Completing the box project and getting some much needed publicity was followed by the excitement of a new project. I settled on a coffee table. Design inspiration this time came from Origami. I played around with bits of paper for ages, looking for a concept that could work as a low table. The design is strikingly simple, but in reality quite a complex build.
The design brief this time was for the table to resemble a folded piece of paper. The drama in this piece was to be a deep v section or valley that ran across the centre of the table. I chose crown cut English Ash not only beautifully figured but with a textured grain to match.
When viewed from above the shape of the table is a perfect rectangle. In order for the components to fit this brief there were lots of compound angles to work out. My training on CAD packages including Rhino 3D came in useful. With help from more advanced students on the course I modelled the shape in Rhino and produced a full size mockup in MDF. This process really helped to refine the design as well as to check the methods of construction.
The timber was carefully selected, five 4 metre long sequential planks from the same tree. Much more material than I needed, but we are taught to buy at least twice what we need. This means we can make our component selection without compromise, this is essential when making items of the very highest quality. The ash had been kilned dried and had a moisture content of 9.4, well within the acceptable range for furniture makers. The timber was allowed to acclimatise in the workshop, and was dimensioned down to size over a period of two weeks.
Mitres seem to have become my joint of choice and there was going to be no change to that in this project. I was able to cut some of the mitres on the Altendorf table saw we have in the workshop. However, the joint at the bottom of the v section required use of the spindle moulder. A scary machine, but once mastered is incredibly flexible. In order to use the machine, each student undertakes a two-day training course. I duly received my training and set about building a jig to hold my work. It took longer to set up the machine, build the jig and run through a test piece than it did to machine my ash, but as all good craftsman say, it’s all about the preparation.
In all projects there’s always one exercise or joint that you put off because you know it’s going to be tricky. On this piece it was a hidden mitre connecting the legs to the top. It was necessary and intrinsic to the design. It was the joint that would make or literally break the design aesthetic of the table. I drew on my training as well as patience and quiet determination and built the jig, sharpened my tools and set to work. As is often the case, those things you dread are not always as bad or as tricky as you first thought.
The table was completed on time and taken up to London for a photo-shoot. As furniture makers, photography is incredibly important, poorly lit or staged photo’s do nothing to enhance or showcase your skills. The studio we used was a railway arch in Shoreditch, our professional photographer Tony took some amazing shots. The table looks stunning in this industrial setting, the hardwood floor and distressed brick wall highlight the lines beautifully.