Sunday, 21 October 2012

Smooth running

When I made my woodworking pilgrimage of sorts to the U.S. I visited a number of well known furniture makers workshops. Some, such as George Nakashima's, are still active and vibrant workshops, producing pieces in the style of Nakashima's original work. Wharton Esherick, who like Nakashima, is said to be one of the founding fathers of modern American furniture, has had his unique home and workshop turned into a small museum.

A fascinating insight into Esherick's work and lifestyle, his home showcases not only his unique sense of style but also some extraordinary and ingenious craftsmanship. A walk through his kitchen shows random edged floorboards which have been beautifully interwoven, creating one of the most unique wooden floors I've seen. This eye for detail and creative flair are echoed throughout the home, at every turn, like ascending the spiral staircase while holding its mammoth tusk hand rail !

One thing which is not immediately apparent is hidden under Eshericks bed. Large drawers ( which still contain Eshericks clothing ) that given their size, under normal circumstances would be heavy to open and close. The guide who showed them to us, opened and closed them with one finger, effortlessly. The secret was that the drawer sides were more than double the actual length of the drawer, in fact they passed the opposite side of the bed, through the wall under the window and went some distance under the skillion roof outside. These extra long sides give the drawers perfect balance and ensure that the drawers do not bind up on the kickers or runners. Quite clever.

Wanting the basin stand to resemble a Shaker nightstand meant a single drawer at the front. But having a basin sitting above that drawer of course means a waste pipe and trap, right in the middle. My first thought was to have a false drawer front, complete with turned drawer pull. But the thought of people pulling at the faux drawer, perhaps mistaking it for being jammed, until something breaks or they start dragging the nightstand across the floor, quickly put me off that idea. I then thought of a short drawer, only 100 - 125mm ( 4 - 5" ) deep, but concern over it being pulled from the carcass and out onto the floor, put an end to that. 

That's when I recalled seeing the Esherick drawer. And so the drawer sides are full length and instead of through dovetails at the end of the drawer, simple through mortise and tenons instead, setback to allow for the drain. 

No unnecessary stress on the nightstand, no pulling a short drawer out by accident and a smooth running drawer which allows for the basin. 

Memory is the diary we all carry about with us. - Oscar Wilde.