Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Classy Table

This is my latest effort in woodworking, a recently completed coffee table. It was a challenging piece that has been a while in the making and required some techniques I had used little or not at all.  I am pleased with it. It is a nice blend of classic and contemporary styles. It gives a polished upscale impression with the dramatic pattern of inlaid holly in the top and is set upon legs and stretchers that are more organic with their rounded edges and carved shapes.

The inlay pattern for the top was the inspiration for the table. It was soon followed by the idea of mimicking this pattern in the shelf but in reverse, a negative of the top. Each curved piece of the shelf is made using a technique known as bent lamination. Two 1/16" thick  x 1" x 46" pieces are glued together while pressed into a curved form. When removed from the form they retain their curved shape. These 12 shaped pieces were then glued together at contact points, trimmed, and set into a frame. The resulting shelf is light weight, rigid, and quite strong. A perfect place for a "coffee table book".

The top is veneered with shop made 3/32" veneers, bookmatched from the same board. I usually prefer to work in solid wood so this was something new. But veneer was called for because the inlay would not accommodate the seasonal expansion and contraction of solid wood. I considered several veneering methods including a vaccum bag or ironing but chose a makeshift platen with convex cauls and lots of clamps that worked well.

I considered making my own holly stringing but  found someone online who has made a business of making banding and inlay stringing. This was money well spent as it was very uniform and fit precisely in the matched 1/16" router bit groove. Cutting the grooves involved following a carefully positioned template with a small router fitted with a shop made bearing base. This task got my full attention. Any drifting away from the template or slip in movement and hours of labor and costly materials would be lost.

High risk woodworking. A part of the process where you feel like you can not make a mistake. Often what separates craftsman made and machine made is wood selection. An exceptionally beautiful or large board. Boards chosen from the same log so that grain patterns or colors are matched. A couple of small boards from the tree grandfather planted. You can't just go get another piece. Or, as was my case, so much work has been invested to get to that point that a mistake might end the work. There just wouldn't be enough energy to begin again.

The last new wrinkle in making this project was the use of Photoshop to make the drawings. I'm usually pretty old school, making my drawings with pencils, rulers and graph paper. But PS allowed me to make precise curves that could be replicated, stretched, or contracted to fit the needed dimensions. And finally I could take them to the printer to get full scale drawings from which I could make the needed templates and forms.

I hope you like this work.  I try my best to make something beautiful hoping that somehow it makes a difference.