MCAD Furniture Class #2: Inspiration

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Jeff posted 04-25-2008 05:53 AM 7763 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Beginning of the Course Part 2 of MCAD Furniture Class series Part 3: Design Presentation and Final Modifications »

As I mentioned in the last entry, I found a project that jumped off the page and gave me the inspiration I needed to start the design for my project. I picked up the book Tradition in Contemporary Furniture and started thumbing through the pages…

Here is a shot of the cover for anyone interested.
Book cover - Tradition in Contemporary Furniture

This is the work that gave my creative juices a jump-start:
Beam Table by Gord Peteran
Copyright 2001 by The Furniture Society. Artist: Gord Peteran, Toronto, Ontario, 1999. Photo by Elaine Brodie.

It reminded me of a marking gauge and the brass wedge is a nice touch too. I like how the height of the ‘table’ can be adjusted by moving the support down the beam. The round pedestal can also be moved up and down the beam. It appealed to me because of the woodworking tool similarity (how cool is that?) and it was ingenious in its simplicity.

Bolstered by this find, I got busy working on some thumbnail sketches and quickly jumped over to Sketchup. A couple of days of playing around and I came up with this design:
desk concept 1

I’ve always been fascinated by cantilever designs and thought maybe I could apply that to this project…

I liked where the experiment was heading. Three simple elements. A cantilevered top. An obvious tie to my inspiration. However, the three elements seemed like they didn’t quite work well enough together. Back to Sketchup.

The beam or stretcher was dropped down in it’s elevation. I wanted it to be more subtle so the angle between the beam and the ground needed to be flattened out. Also, the support was a little too simple. I started playing with some different angles on all the sides. I needed to address the weight of the table top since there was probably no way I could pull off this design if I didn’t get that down. I decided a torsion box top might be the way to go because it would be stable as well as considerably lighter. Here is the second idea I worked up.

desk concept 2

All I had to do now was show up to week two and see what the instructor thought. I had my plan for a full length mirror project in my hip pocket just in case I was shot down. After all, this was an aggressive design and I knew it. Why not try? It’s all about the challenges.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

11 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35278 posts in 5610 days

#1 posted 04-25-2008 06:16 AM

Looks like a great challenge. When are you going to make it?

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5273 days

#2 posted 04-25-2008 06:29 AM

I take it that you didn’t have to reach into the “bullpen” for your reliever project. Can’t wait to see the finished work.
I think it’s highly commendable that you (and John & Kristen Gizmodyne) have taken advantage of educational opportunities in your community. And it’s a fair bit of genius to do this over the winter months rather than heat the shop. Bravo!

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 5303 days

#3 posted 04-25-2008 06:38 AM

Hey guys!

Karson – I’ve already built it but i have just a few tiny things to do with regard to the trim on the top of the final piece. And, I have to do some experiments on the approach I want to take with the finish. So, I don’t have the ‘Project’ pics yet but I want to tell the story. There seemed to be a challenge at every corner… It was quite the saga.

Doug – I immediately thought of Jon and Kristen when I found out this opportunity existed. I remember being somewhat envious of them and then was excited I could capitalize on the same type of thing. It’s great because I became acquainted with some great people and made some friends too. An all around grand experience.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 5206 days

#4 posted 04-25-2008 07:45 AM

Oh – this is so good Jeff – It’ll be really interesting to see how you unfold this one. I really like the curve in the top of the first sketch and also the tapered “leg” (the main one that the top attaches to) of the second sketch.

Keep ‘em coming!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 5031 days

#5 posted 04-25-2008 11:35 AM


This is a unique design and I am certain it was a challenge to build. But that it what makes us grow as woodworkers.

You have a unique opportunity for advancing your woodworking talents by attending this furniture class. I am sure that you will enjoy it and come away with some novel ideas.

Keep us posted on your progress.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View jjohn's profile


390 posts in 4923 days

#6 posted 04-25-2008 01:52 PM

I actually like the first piece over the second as far as it looks lighter and wants to cry out: “I’m defying gravity”. Both are Great designs and am looking forward to seeing the finished product.

-- JJohn

View Chris 's profile


1880 posts in 5200 days

#7 posted 04-25-2008 03:13 PM

Great design Jeff. I am looking forward to seeing the finished product.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 5303 days

#8 posted 04-26-2008 04:48 PM

Thanks for all the feedback guys. It’s interesting some of you like the design for the top in the first concept. Says something to me about instincts. However, I thought it was like a fourth element if you will. It was too overt and distracted from the fact it was a cantilever. The curve and the slant at the back kept pulling my eye the opposite direction; against the grain of the cantilever, if that makes sense. I appreciate the feedback about the sweeping curve though. It was actually an element from some other ideas knocking around in my head. It may pop up again…

I should be posting the final SU images of the design I went with today in the next entry. It is a slight modification to the second concept above.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 5206 days

#9 posted 04-27-2008 01:02 AM

I see what you’re saying (I think). All the visual interest of the curve and the beveled end, focuses your attention there, and not on the cantilevered length out toward the “far” end, which is your intended focus?

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 5303 days

#10 posted 04-27-2008 04:22 AM

That’s right Dorje. The visual tension needs to be at a different point than the fulcrum. To me, the whole thing should have a counter-clockwise flow. The beam and the leg meet at a 90deg angle but the cantilever adds the rest of the tension to the whole assemblage. It’s a bit hard to verbalize the aesthetic but I believe you and I are on the same page. Bacially, the defiance of gravity first and then the second look takes you into the details of the beam being a giant through tenon and then the leg to top joint is another large mortise and tenon situation.

Perhaps the front view without perspective helps this make more sense. What do you think?
front view_small

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 5206 days

#11 posted 04-27-2008 07:18 PM

I get what you’re saying – though now – looking at the front view, my eyes head towards the right, and then back over to the left, with my head questioning, “Where’s the other leg,” and then, “How is that possible?” – the defying gravity perspective…

I think the angle created between the top and the beam/strecther lead the eyes towards the vertex or center point of where the angle would originate in space. I think that’s what draws my eyes over to the leg/joinery side fairly naturally. But, again – I then go right over to the end of the cantilevered end and try to wrap my brain around that!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics