Monday, February 11, 2013


Here's the situation:
  1. We need a small cabinet, or sideboard
  2. I have my parents' old buffet
  3. It needs a lot of work
  4. It has been waiting patiently for over twenty years
  5. It is too long for the spot we have for it

So, I got to thinking, why not shorten it while I fix it? How hard could that be? What a great idea!

Now I know what you are thinking. You're thinking that is a major undertaking and will certainly take much, much longer than just fixing the buffet. Well, that is what you should be thinking, and if you are not, you too have no time reality. You should probably see someone about that - dangerous thing - bound to get you into trouble.

Anyway, you're right - it will take longer. But I'm going to do it anyway. Life is too short to worry about saving time. (See what I mean about getting you into trouble...)

Here's a shot of the existing buffet:

And here's a mash-up of my first idea:

But it was still coming out too large, so I think I might go the asymmetrical route with the doors and create something along these lines:

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, here's the label on the back of the buffet:

The Ebert Furniture Co. started out in Philadelphia in 1854, then moved to Red Lion PA, before shutting down in 1959. I'm not sure how old this particular buffet is, I always though it was from the 1940's, but my brother says it used to be our great grandfather's so maybe it is older?

I think it will be nice to get this back into use.


  1. It's always nice to get things back in use. Unfortunately for me, I have many "started" project like this and few "finished."

    Good Providence on this and I'm looking forward to seeing the result.

    1. Steve - I know what you mean... hopefully, this one will get finished, but time is so tight right now that it probably won't be very soon. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Dan I look at it a little different...I'm hesitating here because I don't wish to be viewed as some form of purist, that's not my intent. But I can't help but wonder (1) wouldn't it have some degree of value in its original condition that outweighs its value based upon adaptation to immediate use? (2) you are going to have to make some cuts that will affect its appearance or replace those parts. That will reduce its value to you or to your descendants...just some thoughts.

    Cuts or replacements: front skirt or new one needed, drawer fronts will now need patches for handle relocation unless you keep handles aligned over drawer handles.

    I don't know I can see both sides of the story but have you considered building the new piece and simply stylistically matching it to the old and preserving both for the next house or generation?

    Either way I think it will look good if you can keep the modifications invisible

    1. Scott - Thanks for commenting - and I agree that these points require some pondering. Of course, that has been a major factor in why it has been sitting in the garage for years...
      Here are my current thoughts on your points:

      1. Normally, I find I come down rather firmly on the "preserve" side of the "preserve" vs. "modify" debate. But I don’t, or I guess I should say I don’t now, because rather than “immediate use” I am beginning to think that this is more a question of but plain old “use”. Will this buffet ever be returned to a useful existence or will it be used for its wood? I guess I am being more pragmatic - the cons of modification are outweighed by the pros of use; which in the end is more preserving.

      2. I am planning on making the cuts with as little impact as possible. Something along the lines of removing the center section of the front skirt and scarfing the two ends together, and then reshaping the curve true. Of course I’d test this out first.

      One other thing I should mention, is that I have consulted with family members and they have unanimously supported both options.

      I tend to over think things, and this one has been a long time coming, and I will undoubtedly go over it several more times before the end. Thanks for helping me with the process Scott, I appreciate it.

  3. Dan that makes perfect sense. I am a month away from being here for 49 years...some would say it is too young to ponder the end of days but the paternal side of my family has a habit of checking out around 65. I hope to break that pattern, but can't claim that the thought doesn't shape certain decisions.

    Through my life I have accumulated with the intent - nay the complete confidence - that I will use the things I accumulate someday. I am now over the next 10 years planning on using or losing those things. so even if your reasons are different I get your conclusion from the perspective I have. It is time to make use of those things that are important to me even if it means modifying them

    I'm sure you'll post and I would love to see closeups of that scarf joint. You could always add a minor amount of horizontal stress marks to offset any potential vertical line...along with some darker horizontal patina I'm sure you can make it invisible

    1. Yeah Scott, that's pretty similar to my line of thinking - even the paternal part. I'll be sure to post shots of the scarf joint - assuming I make it. I'll probably try a test joint first to see if it works and then make my final decision after that. I'll post shots of the test when I get to it - buried in work just now!

  4. Hi Dan,
    I've just discovered your blog a month ago and as an aspiring woodworker, teacher, and newish father, I really appreciate your blogs. While reading about your buffet project, I was reminded of a buffet/cabinet at my great-grandparent's. It was probably 2 1/2-3 feet wide, with 1 door, and open shelving on the other half, with nice turned columns at the corners of the open shelves. There were 3 fixed shelve, no backing boards on the back or sides of the shelves, completely open (I now wonder if it was glass enclosed at one point,hmmm?). My great-grandma had some figurines or dishes on the shelves. Like yours, there was drawer, too. I'm sure this description is pretty awful, but this design is just another possible way to attack your dilemma.

    Anyway, I like this project, limitless possibilities. Good luck and thanks again!

    1. Thanks Nick - I'm glad you are enjoying the blog!

      Your description is fine, and I think I have seen something like that before. I don't think that would work for our situation - we really need more enclosed space (out of sight and little minds). But thanks for the idea and I agree about the fun of possibilities.

    2. Ah, yes. Should have known better. We have a 14 month old and another on the way. What little I've made lately has all been on the tall side. Standing desk, anyone?

  5. I like the asymmetrical route. So many things we make end up looking too perfect. In my opinion, your last mock up draws the eye to the piece in a room full of other furniture.

    Whatever you decide to do, good luck and make it your own.

    1. Thanks Joe! I like asymmetrical as well - particularly the way the Shakers did it. Still haven't decided, been too busy to actually need to decide just now. Soon maybe. Thanks for commenting!

  6. I think this is a brilliant idea. My father's an antique dealer and he let me loose i n his attic last month. I found a chest of draws that were around 5 inches off the perfect fit for our bedroom. So I got to work but unfortunately it ended up as fire wood. I'd like to blame the age of the wood rather than my skills as a carpenter. Love the blog.

    1. Jasper - Thanks, glad you enjoy the blog! Sorry to hear about the fire wood...


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