Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Morris and Tendon This, Dumbass

Blog readers, allow me to give you a short back story before I launch into my rant.  From as early as I can remember, my father has had a woodshop.  Well, he's had a garage or a small shop or some sort of area in which to create dust.  A lot of dust.  Dust that I grew up playing in, dust that my mother was not allowed to clean up, dust that comes from hard work sawing and sanding and shaving wood into beautiful things.  My dad made a large percentage of the furniture in our home.  From my very first bookcase (and I was an early reader) to my desk (that I still use daily) to TV stands, coffee and end tables, and even my parents' bed, he made them all.  He also does little things like six-feet-long trains complete with rolling wheels and the rails and ties.  He made a dumptruck, a backhoe, a backgammon board (beautiful!), and lots and lots of other things, not to mention all manner of home repairs.

So when I say I "grew up in my dad's shop," I'm saying I was out there with him just about every weekend watching him run the drill press, the lathe, the planer, the table and band and jig and hand saws.  I learned that rabbits can be the non-jumping kind and that biscuits can be the not-for-eating kind.  I know about hard and soft woods, strong and less-strong ways to join wood pieces, how to counter-sink a screw, and the difference between Shaker-style furniture and Mission-style furniture.  I understand bolts and screws versus dovetails and glues.  But I'm not an expert.  I just learned things and remembered them.

Last weekend, The Man and I went dining set shopping.  Our Salem hunt began at a fancy-looking furniture store (not Kuebler's, they were nice to us).  We walked into the store and quickly found ourselves "glommed."  That's a word my family uses to describe the action of a salesperson identifying potential buyers and not letting them out of their sight.  We got glommed.

Mr. Slimy asked us what we were searching for, and we answered that we wanted to look at dining tables.  He ushered us up, up, upstairs and began his tour at the most expensive tables.  A pet-peeve of mine, start somewhere in the middle, not like you're desperate to make a buck.  He got a kick out of showing us the "fancy" finishes "that only factories in the continental U.S. can prepare correctly."  Really?  With all of the German and Japanese engineers, they haven't figured out how to protect plain ol' wood?  I didn't say anything.

He showed us the difference between domestic and imported furniture: domestic furniture is all glued and laminated permanently, but imported furniture has bolts and screws and is therefore inferior.  Say what?  Domestic manufacturers never use screws? Liar.  Screws that can be tightened if they become loose?  Screws that allow an upholstered seat to be recovered and reattached?  Oh the horror!  I bit my tongue.

Slimy McGlommerston didn't let us out of his sight.  He wouldn't allow us to browse freely, to look and discuss as we explored.  We were watched like a hawk.  Fed up, I mentioned that I was interested in seeing solid wood, preferably lighter wood like oak, maple, or hickory.

"Oh you'd never want hickory, it will warp and buckle and bend," he told us.  You, sir, are a moron.  I whipped my head around and informed him that my parents just purchased and entire kitchen worth of hickory cabinets.  "Well they should know how it will warp and buckle then."  Yeah, one of the hardest and most durable woods out there.  I am pretty sure Dad knew what he was getting into.  I'm pretty sure I know what I want.

After admiring all of the very expensive domestic furniture, we wandered over to some imported stuff.  He was giving us all sorts of disapproving looks when we seemed to be interested in a lovely two-tone set.  Hey, it's the only one you've shown us that actually fits in our little dining room!  He explained how the finish isn't as durable, how the chairs will eventually all fall apart, how the quality of manufacturing isn't up to par.  Way to make a sale, dude.

And then he ruined my day.

"See, on the domestic chairs, the joints are all 'morris and tendoned.'"  Excuse me?!  What did you just say?!  I glared.  I gaped.  I stared.  He must've thought I was very interested in what he was saying, but I was mostly trying to get over what he'd said.  Morris and tendon?  I have tendons in my arms and legs.  In woodworking, that join is called a 'mortise and tenon.'

I turned to face The Man and mouthed "we need to leave now."  I lost it.  I couldn't say another nice thing to him.  Obviously he wasn't interested in making a sale or helping us find something we liked.  Any wood salesman worth his salt will know what a bloody "mortise and tenon" is.  If I know, they damn sure better know.

It would be safe to say we didn't spend any money that day.  Exactly none of our money will ever make its way into those glommy hands.  Now excuse me as the memory has made me need another hot, bleachy shower.  *shudder


Jean said...

Would your father perhaps be able to make what you're looking for?

Jaggy said...

Hi Jean,
That would be the easy answer, wouldn't it? My dad hasn't done much woodworking in the last few years. He has devoted much of his free time to their new house and other hobbies. While I would love a dining table crafted by my father, I also don't think he can hit our price point making it himself. Wood is expensive. I shouldn't expect or ask him to do that for me even if we could pay him.

Thanks for the comment!