Tuesday, August 18, 2009

tables nearly complete

Today I had CPR training in the morning and staff meeting in the afternoon, but did manage to get more Danish oil on the tables I'm making. One more coat to go. As you can see, I've made the tables in two kinds of wood, walnut and cherry, and in two versions, end tables and hall tables. All are made with exposed mortise and tenon joints wedged with contrasting woods.

These tables are based on a design I made in around 1980-1984 and wanted to revisit. At the time, I was experimenting with mortise and tenon joints and had a particular interest in expanding my design foundation beyond American and European furniture, so Japanese architecture and my interest in all things foreign were brought into the design matrix.

At the time, I was concerned that so much of the potential for technical comprehension of the objects in our lives is hidden from view and that it is nice to see how things fit, how things work, how things go together, and those things can be elements in our observation of beauty. Now, manufacturers have gotten even worse. They hide the motors in cars so you can't see them, even when you open the hood. Mercedes is now making cars with no dipsticks so you can feel completely detached from physical, bodily responsibility.

But, I think having a body is a cool thing. Caring for things and having the capacity to fix things, starts with having an understanding of how things work. So revisiting this design is intended to make a statement of sorts. It is great to see how things work, as the physical structure of an object can express both beauty and integrity. And much of the world is headed in the opposite direction.


  1. Wow! Beautiful work. I'm curious about how you design your tables. Do you sketch with a pencil, try mockups with cheaper wood, or something else entirely? How would you describe the "trial and error" of design and refinement? I once tried prototyping an hourglass on a computer-based modeling system with some success (as you pointed out recently, trial-and-error is easy when there are no consequences to "failure" - just push the "undo" button and try again). Your thoughts?

  2. Anonymous5:42 AM


    They're beautiful! By the way, how many coats of Danish Oil do you use?


  3. Mario, two or 3 coats depending on the sheen. If I get what I want in two, then the third is not needed.

    Toysmith, these are based on tables I did early in my career. Starting out, I made dimensional sketches on the computer to show my customers what they would get and to confirm their interest in the design and the fit in their home.

    Woodworking is certainly different from what happens in a computer. There are very small cumulative errors that require adjustment of the size of parts and locations of mortises and tenons, so the important thing for me is to be sequential in operations, taking dimensions for next things from real life rather than from what I've drawn.