An Argument for Simplicity in Household Furnishing Part I

By William Morris 1883

In all that concerns household furnishings and decoration, present tendencies are toward a simplicity unknown in the past. The form of any object is made to express the structural idea directly, frankly almost with baldness. The materials employed are no longer chosen solely for their intrinsic value, but with a great consideration for their potential beauty. The qualities thus apprehended are traced to their source and then carefully developed by the skill of the craftsman.

In the eighteenth century, the French cabinet makers created charming objects suited to the palaces and castles of the old nobility. They revelled in richness of material; in woods brought from countries and colonies of access; in costly gilding and other applied ornament; in fanciful painting which exquisite delicacy of handling alone saved from triviality and insignificance.

But today with the idea of everywhere development dominant, in the sciences, in the educational methods, in all that furthers human intercourse, comfort and progress we find the mood of the century impressed upon the material  and necessary objects by which we are surrounded. Even our beds, tables and chairs, if planned and executed according to the newer and sounder ideas of household art, offer us a lesson taught by their form, substance and finish. We are no longer tortured by exaggerated lines the reasons for which are past divining. We have not to deal with falsifying veneers, or with disfiguring so called ornament. We are not necessarily confronted by substances precious because of their traditional use, their rarity, and the difficulty attending their attainment. We are, first of all, met by plain shapes which not only declare, but emphasise their purpose. Our eyes rest on material which, gathered from the forests, along the streams, and from other sources familiar to us, are, for that reason, interesting and eloquent. We may in the arms of our reading chair, or in the desk before which we pass our working day, study the striking undulations in the grain of oak, ash, elm or other of our native woods, and in so doing, learn the worth of patient, well directed and skilled labour; of that labour which educates; that is: leads out and develops the hidden values and qualities of things too often neglected because they are frequently seen.



Cradle with shellac finish

I just finished adding some finish to the cradle,I used orange shellac. The best part about using shellac in my view is that it will last hundreds of years guaranteed. It’s not like I’m going to be around to see it, but if you need proof, just go to any museum and see for yourselves if what I say is true or false.

Rocking Cradle

I was going to make this cradle for the Issue V and came up with a more practical version for it instead. This cradle you see now is actually fit for a real baby with the exception that I made it shorter.  The original length I made it to was 36″, but I had to cut it short to somewhere around 20″ because I didn’t have clamps that were long enough. Besides that, considering I decided to donate this to my friends little daughter it would be too big for her dolls.

For the magazine I want to make a cradle for a doll and I want to make it available as a flat pack for sale. So it will have to be much smaller than this current size and the rails will have to screw into the stiles.

But going back to the cradle built I want to give briefly what I did.


I chopped four mortises. Two top mortises were 3/8″ thick and the two bottom were 1/2″ thick. These were for the top and bottom rails. Then I made some stopped grooves about 1/2″ x 5/16″ deep, I can’t remember how longer they were. They were easy to complete with my router plane, however a word of caution though.


The Veritas irons are not made to the same width specs as an LN mortise chisel. This is unfortunately common amongst different tool makers.  I’m not sure but it could be a way to for a person to buy from one maker.  So if you planned on chopping out the groove and then ploughing it out, check the widths of your tools first or you might get a sloppy fit.


The head boards I edge joined two boards to form a panel. Once dried I scrolled the top and heart out.


The small sticks, not sure what you call it, I turned on my lathe and bored out several 5/16″ holes with my brace and bit.


I printed out the rocker and glued it to the wood with some of that spray adhesive stuff and nailed two boards and cut them out on my scroll saw. This way I not only get to cut once and get two, but they’re also identical.




Also to form a rabbet to hold the plywood bottom I nailed a strip of wood using these finish cut nails for superior strength and placed them in a zigzag fashion. There’s no way that strip will ever come undone. For these small finish cut nail there’s no need to drill holes.


Ignore the box the finish cut nail is where the arrow is pointing to.


This is what it looked like prior to staining. With the staining because this is pine it’s prone to blotching. But with my fix that I eliminated 90% of it. Had I done a more thorough prep I believe I would eliminated 100% of it. The stain I used was spirit based Azura Oak which I don’t believe is available anywhere on the shelves. I was just at the right place at the right time and bought the lot many years ago. If you refer to my previous posts on how to eliminate blotching you search through them here or watch my lame videos on YouTube. Almost forgot the decorative balls on top were turned and bored a 13/16″ deep hole on the stiles and glued them in place. For the glue I used hide glue.

If you wanted to make this I would recommend you use milk paint either white or pink if they have it. You could also paint some pretty flowers on the head boards.