The beauty of symmetry

Besides my wife, there are very few things that I can say are a sight for sore eyes. Thos. Moser’s ridiculously elegant interpretation of a Shaker classic puts me in a trance every time I see its photo, and when I snap out of it I find myself wiping away tears. This past summer, I grabbed this cell phone shot of the real deal while visiting the Moser furniture showroom in Freeport, Me. After ten minutes of studying every inch of this piece inside and out — in person, mind you — my wife finally grabbed my arm to pull me away. Nooo!

I’ve been tearing up over Tom Moser’s work for 35 years now. I have all the furniture books written by Tom Moser, I’ve made the pilgrimage to his Auburn, Me. workshop twice, I’ve built a roomful of tables from his published shop drawings, took part in his company’s recent marketing research study, and my mother still sends news clippings in the mail when the Portland paper writes another Thos. Moser story. What can I say other than this man’s work has been a true inspiration.

Related post
Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers

 Dr. White’s chest by Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers

Dr. White’s chest by Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers

Dimensional lettering and smalt paint


3/4" thick pine letters hand cut with a bandsaw and jigsaw.

Letters rounded over with a radius bit and a sharp chisel for the corners.

This sign was a departure from what we normally do here at the workshop. We opted for hand-cut dimensional lettering and a smalted-paint background inspired by signs from the late 1800s and early 1900s. This project has all the authentic character and size of an architectural salvage piece, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. At ten feet long, a sign this size would look great in a home, restaurant, pub, or office lobby. 

Final sign — ten feet long. Click photos to enlarge.

Photoshop mockup. The bevel tool helped in considering the amount of roundover for the lettering.

Full-size template used to mark letter spacing.

After assembly.

 Quick coat of black primer to seal the surfaces.

Quick coat of black primer to seal the surfaces.

Our smalt paint recipe is simply a thick coat of wet black paint with sand sifted over it. As the paint dries, the sand becomes embedded into the surface. Commercial shop smalt recipes use pigmented glass granuals or colored sand set into a thick “smalt cream” that sets up like an epoxy, permanently setting the “smalts” to make an armor-like finish. Mostly used for high-end signs paired with gilded lettering, glass smalts provide a glittery finish and are available in various granual sizes.