Lee Valley Coffee Tables
November 1, 2005
Entry Details
 

# 206
Gerald Mayberry
Kingsport, TN
Dimensions (inches):  
  Width:   36
  Height:   17 3/4
  Depth:   22 1/4
Materials:   Top- 15/16 x 36 inch mahogany stock
Legs- 2 3/4 inch square mahogany stock 17 3/4 inch
Bartley brown mahogany gel stain
Bartley Pennsylvania cherry gel stain
Polyurethane varnish-Top
Shellac and Tung Oil- Frame and legs

I designed this coffee table to fit into a space in a small sitting room.  The inspiration for the table arose from a picture of a small stool in a book by Ron Clarkson.  The design is very similar to classical furniture produced in the 18th century.  The cabriole legs are ornamented with shells and volutes and terminate in trifid feet. The legs were bandsawed from 2 ¾ inch square solid stock using a template for marking out.  Spokeshaves, rasps and files were used to shape the legs.  Interestingly curved transition pieces are attached to the legs.  Scrolled volutes provide an extension of the curve of the back of the cabriole leg.   The use of trifid feet further provides an extension of the s curve from the scrolled volutes to the floor.   
 
I used the golden rectangle method for determining the proportions of the table.  There is a  13/16 inch overhang of the top all around the frame.  The table is constructed with mortise and tenon joinery.  Middle sections of the frame, sides and ends, were relieved to avoid the appearance of heaviness.  The frame is 13/16 inch solid mahogany
 
Tables, chairs, and large chests such as highboys and lowboys utilized shells, scrolled volutes and trifid feet among other methods of ornamentation in the 18th century.  I designed wide shells to more fully cover the knee and deepened the V grooves at the tops of the shells to provide more light/shadow contrast.  The shells were marked out with templates made using appropriately curved gouges and then the area around the shells recessed.   Gouges were used to set in the shells and the rays marked out to conform to the curved tops.  V tools and curved gouges were used to carve the shells. The volutes were carved with increasingly smaller gouges as the spirals tightened
 
The squares remaining at the bottom of cabriole legs after the intial bandsawing process were marked with templates for the curved toes and descending flutes which flow into the toes.  Grain changes while carving the toes and flutes required caution to avoid tearout.  The curved, undulating surface of trifid feet provides interest and excellent light/ shadow contrast
 
The top was glued up from figured 15/16 inch solid mahogany stock taking care to arrange the grain in an attractive pattern.  For the edge of the table I chose a descending cove flowing into a round.  This edge is consistent with 18th century period furniture molding profiles and additionally will provide durability.  The top was finished  as follows:  brown mahogany gel stain overglazed with a reddish-brown gel stain followed by three coats of polyurethane varnish.  The frame and legs were stained as above and then finished with shellac followed by two coats of tung oil.  This finish was chosen rather than a traditional period finish such as shellac for durability and water resistance
 

Judges Comments
AR : Lovely proportions, good color, a nicely arranged top, and beautiful carvings. The cabirole has a nice sweep to it. The aprons look unfinished, though, since they legs are so heavily carved. A bead detail, or perhaps some light carving, would have tied the piece together. Still, this is a lovely heirloom piece that will age gracefully over the years.
CS : I actually like the restrained aprons on this piece. "Period" coffee tables always look out of sorts to my eye, but this is as good a job as one could do given the limitations of the form.
GR : Beautiful carving work makes this piece shine. I believe the rails could use some shape however. Something that was in keeping with the powerfully carved feet would make this piece stand out.
LG : The corners of this table are beautiful. The legs are lovely. However, the space between the legs is incongruent with the level of ornamentation on the legs. The top and aprons are spare, too spare for the legs. Congruence is key to good design and some ornamentaion in the top and aprons would have really boosted this piece. None the less, I love the corners of this table, nice work.
RJ : There is lovely carving work here on beautifully proportioned traditional cabriole legs and the colour is rich and vibrant. I do think that there should be just a little more carved and/or moulded ornamentation on the rails to visually connect the legs and some similar additional light ornamentation at least on the edge of the table top would add more again.

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