20121118-114831.jpgTHE CHILDREN’S CORNER

With Thanksgiving just around the corner Mary is really in her element. She’s busily thumbing through her cookbooks, stacking ingredients on the kitchen counter, and consulting over the telephone with the other women of the family. I am happy to keep my distance from these preparations and Mary has always seemed content to leave me out of them. But the other day she wondered aloud if it might be nice to have a separate table and chairs for the grandchildren at the Thanksgiving dinner. Might I be interested in building this furniture?

I was intrigued. It’s been a while since I’ve built any furniture but I’ve always had a soft spot for the compact version of anything. Besides, I learned long ago that children’s furniture is an easy sell. Women invariably say “Oh, how adorable!” at first sight. With this built-in insurance in mind, I agreed to give it a go. In typical LIef Carlsen fashion I whipped out the table and chairs in the above photo in a few hours.

Craftsmen among my readers will probably already have noted that the joinery I used is not going to impress furniture makers. Let’s call it “screw and glue.” The typical furniture maker takes great pride in hiding his joints. It is as if they want the viewing public to think the component pieces of a chair or table magically stick together with no assistance from dowels, mortices and tenons, biscuits, and other cleverly hidden joiners.

I built a ton of furniture for our house back when I was too poor to buy furniture and I had access to the Skykomish High School woodshop. My furniture was best described as “functional” but it did pass the all-important scrutiny of the Mary Test – no easy feat. I tried my hand at a variety of joinery techniques with varying degrees of success. But always in the back of my mind as I was going to so much trouble to cover my tracks I was thinking “What’s so bad about seeing a few screw heads?” Truth be told, I rather liked the look.

Well, on this project I quickly realized that without access to the wood shop’s joiner and planer I was going to have to make a few compromises on construction techniques – either that or do a hell of a lot of hand planing. Instead of going to a great deal of effort to hide my tracks, I decided to embrace them. You might say my answer to the question “How are the pieces of my chairs held together?” is “With screws and glue! You gotta’ problem with that?” On this matter of joinery I took my hint from the gay pride movement, i.e., don’t hide your preferences – flaunt them. Think of my exposed screw heads as the equivalent of two men kissing on a gay pride parade float in San Francisco.

Mary is in town as I write, stocking up on ingredients for the upcoming feast. She hasn’t seen the completed furniture yet. That means that screw and glue pride aside I still have the all-important Mary Test to pass. Wish me luck.