Lee Valley Coffee Tables
November 1, 2005
Entry Details

# 197
Julianna Sassaman
Fort Bragg, CA
Dimensions (inches):  
  Width:   44
  Height:   17
  Depth:   14
Materials:   This solid wood coffee table is made entirely of North American Cherry, except for the wedges in the through-tenons which are Pennsylvania Walnut.  
I designed this coffee table to be a multi-use piece of furniture, based on my own urban life and my usually small living space.  I focused on keeping the design simple, elegant and adaptive. This piece could be well used as an entry bench or a low book shelf as well as a coffee table.  

For the tabletop and shelf, I book-matched and rejoined the wood to accent the wonderful medial rays and subtle figure in this cherry.  To create this spare design, I eliminated the usual stretchers lengthwise beneath the tabletop and shelf and instead I put the legs through the tabletop with wedged-tenons.  

This solid wood table has all-wood joinery, and some very special accommodations for wood movement.   Underneath the ends of the tabletop, I added strength by using a floating stretcher between the legs, allowing the top to grow or shrink in width without exposing any joinery.  Accommodating for movement in the shelf required some innovative problem solving.  The shelf is also floating within mortises into the legs.  There is one stretcher the length of the table beneath the shelf.  The shelf is doweled at two points to this stretcher to keep it centered as it may change width over time.  Otherwise, the shelf is simply trapped within the leg mortises.  

I did a great deal of handwork on this project, relying on exceptionally tight joinery to accent the simplicity and sophistication of the piece.  
All of the edge details I shaped by hand, using wooden planes I have made.  For the legs, I first bandsawed the taper, then hand planed the final shape and bevels.  Much of this piece bears the subtle marks of my hand plane.  I sanded the tabletop and shelf and finished the entire piece with three coats of Wipe-on Poly.  All joints were assembled with Elmer’s white glue.  

Judges Comments
AR : ..."simple, elegant and adaptive..." You sum it up in your own words. The only thing I can add: I love it! A first-rate job.
CS : There is lots of good stuff here. Details are good. Joinery is thoughtful. It jusrt looks a little "open" under the top to me. It might look great in situ with stuff on the bottom of the shelf, but as it is, I'd want to lower the top a tad to bring it closer to the shelf.
GR : The spartan simplicity here works well. Great grain selection on the rift sawn legs helps this design. But maybe some gentle curves to the shape of the top would help. Perhaps along the edges or just a gentle curve on the ends. Maybe a chamfer cut along the top edge that grows and swells. This would put, I think, an even sweeter feel to a very sweet piece.
RJ : Clean lines with a sure but light design touch. Unfussy. Elegant leg taper and neatly executed joinery. I was impressed by the careful thought and solutions found to cope with seasonal wood movement. Quiet dignity written all over it.

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