The return to the solid construction which prevailed during the period last mentioned has been advocated by more than one theoretical writer, but before this can be agreed to by the modern cabinet-maker there are one or two points on which he should be clear. The mortised and tenoned and pinned - through joint has often been trotted forward as an example to be copied. Well, the pinned joint was right enough for the times during which it prevailed, and in the absence of the superior kinds now prevalent. When tools were rude, great precision and nicety of finish could not be expected, but the case is different now. To return to the crude joints of our ancestors would be a distinctly retrograde move. The tools which the modern cabinet-maker may use are of the finest quality. Screw nails and good glue are obtainable in every village, good designs may easily be studied, and the intelligence of the artisan certainly has not decreased. In these circumstances it does not seem reasonable to expect a return to the rough style of work of the country carpenter or mediaeval joiner, unable mostly to read or write and wholly uneducated, save in the crude customs of his craft. He could not use screw pails, nor the many advantages which are now available, because they did not then exist. I do not think his wooden pins prove that he used them because he considered them superior to anything else, but rather because there was nothing else which he could easily obtain or make. If there is any lesson of a practical kind to be learned from the study of old work, it may be considered to consist principally in the fact that the worker made the most of his opportunities, and that apparently he was not in a hurry. Of course, as far as design goes, there is much to be learned by the study of the woodwork of any period, but I do strongly wish to warn my readers against copying the roughness or crudeness which is found in nearly all English so-called antique furniture. On the contrary, let them - while not neglecting sound construction, without which no furniture can be really beautiful - avail themselves fully of modern tools, appliances, and methods of work.
As regards the strength of furniture, it must not be forgotten that extraordinary substance and massive construction are not required. The things are indoors, and not exposed to the weather, therefore we do not require them as 'strong as a house;' nor are they in well - regulated households exposed to rough usage. The strength, then, will be sufficient if the things can be fairly used for their ostensible purpose; thus it is not necessary to make a small fancy table for the drawing-room so strong as one which is intended to bear heavy weights. If furniture were constantly exposed to the weather or to rough usage, one could understand there might be some reason for returning to the strong carpentry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; but as it is, the cabinet-maker may be quite contented with good modern construction, and he can well afford to ignore the advice of dilettante writers about it. Careful and intelligent work is wanted, not a return to old methods.
The professional cabinet-maker is often hampered in his desire to do good work by financial considerations; the thing must be done within a certain time, or there will be a loss on it. The amateur artisan, however, is not under any such restrictions, so that he at any rate will be able to make his work as thorough as his skill will allow.
Perhaps before concluding this chapter something should be said about the suitability of cabinet-making for amateur work, for it is undoubtedly popular in one form or another. The work is neither very laborious nor very difficult, little more than a healthy exercise for mind and body. To suppose that any amateur would wish to furnish his house entirely with his own work is hardly reasonable, but he may make many things from time to time which will add considerably to its comfort and appearance. If he does not care to make anything of large dimensions, there are plenty of smaller articles which may engage his attention, and afford him much pleasure in the making as well as afterwards. The cost of the necessary tools need not be great, and if bought with discretion it will not be long before they have paid for themselves in the value of the work done by their aid. In the following pages it is to be hoped the most unskilled will find all necessary information for making furniture.