Modern Sofa Table

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Project by Todd A. Clippinger posted 03-21-2007 05:11 PM 6874 views 34 times favorited 38 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was approached by a local architectural firm to design and build a small table to display the use of sustainable and environmentally friendly products. This table is what I created for the display.

The light panels and slats are bamboo and the black framework is of poplar. Both are rapidly renewable and sustainably grown. The finish is a waterbase lacquer and fits the model for low VOC content and is considered “friendly” to the environment. I must say there was virtually no odor involved in the finish nor was there any gassing off as experienced from petroleum based products.

I did not have time to get any good finish photos of this piece because I was running tight on schedule.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

38 comments so far

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 5434 days

#1 posted 03-21-2007 05:37 PM


Good work. Very classy. It will be interesting to know how well the low VOC lacquer will hold up over the years. I guess I’m not familiar with the terms: rapidly renewable and sustainably grown. I guess I should ask, how does bamboo and poplar differ from woods like oak and maple in that respect?

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 5422 days

#2 posted 03-21-2007 05:41 PM

Nicely done. I like the color contrast.


View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5436 days

#3 posted 03-21-2007 05:50 PM

Bamboo grows at an incredibly fast rate, like a weed. Poplar grows to a usable harvesting size in a shorter period of time than it takes maple or oak. Poplar is grown in crop-like rows in some locations and is harvested.

I have had really good luck with poplar in my work. It works a lot like cherry, as far as the handling characteristics for milling and shaping. It takes paint, stain, and finish really well. It may contain purple, green, or black streaks that can show through the stain too much, look out for that. It is a very reasonably priced wood and you can get it in huge pieces. As with any wood, read the grain when picking it.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5497 days

#4 posted 03-21-2007 06:01 PM

this is stunning, Todd.
I love it—and environmentally friendly. I REALLY like that.

re: the streaks in the poplar? Oh, I’d be watching out for it, alright—that would look BEAUTIFUL :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Max's profile


55999 posts in 5610 days

#5 posted 03-21-2007 06:12 PM


Very nice… What did you use for the black on the poplar???

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5436 days

#6 posted 03-21-2007 07:03 PM

I used transtint dye to “ebonize” the wood. I did have some problems with yellow coming through and I used an acrylic paint, still lower in VOC’s to paint one light coat, at this point it didn’t take much. Before I resorted to the paint I even dyed the lacquer and shot it on. Then I did 4 coats of the lacquer. For comparison, many of the solvent based lacquers I use from Sherwin Williams run in the 650-670 gr per liter range. The water based lacquer runs about 180 gr per liter VOC content. Most latex paint off the shelf runs about 250 gr per liter. Most water based polyurethanes were 250-275 gr per liter VOC content. These all are general numbers as I researched many brands. The dye as a concentrate is about 850 gr per liter VOC content but is considered a low VOC product when diluted as directed.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 5498 days

#7 posted 03-21-2007 07:06 PM

Nice job Todd. Funny, I was thinking of a similar design for the Thorsen Table Challenge. May have to rethink that now. Would not want to be considered a copy cat.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5436 days

#8 posted 03-21-2007 07:18 PM

Knock yourself out Bill. You wouldn’t believe the level of outright copying that I have witnessed by professional furniture makers at the conferences and shows. Mark DeCou can vouch for that.

Even Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Rennie MacIntosh, Voysey and others saw something and modified it and incorporated it into their architecture or furniture. My ideas are reinterpretations and modifications of something else. To be 100% original is very difficult.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View fred's profile


256 posts in 5435 days

#9 posted 03-21-2007 07:43 PM

Thanks, Todd, for the tips on finishing poplar. In So Cal poplar always seems to be stocked by the big box stores along with pine, oak and redwood and is readily available. I have found that poplar makes good face frames for cabinets if you are going to paint the cabinets because of the difficulties in staining poplar as you pointed out.

-- Fred Childs, Pasadena, CA - - - Law of the Workshop: Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5497 days

#10 posted 03-21-2007 07:50 PM

the VOC content information is wonderful.

The stuff that we don’t know, but ignorance really isn’t an excuse these days.

Sounds like water-based polyurethanes are not a bad choice.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Shawn's profile


225 posts in 5490 days

#11 posted 03-21-2007 10:09 PM

that looks great Todd, I read an artical about how bamboo would be the biggest cash crop of teh new millenium a while back, and if you can make it look that good I’;m on board

-- Cheers

View rentman's profile


230 posts in 5431 days

#12 posted 03-22-2007 01:54 AM

first off awsome thats the only word I can come up with after looking.Very nice job.
where do you get usable bamboo lumber,how wide dose it come in?I love the way the black and bamboo go together.I love simple designs like this.

-- Phil, Chattanooga,TN

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5651 days

#13 posted 03-22-2007 02:45 AM

Not only that the thing looks cool!

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5664 days

#14 posted 03-22-2007 02:58 AM

Nice table, great job on a classy “green” design. That is right up my alley.

Debbie, waterbased polys are great, It seems the biggest drawback is that they don’t yellow wood like oil based ones do, so some people find them “cold”. You also will need to apply more coats, as it contains less solids, but since it dries faster, you can do more coats in less time. Our front hall, and upstairs bedrooms were done in waterbased and are holding up very well. In fact the cats have done more damage to the oil based polys on the counter edgeing and the ledges behind the sofa than the floors, even at the base of the stairs when they race up and down, and take very sharp corners!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5497 days

#15 posted 03-22-2007 03:53 AM

sometimes going green means making some compromises. I write a weekly article for our local newspaper. The title of the article is: “Lifestyle Challenge” and it focuses on how we have to change how we live in order to protect Mother Nature as well as our own personal lives.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

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