Offcuts: The Big Picture

Woodworkers, let’s face it: we love our monster tools. The biggest table saw can only be surpassed in our affection by an even bigger self-contained circular saw that takes up half the basement like a lumberjack’s torture chamber. And if that saw is accompanied by a freestanding drill press, belt sander, planer and gasoline generator, as well as a granddaddy of a workbench, then we are in tool heaven.

We might even have an auxiliary television in our shop. One relegated to the basement after we bought our BIG SCREEN TV.

Never mind how expensive all this is. We can dream.

But after all our toils with wood in the basement, we return to our other sanctuary, our media room. And because we are woodworkers, we have customized this room with built-ins, moldings, cabinets and secret compartments. We are clever. We research the historical accuracy of every router bit we collect, and know which ones to use when stacking molding styles on the ceiling, baseboard or grandma’s rickety blanket chest.

We know the correct woods, stains, finishes and hardware to create masterpieces. Our homes are nothing less than keepers of timeless and priceless artifacts made by us. But, well, we might not be completely finished with everything yet.

Yes, we surround ourselves with fine quality wooden furnishings. But in the basement, we don’t hide our metal machinery. No, when guests visit we overwhelm them with our wood-cutting horsepower.

But, this is not true for our monster media components. Not even our BIG SCREEN TV. When electronic wizards create their masterpieces, they contain them in black or grey boxes. We shudder. Whether these boxes are plastic or metal doesn’t matter; they clash offensively with our perfectly period-matched, handcrafted, wood-rendered rumpus rooms. After all, we found recliners that coordinate with our style, so why can’t stereos, computers, and BIG SCREEN TVs?

If we already experience the aesthetic discordance of a BIG SCREEN TV in our home, then we know there are currently two kinds of these televisions: the ones in big consoles, and the ones that are flat.

We probably have designed an armoire for our dream screen console. We may have knocked out a wall and added a shed dormer just to accommodate the expanse of picture tube. Not to mention that we hide wiring snakes behind shelves, disguise speakers in every room, or hand-carve treasure boxes to hide the remotes. Maybe we converted a closet to contain our whole mother lode of equipment and recorded music. Or maybe we even built home theaters with plush seating, cup holders and velvet curtains to accent our room-sized movie screens. So all that designing to hide 21st-century technology inside a 19th-century Shaker cupboard has been well worth the effort.

And we covet flat screens. But they are wider and shorter than the cabinets, armoires, built-ins and secret compartments of our media sanctuary. Oh sure, these FLAT BIG SCREEN TVs can be mounted on a wall, but they stick out like a sore modern sculpture in a room of absolute architectural harmony. We are willing to tolerate this dissonance while we watch monster trucks and the Tool Channel in surround-sound and high density megavision.

But we build our furniture to last forever, and electronic wizards create their products to last two or three years. This is an insult to our lifestyle and expectation of longevity, not to mention our backed-up schedule of furniture projects.

But the question remains: Where do we hide our BIG SCREEN TV?
We are not media moguls who pay journeymen to perform their work; no, we are do-it-yourselfers with a special interest in wood. So woodworkers, I am prepared to offer a possible solution to this ever-escalating issue.

Picture this: Put a picture frame around the screen. Who is more equipped than we are to custom build a FLAT BIG SCREEN TV work of art?

Beth Campbell is a playwright, actress, improvisational performer and woodworker who lives with an unframed television in Old Lyme, Conn.
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