Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pedestal Table: Days 1 & 2

I'm two days into the building of a single-pedestal dining room table, and it's going well so far. I spent half the day yesterday driving out to lovely Zion's Crossroads, Virginia to buy lumber. Check out this giant heap of logs I saw along the way.

Once back in the shop, I glued together the blank for the column and dressed lumber for the legs. I sawed the outline of the legs which now need to be tapered along their length. Once the glue had set up on the column blank, I got it on the lathe and started roughing-in its shape. It was the first project I've ever turned on this particular lathe, a Craftsman from somewhere between 1939 and 1941 which originally belonged to my grandfather. The lathe wasn't in working shape when I got it, and it's been alternately trying and fun finding parts for it and getting it all together. I'm pleased to report that it handled a 6" diameter column quite handily.

Below are a few shots of where things stand at 4:30 in the afternoon on day two. Next week I'll create the sliding dovetails that attach the legs to the column, taper the legs, and get started on the top and veneered aprons.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Final Table Drawings

Here is the final set of drawings for the single-pedestal extension table I'll begin building tomorrow.

The trickiest part about designing single-pedestal tables is ensuring that the diameter described by the feet's end-points is sufficient to balance the weight of the top. What a nightmare it would be if the first time one's clients placed a roast turkey towards the edge of the table the whole thing crashed to the floor.

I consulted Harrison, my woodworking mentor (he's a life mentor too), and he reported that he usually aims for the base to be sized between 2/3 and 3/4 of the top's diameter. He did point out, though, that back in the day most cabinetmakers chose from one or two pedestal patterns and just stuck whatever size top was required on top of it. I guess they just kept their fingers crossed that disaster would be averted. I need more assurance of success than that, which is why I spent part of the day making a scale model. Unfortunately I don't have a set of scale people and scale place settings to give the thing a truly scientific test, but one can only go so far!

Here's a drawing of the table in its closed position, which will seat four diners quite comfortably.

This one shows the table with its leaf installed which allows for the addition of two more diners.

This third drawing is a detail view of the pedestal's column. Like the Biedermeier designers, I favor the simpler orders of classical columns, Doric and Tuscan, over the more elaborate Ionic and Corinthian forms. This example is basically a truncated Doric column.

Next is a detail of the leg.

Here's a detail view of the apron showing its vertically-oriented quarter-sawn maple veneer and simple quirk-and-bead.

Finally, here is a sketch of the table's "works." I'll write more in another post about the system I'm using to ensure that the ends move smoothly without changing the pedestal's position.

Tomorrow morning I'm off to the Charlottesville area to pick up the lumber for this project.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Here are two initial sketches of a single-pedestal dining room table I'm working on for clients in Philadelphia. They're looking for something simple, unadorned, and light. I'm thinking that the pedestal will be modeled on a doric column, though I'm not sure it will include entasis on so short a length. If anyone has a point of view on that, please weigh in. In any case, I'm looking forward to turning the column on my grandfather's old (ca. 1939) lathe, which I hope to have operational next week.

The table will be made mostly from maple. I'm planning on using quarter-sawn maple veneer with the grain running vertically on the apron. I'll include a small quirk bead along the underside of the aprons. Because the bead will have to be in sections along a 170" circumference (diameter of the table without its leaf is 54"), I was thinking I'd include some ebony accents at the breaks rather than using a scarf joint and hoping nobody notices.

I'm getting to where I'm pleased with the basic massing of the piece, but am not yet settled on a final leg design. This is where I turn to the books. I'm pretty certain that the inspiration I'm looking for can be found between the covers of Angus Wilke's definitive text on Biedermeier, recently reprinted with amazing improvements to the color photographs.

More on this project coming soon.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Locke Lane Final Photos!

Here are final photos of the project at the Lock Lane condos. These shots were taken by photographer Liza Kate.

Merriwether Lewis Walks His Dog

Here's a museum case I designed and built for the Virginia Historical Society last fall. The sculpture depicts Merriwether Lewis walking his dog. Note that Mr. Lewis is not carrying a baggie.

Photos by Liza Kate.