When I was a boy I asked my mother what our neighbor, old Mr. Pie, did for a living. “He makes antique furniture,” she replied. It took me a while to realize that didn’t make sense.
“But, Mom, antiques are very old, maybe 100 years old. How can he make antiques?”
“There are ways,” she said. “Mrs. Pie explained it to me. You may know, there are worm holes in very old wood. Well Mr. Pie knows how to put them in the furniture he makes and he also knows how to make old-looking varnish.”
I never found out whether Mr. Pie sold antique replicas or counterfeit antiques. He’s long since dead, but just to be safe, I’m not using the nice old gentleman’s real name. If you’ve inherited or bought expensive antique furniture at a New Jersey shop, try to forget you read this.
Years later I discovered I could have been Mr. Pie’s talented journeyman assistant. It seems I have a natural gift for making furniture that looks very old. One day a visitor to our home remarked, “What an interesting rickety old coffee table! Where did you get it? Do you know anything about its history?”
I didn’t want to tell him that I’d made the table two days previously so I said I didn’t know its background and thanked him for admiring it. After he left, my wife exclaimed, ” ‘Rickety’ is right! Coffee and cocktails are going to spill off your wobbly table onto our expensive carpet!”
“As I explained before, Dear,” I said, “I’m going to solve the stability problem by adding a fifth leg and maybe a sixth. You know I enjoy challenges like that.”
Most people recognize the antique resemblance of the furniture I’ve created. One of my spanking new footstools looks like it’s endured a century of neglect and abuse. “What do you think of this bookcase I’ve just made?” I asked my brother-in-law. “I was aiming at Early American.”
“I think you overshot,” he replied. “It looks like it was made before books were invented. I’m thinking ‘Early Iron Age’ or maybe ‘Neanderthal’.” Some brothers-in-law can be quite sarcastic.”
My immediate family members have been more supportive. My son stopped by one day while I was cutting out the components of a Chippendale armoire. Examining my sketch he said something complimentary about my design technique. “Thanks Son,” I said. “But wait till you see the finished assembly. Come back in a couple of hours and I’ll have it all screwed up.”
“I’m sure you will, Dad,” he said.