THIS PAST WEEK contained just about every emotion possible. I had a good week at work, my football team won a good game. And my sister Jane visited us staying at our home. But it was an emotional week as well because my family began the process of cleaning out my mom’s home in preparation for selling it. I’ve not shared this on my blog, but my dear mother passed away April 9th.
I have a large family – two brothers and two sisters and we have all been at my mother’s home going through her possessions and taking the sentimental things we want. For me, any easy item to put my name on is the book stand you see here. I made it for my mom early in my woodworking life. In those days I signed and numbered my furniture. This is project #5 dated January 5, 1985. I began woodworking in 1983, a time when primitive country furniture was going crazy and such furniture was in all the home decorating magazines. We used to get Country Home magazine and each issue usually featured a number of furniture pieces I wanted to build. One such issue was from March/April, 1984 which included an article about Virginia cabinet-maker Peter Kramer.
The book stand above was the basis from which my design originated. Kramer was gifted in several ways including a keen eye and the ability to work unique features into his furniture. I call them visual hooks; in the case of his design above, the hook would be the scratch carving at the base. Not being a carver, I decided to add three drawers to my design, one of which is at the base taking the place of Kramer’s carved panel. It is this low drawer which I think is unusual and is therefore the visual hook.
Kramer used wood grain to his advantage. He would often use the heart of a tree as drawer fronts positioning the center of the tree in the middle of the drawer front. On the original book stand, Kramer used the heart of a tree as the center feature of his door. I did the same on the door and if you look carefully the side as well.
This book stand was built when my wife and I were newlyweds and living in an apartment about a 15 minute drive from my parent’s home. At my parents home, my father and I had started acquiring power tools and setting up a workshop. So, I had to drive to their home to do woodworking. This book stand was built using dado joinery, but the dadoes were reinforced with dowels which are visible in each side. Three dowels per crossmember and each one had a decorative wedge to boot.
The drawers were joined with machine cut dovetails accomplished with a Craftsman fixed base router and a Craftsman dovetail template. At the time, all our power tools were Craftsman including our 10″ contractor style table saw.
The color compared to the original is about perfect and obviously 1985 was a time when hardware store pine was a better quality than what you get at the home center today. I recall using a Minwax stain which should have caused blotching, but none is present. There are knots which was in keeping with the primitive look as was the sanded edges which provided a worn look.
IT IS IRONIC that after more than 33 years, this piece of furniture has come full circle. Made for my mom where it resided in her foyer, today I set it up in the foyer of my home. On it, my wife placed her father’s well-worn bible.
My mother and father raised five kids. While going through her possessions, we found so many meaningful items. I frequently heard a bother or sister call me to see what had been found – birth certificates, grade school report cards she had saved. An old photo album we thought had been lost; so many things which brought back warm memories. But all the while I still felt my mom’s absence. It is something to deal with and the hurt isn’t so bad as it used to be. They say time heals all wounds. To be sure, wounds heal, but I think this one is going to take a long, long time.
PS: In 2010, I wrote a blog post about Peter Kramer. See more of his inspiring furniture by clicking here.