John Sexton a nationally renowned photographer commenting on the need to master the basics said the following –
“I am unaware of an educational institution with a good music program that does not offer instruction in the piano, even though a student may be more interested in performing on the synthesizer.”
I’ve done a fair bit of reproduction work and my view towards that type of work has evolved. First, I’ll say it is a time honored way to learn not only basic joinery skills but also a tried and true method for learning design. For centuries aspiring artists, sculptors, and architects studied and sometimes copied masterful works as a necessary part of their creative studies. This still holds true today and in my own case has been invaluable. Another thing that I might add is that someone who attempts and succeeds in reproducing a great masterwork is on par with a musician performing a perfect rendition of a great piece of music or a violin maker creating a great instrument. Yes it is a copy, but like music a lot has to happen to make a great reproduction really sing and I have nothing but respect for those able to achieve it.
But I said my view has evolved. There are some who do reproduction work that attempt to get it as exactly as close possible down to duplicating the tool marks, glues, and finishes. I’ve done some of that myself. It’s full of pitfalls. Any close examination of a period piece is often filled with the fingerprints tough to copy. I was duplicating a small dowry chest with turned feet. Every foot was different. I’m not that great of a turner to begin with and the thought of trying to make regularity out of something built irregular seemed wrong. I ended up choosing one foot as a pattern, and they all ended up a little different anyway.
I still look to pre-industrial furniture for inspiration but I’m now more interested in understanding the proportions and design secrets hidden within. I may make a piece that looks like a reproduction but it will be in spirit only. If you have some interest in pre-industrial furniture a great resource is SAPFM (Society of American Period Furniture Makers). Not everyone is a lover of classical music and period furniture but I’m glad we still have great builders who keep this flame alive.