Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Study In Character - Rebecca's Shelf

Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that our work doesn't have to be perfect. The value or worth of a piece is not only measured by the quality of its construction; character counts. Sometimes, character is the main attribute.

Here's a case in point. Rebecca has a small wooden shelf in her kitchen. It sits on the counter next to the stove and keeps her most used items close at hand.

But it has flaws - a lot really. When seen from the standard woodworker perspective, it has serious problems. The top is warped - badly. The joints have failed and been repaired numerous times; it's nailed like a kids' tree fort and has awkward corner brackets. And it seems so plain - just four sticks and two boards, four dados and four rabbets.

And yet, there is another way of seeing it. It has character - a lot really. Its plainess is part of its charm. Sometimes simple is better than complex. The top, although warped, is stained with cooking oil and sauces from thousands of home cooked meals (and Rebecca is a fabulous cook). The nails speak of someone caring enough for this piece to not throw it in a landfill or burn it in a fire. It's made of wood, not plastic. Its surface ages gracefully, absorbing life and reflecting it back. It's around for the long story, not the short, disposable life.

This piece has character, and it counts. Rebecca says "Those shelves have been in every kitchen I've had." I'd love for someone to say something like that about one of my pieces. Yeah, it's not always about perfection - character counts too.


  1. I can see what you are saying, but for whatever reason, those angle braces always RELLY bother me. I think it has to do with the fact that a family member slapped one on a 100 year old cradle that has been in my family for generations. It was an easy and effective repair to a damaged piece, but it completely destroyed the appearance and is going to make restoration that much harder. Oh well.

  2. JC - Yeah, I know. But on the bright side, if they couldn't fix it any other way, at least they fixed it and it survived :)

  3. Very true. I look forward to all apects of the repair (even the angle braced joints except for one thing. I've got some lead paint to remove. I've got some research to do on that part.

  4. JC - Don't sand it! I'm no expert, but I'd say a paint stripper would be the safest way to remove it (of course, then what?). I've had great success with Soy-Gel. You can check it out here:

    Good luck!

  5. no sanding. I think the most abrasive thing I'll use is twine and burlap to help remove the paint, assuming that I don't just pay to get that part taken care of. The paint is flaking off pretty easy though, so I may just do it myself.

    Thanks for the product recommendation. I'll look into it further. I actually bookmarked your site when you reviewed another of their products. you had an entry about getting samples of their milk paints.


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