I think it’s safe to say that most people have a list of things they would like to accomplish before they die. Most of the lists are a combination of places to visit and crazy things to do (which may bring you much closer to the end of your list). Not mine. I’m measuring the number of my days by the projects I want to build. Here are my top ten:
- Tool Cabinet: I had the opportunity to see the Studley tool cabinet and the replica made by Jim Moon; both left me in awe. Long before Handworks, I worked in a custom woodworking shop that had a poster of the Studley cabinet hanging on the wall. I knew back then that I wanted to build a fancy tool cabinet. But not like Studley’s (or Moon’s) which are over the top inspirational. I have my heart set on something similar to Greg Radley’s (Found in Jim Tolpin’s The Toolbox Book). This project has been on my bucket list for years which is why I haven’t built something else. But the old dresser I’m using now is nearing the end of its usefulness so this one gets the number 1 spot.
- Upholstered Chair: My father-in-law has a chair that is wonderful to sit in. I like the style of it, but my real interest lies in the learning curve. I’ve never done any upholstery work, but I asked Michael Mascelli about it and we emailed back and forth enough that I’m confident I can build the frame.
- Guitar: I enjoy playing the guitar and would love to own a Taylor. But the truth is that I’m not that good at playing and the cost is prohibitive (especially when all I do is repeat a bad version of Smoke on the Water). But building one? That would be fun.
- Federal Hall Table: I’m not particularly drawn to Federal furniture, but I saw one built by Frank Strazza that was unbelievable. In fact, this was the table that inspired me to give marquetry a try. I have no idea what I would do with it once it was finished (my wife wouldn’t let me keep it) but I almost consider this piece to be a “rite of passage” as a woodworker.
- Sideboard: While visiting the Biltmore Estate I saw a huge sideboard (everything in that “house” is huge) that I dreamed about for days. I even made several sketches and proportional changes so that it would look right in my house. But then the November issue of Popular Woodworking came out featuring an Arts & Crafts sideboard by Nancy Hiller. It’s perfect. Now I’m rethinking my plans.
- Pie Crust Table: Simply because it looks like a technical challenge. I don’t own any other classic furniture and I haven’t made any either. But this is the one that gets my heart going. One of these days I may even come across the perfect piece of mahogany and make it a reality.
- Campaign Furniture: When Lost Art Press released Campaign Furniture I didn’t even know that was a thing. Everything in the book could be on this list. I think I’m drawn to the combination of brass and wood the most. But I’m also drawn to the simplicity of it. Functionally beautiful.
- Windsor Chair: I can only think of a few other projects that incorporate so many different disciplines; carving, turning, bending, green wood, drying wood… I can see why this chair can consume a craftsperson. If I ever make one I’m going to take a class with Greg Pennington or Peter Galbert so I have someone to hold my hand through the process. Plus there is nothing more fun than taking classes and working through projects with others.
- Bombé Chest: The back cover on the Jul/Aug 2002 issue of Fine Woodworking featured a bombé chest made by Randall O’Donnell. I can still remember standing in the checkout at Lowe’s looking at this. Of course, it was out of my league then and it still is, but a man has to have goals.
- Slant Front Desk: My wife and I were browsing an Amish furniture store when she found a desk she loved. And I loved the concept. It was a slant front desk but made for modern electronics—the proportions looked good but the price tag was too steep. Occasionally, she will mention “that desk we saw?” It has to be on this list.
Someday someone will have to pry a chisel from my cold fingers, but I plan to keep at it until then.
What would you want to build before you die?
*Note: This post seems link heavy. I try to provide links to make it easy for you to get to things I’m talking about. I don’t receive any compensation from anyone.