Design a Week – 25/52 – Build Challenge Idea

This entry is officially subtitled “Biting Off More Than I Can Chew” given it will easily be the most complex project I have attempted to date. I guess that’s why it is called a challenge!

This piece is a design for a hall table. The piece I build for the challenge has size constraints, so this will be a to-scale version that can fit inside a 32-inch cube. On to the sketches:

If you have followed the previous two design entries, then you’ll likely notice a few elements of this piece that did arise from those designs. Up first, the table top:

The curves on the ends of the table top came from what I thought was a superfluous surface on the first Entry That Wasn’t. I think the subtle curves on the ends are a simple way to dress-up an otherwise square table top. I’ve been reading a lot of George Walker’s work, both on his blog and in Popular Woodworking Magazine. A big theme of his lately has been echoes within a piece. This top is the first place that you’ll see me echo a design feature in this piece.

The radius on both the inner and outer curves in each half of the top are the same. Those inner edges are sloped out from the center, similar to the business end of the blades on a cigar cutter. For these outer wings of the top, I’m thinking of using tiger maple. If I can’t find tiger maple specifically, I want to use some type of figured or spalted maple. These parts of the top will be the focal surface of the table and key in drawing attention to the piece.

The center of the table top will be slightly smaller than the wings, both in its depth and its thickness. The bottom of the center section will be flush with the bottom of the wings. With the difference in thicknesses between the center and the wings, there will be a slight relief from the top of the wings to the top of the center. Right now I’m leaning towards using walnut for the center section.  Part of me thinks it could be cool to find a really gnarly burl to center in the top; the other part of me worries that might be too much activity for the top. Maybe I’ll consider it if I can’t find tiger maple for the wings.

On to the drawers hung beneath the table top:

The center drawer is another element from my first Entry That Wasn’t. While the drawer itself will be square, it will be bracketed by curved sides. Those sides will sit beneath and echo the curve on the inner edges of the table top wings. At the bottom of the curved side supports there will be a horizontal shelf. The space between the drawer and that bottom will be empty. To keep continuity with the center of the top, the drawer front and side supports will also be made of walnut. I’m currently undecided on what species I’ll use for that bottom shelf. I’ll probably stay with walnut for the whole center, but might use hard maple here.

The outer shelves show the one design element I have incorporated from the second Entry That Wasn’t. While it is slightly compressed, the curves on the drawer supports mimic the curves on that unused design’s vertical spine. I like how these outer drawer supports feel square, but still have curves that soften the shape. Like the negative space beneath the center drawer, the space above these outer drawers will also be empty. I will construct the outer drawers and their supports from hard maple.

Now to what will likely be the most difficult parts to construct on this design, the legs:

The front-most and rear-most legs curve towards the center of the piece, stretching from the table top to the floor. The middle leg, wider than the outer legs, runs from the cross brace down to the floor – curving away from the center. That cross brace not only connects all of the legs, but it also will provide support beneath the outer drawers. The outer most drawer support will sit in a rabbet on the inside edge of these cross braces. It’s not evident in my perspective drawing here, but the curves on the Y-axis of the legs is meant to echo the curve in the outer drawer supports above. I want to make these legs out of purpleheart. If I end up with a spalted maple table top instead of tiger maple, the purpleheart could really tie things together nicely.

So that’s what I’m going to create for this year’s build challenge. I applaud and thank you for making it to the end of what is easily my longest post in this design exercise. What do you think? Leave your impressions in the comments.

Design a Week – 20/52

Tonight’s sketch is another boring meeting inspired sketch (maybe I should create a tag for that), an A-frame hall table:

I had originally drawn this where the cabinet top was even with the top of the A-fram legs, but this made the piece feel too bulky, in my opinion. As drawn, the ends of the cabinet base are essentially giany through-tenons, even if I doubt it would be constructed that way. I’ve given some thought to making that “tenon” shorter, so there is a small reveal inside the A. I’m afraid that would require the legs to be too thick for what is already a heavy design. I’ve called it a hall table, but given the depth of the legs, this may fair better as a console behind a sofa or a love seat.

I came up with a couple of possible designs for the drawers pulls:

Well to be fair, it is the same basic design, just rotated 90 degrees in the lower photo. I think I like the lower orientation in general, whereas the upper design is almost a mini-echo of the table as a whole – which is appealing.

Thoughts on the table? Which do you prefer?


Here are a couple of new ideas for the pulls, as suggested by Ken and Adam:

Just Slab It On There

When you walk into your run-of-the-mill furniture store these days, you tend to see a lot of squares in the pieces. There are some round end table, a few oval coffee tables, and the rare bombe dresser.  What you don’t tend to see are irregular shapes or live edges.  However, those attributes can be found in plenty in the custom furniture market and in smaller studios.

If you browse through the woodworking blogosphere, you can find plenty of folks making beautiful pieces with live slabs. A couple of great examples:

Dan Mosheim of Dorset Custom Furniture:

Dale Osowski of Timberwerks Studio:

Both are exceptional pieces from highly talented craftsmen, but they lead me to one question:  Why just hall tables and benches? About 99% of the live edge/irregular pieces I’ve seen are either hall tables or sitting benches. Don’t get me wrong, I love these pieces, but why haven’t live slabs become popular as cabinet/dresser tops, low entertainment centers, or desks? You see the occassional coffee table or countertop, but these gorgeous slabs don’t seem to travel much farther than that.

So my question for the reader is “Why? Why don’t we see more slabs?”

Design a Week – 3/52

I know, three weeks in and I can’t even keep up. I’ll be honest – as long as I get to 52/52 before 31 Dec 2010, I’ll consider this exercise a success. On to this week’s piece…

This is a design for a buffet, but I think you could adjust the height and make it a sofa table. Believe it or not, I got the inspiration for this piece driving by a Hampton Inn Suites hotel at night.  The architecture featured a red brick construction with concrete columns that divided the length of the building.

Not completely evident in the perspective drawing is that the width of all of the legs taper 2:1. The pattern on the front legs would be routed with a small cove bit. On the side legs, I’m not sure if I want the pattern to be recessed or proud of the leg. I really don’t know what drove me to create the recess in the center of the table, so I could see the table without it. If I kept it, I would blacken that area – probably with a flat paint.

As for materials, I could go two ways.  Originally I thought the table top would be a darker wood, with a medium hued wood for the legs.  Thinking about it again, I could see the table being all knotty pine with wrought iron hardware and straps across the top – like a steamer trunk.

Your thoughts?