Eleven Hundred Hours- in One Piece? (actually it's for a five piece set
still - 1,100 hours?)
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts exhibit “Inspired by
China” has 29 pieces done by 22 furniture makers from around the world.
One of those who participated in this exhibit is Joe Tracy from Main.
Inspired by the Chinese invented Tanagram (google tanagram ) he designed
and made a five piece set comprised of two small, tall tables and three
shallow cabinets, each on its own tall table. He has 1,100 hours in
this set! At 8 hours a work day, you’ve got 173 work hours per month -
so he put over six months in this set of pieces.
For the weekend warrior, a project that takes 6 months to complete isn’t
all that unusual. Hell, it was over a year before I finished Das Bench
(http://web.hypersurf.com/~charlie2/DasBench/CBbench0.html ), and there
were a lot of starts and stops, along with a lot of head scratching.
But Joe Tracy makes furniture for a living so I suspect the 1,100 hours
were “billable hours”, not elapsed time. Can you imagine going to work
five days a week, eight hours a day, working on one set of pieces - and
do that for over six months - and at the end of six months have five
I get distracted easily, heading off in one direction and then going off
on various tangents along the way to a finished piece - if it actually
gets finished at all. The discipline this man must have to do what he
does, and what he does is pretty amazing.
Let’s start with his choice of materials - quarter sawn wenge veneer for
the cabinets, with split curly redwood medallions in the cabinet doors,
red palm for the table tops, Damascus steel door pulls and silver foil
on the inside s of the backs of the cabinets. With the exception of the
split redwood medallions in the doors, everything is flat planes and
straight lines, not a curve or a roundover to be found - no place to
hide a mistake - one careless chisel or plane cut and the part would
have to be made over again. The skill, and confidence this man must
have to do what he does is astounding.
You really have to see these pieces - and study them - to really
appreciate what he’s done. There’s an article in the February 2007
issue of Woodwork - A Magazine for All Woodworkers “Joe Tracy: Inspired
by China” with an interview with Mr. Tracy, accompanied by photos of
these pieces and some details of how they were done. If you can get
your hands on that issue have a look at that article - and then study it
- for an hour or two. If you aren’t inspired to take your woodwork up a
notch - well there isn’t enough sawdust in you yet.
who is now looking for the book about the pieces in this exhibit. I
to see some details of this set of pieces because there have to be a lot
gems to study - and maybe include in some future project.