Picky, picky, picky

I recently noticed something about a project I made more than a decade ago that bothered me. After eating at me for a week, it bugged me enough I finally had to change it.

Generally speaking, I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of guy and not really all that picky. For some things, yeah, I can be somewhat obstinate. I refuse to use any brand of ketchup but Heinz, for example, and underwear should always be folded lengthwise, not crosswise. But those are perfectly normal things on which I’m sure you agree. Anyway, I’ve always felt I could be flexible with just about anything else. Now, hold that thought.

My reproductions of Civil War furniture and other items are as perfectly accurate and period-correct as I can make them. But if something I need simply isn’t available – a material, say, or an exact piece of hardware – I either make my own or make do with an acceptable modern substitute. That’s the kind of flexibility I was talking about above. Again, hold that thought.

About 25 years ago I made a reproduction oak icebox, and over the ensuing years I’ve designed and built a couple other pieces in the same style of that icebox – an end table, a storage trunk, a sideboard – all of which reside in our kitchen/dining area. These pieces mimic those old iceboxes exactly, and I sent away for reproduction brass hinges, latches and other hardware.

Now, about a week ago Sally and I are playing cards at the kitchen table, and while I’m staring off into space waiting for her to take her turn my gaze settled on that sideboard. And as I’m staring at it, it hit me for the first time that the reproduction brass hardware I bought came with Phillips screws, which I used without giving it a thought. And for the first time, it hit me: That’s just wrong. Those brass screws should be slotted.

Well, so what, right? These pieces aren’t being judged, I’ve got nothing to prove with them, nobody will ever notice, I didn’t make them for a published project that would be under scrutiny, and they’ve served us well for years. In the case of that original icebox I made, nearly a quarter century.

So, here I am a week later and those screws bothered me so much that I went out and bought brass slotted screws, and replaced every last one of them.

An exercise in obsessive-compulsive behavior? Absolutely.

Am I a lot happier now? You bet.



  • Torch02 says:

    The real OCD question is – did you clock them?

  • rRalph Boumenot says:

    I would have done the same thing and noticed it just as quickly as you did.

  • Mike Mathieu says:

    You were lucky that you were able to find the screws so easily . I did a complete restoration on a 1900 Hocking Valley Corn sheller that had square headed black iron nuts and bolts which I had to special order, along with slotted steel screws.

  • John Eugster says:

    I would have done the exact same thing — surprised it took you so long to notice! I’ve done some pistol cases for black powder enthusiasts and will use a phillips, steel screw to get the hole started but then replace them with slotted brass. Lee Valley has a good selection although made in china 🙁
    We have a local group of woodworkers and at our last meeting it was brought up how quick we are to point out the mistakes we’ve done on a project even though nobody else notices them — weird huh?

  • Chuck Riccardo says:

    Had to be done…

  • K. Riley says:

    Sounds nice. Have any pictures to show? Would like to c them.

  • John Gresko says:

    I never would have used the phillips,but I admit, I HATE slotted screws.You did the right thing.

  • A.J. Hamler says:

    K. — I can’t post photos in a comment, but here’s a link to a photo of the sideboard on the WoodCentral website: http://www.woodcentral.com/shots/shot175.shtml

    And here’s another link to WoodCentral with a photo of the storage trunk: http://www.woodcentral.com/shots/shot490.shtml

  • jetsurgeon@sbcglobal.net says:

    Just completed a restoration of a 1933 pinball machine: Blackstone. Had to dig (and pay some bucks) to find replacement hardware, but it’s worth it. I don’t think you are being anal on this one. Phillips screws are the best invention after the router and tablesaw, but on this pinball machine, they would have looked very bad.

    BTW, anyone know of a source of 1-5/8″ Nickel Plated slotted screws?

    A must for Gottlieb games from the 1950’s until the 1970’s… 1-1/2 is too short and 1-3/4 pokes through the plywood (and into your hand when you raise and lower the playfield).

  • Jon Walpole says:

    Do you have one drawer for left socks and another for right socks?

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