Apr 272012
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Some things don’t need fixing. Witness “New Coke” in Atlanta about 25 years ago — somebody thought they could fix Coca-Cola. Duh!! How would you improve a ’57 Chevy? Did anybody give Elvis singing lessons? Who would have stopped Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and said “Wait, you’re doing that all wrong: you dance backwards and let her dance forward, and by the way, lose the top hat and cane.”?

I have been working on a Shaker Candle Stand the last few days and I Googled it for some reason. Do you know how many people think they can improve on the original? Listen, Homer, it is done. It is completed. Do not sit down and say, “I think I will re-design the Shaker Candle Stand — I can do better.”

My Candle Stand

You cannot add ball and claw feet to this thing. You cannot carve deep philosophical thoughts into the top of it. Do not add fancy gingerbread brackets to the underside of the table. If you simply cannot resist, then go carve clown faces in your hope chest. The candle stand was completed 200 years ago and it is done. I don’t have a problem with trying to improve your technique, make the dovetails better, upgrade your skew skills on the post, that sort of thing. But nobody has improved on it in 200 years and I can tell you, Ralph, you are not going to help it.

Go watch the Roy Underhill video on making one of these babies and listen to St. Roy expound on the shape of that marvelous center post. I love this little table, it is probably my favorite thing to try to make and I have parts of one going nearly all the time in my shop. The dovetails are difficult for me, but I will get better.

Hancock Shaker Village Table

A couple of years ago I went to New England to take a class and

Translucent seen transformed it while there I went by the Hancock Shaker Village for a tour. They have a beautiful Candle Stand there and it is the one I try to make each time. If my effort does not match this beautiful example, it is a lack of skill on my part, not because I think I can improve on it.

What do you think? Let me hear from you.

  6 Responses to “Shaker Candle Stand”

  1. I have not read anything that has moved me as much as the article you wrote about the Shaker candle table – it is so true. I would give anything to know how to work with wood the way you are able to and I hope you treasure the gift you have been given.

    • You are too kind, Janet. I am afraid it is not a gift as much as years of trying and many classes. Look around and you can find classes of almost any kind close to you. Highland has a wide range of classes available at reasonable prices. As I mentioned, I went to New Hampshire a couple of years ago for Mike Dunbar’s class on Windsor Chairs. It was wonderful — all with hand tools and you end up with a beautiful chair you can keep. Mine is right here beside me now. Thanks for reading. Dig up some classes and find an old guy like me who will be happy to teach you. Personally, I teach for pies and cakes:). Terry

  2. I agree completely with your assessment of these fine tables. I have made three and I may depart only on choice of wood, but the slightly tapered legs, coke bottle shape of the post and slender table top are not to be expanded upon. On the first two, I chickened out and used dowels to afix the post to the legs, but as you said, the dovetails will get better over time and they are as part of the table as the rest of it.

    • Don, I think these little tables are lovely. For the post, you may want to look at Peter Galbert’s Caliper. It has a fork on the front and a little scale like a spring loaded kitchen scale to indicate the diameter of the cut you are making. Works like a champ.

      I made a jig for my router to mount on the lathe bed since the piece is parallel to the bed when mounted between centers. Then you just run the dovetail bit right down the post. Next time I will use a guide bushing in the jig since it needs to be very secure to get a clean cut. The dovetail cut on the leg is very delicate. Next time I will get them close and then fit by hand.

      Thanks for reading and keep on making those tables.

  3. i think it looks really close and that you do wonderful work

    • Thanks, Chris. I did take the picture to my advantage, but I promise to keep working on the dovetails until they are good enough to show in a picture. Thanks for reading.

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