It’s the Fashion

Humidors seem to come around in style every 25 years or so.

The current cover of Popular Woodworking features a humidor; when I saw it, I had to chuckle. At around the time I started at F&W Publications (which owned PW at the time), humidors were all the rage. In July 1997, PW published a how-to on John F. Kennedy’s humidor (the coverline: $574,000 Humidor (Your Price: $300)). Fine Woodworking published “Building a Humidor” in its Nov./Dec. 1997 issue. And although I’m too lazy to find out for sure, I’d bet a tin of homemade cookies the other U.S. woodworking magazines also published humidor plans at around the same time. (And again when cigar bars were a fashionable thing in the aughts.)

And that got me thinking about woodworking trends, though perhaps the better term is fashion. Woodworking styles are not unlike clothing – the “in” styles come and go. (The possible exceptions are Shaker and Arts & Crafts furniture – but perhaps they just have longer legs, so to speak.)

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Sometimes it’s specific to one group of makers (California roundover as a sterling example…or the cup holders on seemingly every project at PW for a few years as a perhaps unfortunate example). Sometimes its due to world events (The Woodworker Magazine articles throughout WWII on making projects with as few supplies as possible spring to mind). Sometimes it’s regional (Black Forest carvings on pieces from that eponymous region). Sometimes it’s a time-period renaissance (Queen Anne dining sets in the 1950s, mid-century modern right now).

Dart Board Case,” by David Thiel, from PW May 1998. (“Step 8: Make the cup holders from 1″ thick material, resawn to leave a 1/4″ thick bottom piece. Cut 3″ diameter holes in the top piece[s]. Glue the pieces back together. Cut the two cup holders to finished size.”)

I suspect I have implicit bias, but it seems to me we’re in the midst of a multiplicity of overly long-lived woodworking trends…and because I’m old and want all the kids to get off my lawn, I don’t like too many of them (not that my approval matters one whit). Barn wood? It belongs on barns. Epoxy? It’s the perfect adhesive in some situations. Hairpin legs? Hairpins are for updos. Live edge anything? Well, at least when that trend dies, a rip cut will take care of it.

But I needn’t have a positive aesthetic response to a thing to be happy that people are in the shop making stuff; whatever floats your boat down that (epoxy) river (table) is fine by me. And anyway, I’m for sure casting stones in a glass house. At this moment, there’s an “anarchist’s tool chest” on my bench, and a Kentucky (via Wales) stick chair on Chris’ bench. My email and LAP Facebook page comments let me know on the regular that plenty of folks retch at both; my feeling is not hurt.

I know there are many more 20th- and 21st-century woodworking fads, some that keep trucking along and some that were but a flash in the pan (such as waterfall tables – or are they still a big thing and I just don’t know it?) – but I need to stop thinking about it and get back to my chest build, so help me out. In addition to the above, I have cribbage boards, Adirondack chairs, charcuterie boards, turned pens, fancy cutting boards…

— Fitz


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