Alex's Coffee Table Build Off #1: Design and base

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Blog entry by Nitreug posted 11-10-2014 12:24 AM 1624 reads 1 time favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Alex's Coffee Table Build Off series Part 2: The complete base »

A few weeks ago, I decided to join the Coffee Table Build Off started by Neil Cronk. You can read more about his initiative here:

From the start, I wanted to design something incredibly challenging (at least challenging in the 21 days allowed for the build off). I knew from the start that I wanted my table to look “organic” with not many straight lines. Curvy might be a word to describe what I was aiming for. A bent laminated base with four legs was my first idea. The legs would flare out and meet in the middle. A center “spine” would be the link between the legs and the top. This being said, there were two issues with this:
1) I’ve never done bent lamination
2) I believe in “simple is beautiful. 2 legs is simpler than 4! (You’ll see that this idea comes back often)

Making 2 legs with bent laminations might not have been very stable so I kept playing with ideas in my head until I dropped the bent lamination idea. At that point, I had fixed 2 legs as a requirement. With 2 legs, I had to find a way to keep the table stable so came the requirement for some type of base. I decided that some type of trestle table would work. The stretcher was moved at the bottom to avoid any interference in the look. Again, simple is beautiful. A stretcher in the middle “interferes” with the empty space. So at this point, my idea was the following:
1) a trestle table,
2) the stretcher at the bottom,
3) the legs “curve” out,
4) the base is carved or at least severely rounded.

For the top of the table, I decided that in order to add stability, I would incorporate some type of “spine”. In other words, the center would be thicker than the edges. You’ll see pictures soon. It will all make sense soon.

To join the top to the base, I thought of using sliding dovetails although it would take a little too long so I decided to use a simpler dado and tenon.

Finally, for the wood choice, I decided to use maple. I think that a big challenge in design is knowing how to avoid over-designing. Because my design will catch the eye, I wanted to avoid using a wood that would compete with the design. I am usually not a big fan of maple but for this particular build, I thought it would be light enough in color to blend well with the design. I looked for tiger maple but I couldn’t source any locally and the bird’s eye maple I had access to was not great so normal maple it was (not sure if it was soft or hard).

Now let’s show some pictures:

Got clamps? I bought a 12ft long 8/4 piece of maple for the base. Half of the plank was rift sawn so I used that part for the top of each base. I glued 2 pieces of 8/4 together to make each base.

Those drawings show what the base will look like. To actually cut it, I think I had 6-8 steps:
1) Cut the domino mortises to join the stretcher,
2) Cut the dado on the top,
3) Make an angled cut on the stretcher side. That cut had a 15-25 degree angle (not sure exactly).
4) Cut the first profile on the band saw.
5) Make another angle cut on the stretcher side again.
6) Make the second cut on the band saw to remove the waste on the stretcher side. To see the exact drawing, I re-attached the top using tape.
7) Clean using a lot of patience, rasps, sand paper, and anything you can get your hands on.
8) Make a round over on the router table.

After some time rasping, refining, sanding, swearing, this was the result. This wasn’t the final result, just the first base. Before spending too much time sanding, I wanted to make my second base to keep them both identical. If I had to remove material again, there was no point, sanding to 220.

This wraps up my first blog entry. I hope you enjoyed reading about my design thoughts and the beginning of this coffee table. On my next entry, I will cover the rest of the base including the legs and the stretcher.

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