is there an “e” at the end of Ann?) I believe you should build it true to form in all respects. If you just want something that kinda looks like them, then being accurate isn’t all that important.

If you’re building something as a commission, just ask the customer what they want, not every one is a nut like me. Some will opt for modern. Just my opinion…it’s free & worth every penny. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View TheDane's profile


5644 posts in 4052 days

#8 posted 04-23-2010 11:28 PM

I don’t see anything wrong with using modern parts and techniques … unless you are building reproductions that claim to be identical to the antique originals.

Norm Abram used to get a lot of flack for using modern techniques (e.g. pin-nailers, etc.). I think his position was the craftsmen who built the originals a century or so back were using the best tools and techniques at their disposal, so why shouldn’t we?

In a round-about way, this came up in a video Charles Neil did some time back. Charles builds excellent reproductions, but to make sure there is no way a serious collector could be hood-winked into thinking they are real antiques, Charles employs some modern technique or technology (e.g. pocket screws) in an inconspicuous place. The piece may look like it was built a hundred years ago, but any knowledgeable person would spot the pocket screws right off the bat and know he/she was looking at a finely-crafted reproduction.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics