Necessity versus Generosity, or Why I Make Things

A Venn Diagram of my woodworking motivations would consist of two, significantly overlapping circles: necessity and generosity.  It turns out (unsurprisingly) my joy is in the making and I don’t form great attachment to the finished piece.  So unless there is a concrete need on my end, odds are high the final product is going right out the door (usually to someone who has a concrete need on their end) and I will move on to the next project.  Some examples may help.

Necessity:

When I vacated my previous apartment for my leave of absence, I gave away almost all of my furniture, including my living room set (which I had acquired prior to taking up apartment woodworking).  I did this on purpose, so I would have to build myself a coffee table, side table and media console while I was on my leave of absence. They had to be ready for when I moved back down full time to Connecticut because, otherwise, I would have an unfurnished living room, which is no fun at all.

Be it an original design or a reverse-engineering from a high end furniture retailer (I subscribe to all the catalogues), each piece is custom fit to my needs. As soon as my needs change, the piece goes out the door.

Generosity:

I enjoy making footstools.  They’re really just tiny tables (usually for tiny people, like my niece and nephew).  The stock preparation is manageable (the biggest piece is usually 14″ x 11″ or so, at most) and the joinery is straightforward (dovetails and/or mortise/tenon).  As an added bonus, they are meant to be literally stepped on and are usually stored on the floor (probably in the bathroom) for their entire working life, so a stray tool mark or other aesthetic imperfection is (relatively) meaningless.  As a result, footstools make excellent scale test models for design elements in future projects.

I’ve made other pieces as gifts (benches, side tables, storage containers, other things), but footstools continue to be the most popular.

In the end, though, be it necessity or generosity, I don’t think the reasons matter.  Like I said, it is the making I enjoy most, not the having of the thing that I made.

JPG

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