I just came back from my local Stickley store here in High Point. I
like looking at their stuff for inspiration and to drool. I was
careful to inspect the joinery for gaps and noticed quite a few.
Mostly where slats meet rails. I noticed several slats that had light
shining through from the back where the slat meets the rail. Not to
pick on Stickley, but I always thought they represented top quality
craftsmanship. I think the Stickley brothers would be turning in
their graves if they saw what I saw today.
Here are a couple of pictures of a corbel in their Harvey Ellis bed.
I also noticed a few pieces where they are incorporating Greene&Greene
elements which I thought was odd. Why would Stickley need Greene and
Greene elements when they have their own style that is unique?
Actually Stickley has quite a few styles of furniture.. The Mission style
is probably the most thought of.
I suspect that they are trying to appeal to the masses which may very well
include the distressed look in some of their lines of furniture.
Not to mention the Ellis side of their line has its own feel.
I have been following Stickley's growth and automation processes as
much as I could. It fascinates me to see a company with certain
challenges (problems). Think of it this way..."we have a gorgeous
coffee table in our museum, one sold at auction for $ 25,000.....now
LET'S make 500 of them!!" Insurmountable odds that something is going
I have some old original Stickley printed catalogues which show their
entire line of furniture. The oldest was about 20 pages. 100 pieces,
max... including the limited choices of wood and finish. Now they make
thousands of pieces in all kinds of materials and all kinds of
finishes..just staggering how big they are now.
The days and reputation of a few old, grumpy and fussy wooddorkers in
their leather aprons has long since evaporated.
You just cannot mechanize 'hand-crafted'.
Then there are materials and processes (like ammonia fuming) which
would drive the environmentalists around the bend..(often the same
yuppies who love to buy Stickley, btw.).
We bought some Richardson Brothers bedroom furniture years ago.
Granted, not as well know as Stickley but very nicely made traditional
furniture. Design, workmanship and finish is top-notch. We dropped
into a showroom a year or so ago that does sell nice stuff, including
some of their own custom made furniture. The sales guy/furniture
designer was apologetic about his Richardson Brothers furniture and
for good reason.
Apparently they let the finance guys occupy the design and fabrication
facilities. Approaching Rent-A-Center quality.
He was discontinuing as soon as he sold off his inventory.
Nothing like an MBA taking over QC/QA....AND design....
The many times I have seen that.
There is not ONE industry that improves when the spread-sheet crowd
Running your company efficiently is one thing, but a bean-counter
telling a customer that he/she is willing to put up with shit,
is ....well..look at Detroit, your example, and bezillions of others.
PEOPLE WILL SPEND A LITTLE EXTRA FOR QUALITY!... unfortunately, there
are those very crafty geniuses like McD, BurgerKing and such that know
where than line is and boy, are they good at toeing it.
I bought a Big Mac while I was on the road not too long ago....and it
was within 1/8" of my throwing the thing at the window of the McD
The famous "how bad can it be' question was answered in spades.
But I digress, but did not digest.
You reminded me....
A few years ago we attended a retirement party for my cousin and his
friend/colleague. Both had received very nice offers from our local
electric utility company (will remain nameless) and decided to bail
together. The two gentlemen managed all maintenance and repair
services for 2/3's of our state. Both had started their careers on a
service truck and had paid their dues wearing pole climbers and
working in incredibly adverse weather conditions. These guys and
their employees often worked 3-4 days straight with minimal rest to
recover from ice storms and spring tornado's. They knew the state's
electrical network and generating facilities like the back of their
There were several company executives present and one of the VP's
introduced us to a young gentleman in his mid to upper 20's. He had
an eastern MBA and the company was very impressed with his
organizational and finance savvy. He was REPLACING BOTH OF THE
I noticed my cousin's co-hart in the background doing all he could to
suppress a grin. As the two executives walked away, he walked up and
whispered "I would really recommend the purchase of a generator."
Actually, there's an interesting article on through tenon joinery by
Chris Schwarz in Woodworking magazine that discusses this. Quite a few
old Stickley pieces had visible gaps in the joinery, especially closer
to the floor. Of particular interest to me, there were cases where
square tenons protruded through round-ended mortises.
One of the things mentioned in the article is that through tenons in
modern times are often used to "show off" craftsmanship, while in
earlier times it was simply used as a proof of joinery technique or even
for pure functional strength. Because of this, modern standards (among
discerning people, at least) for what a through tenon should look like
are probably higher than they used to be.
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