Lee Valley Coffee Tables
November 1, 2005
Entry Details
 

# 281
Dan Hughes
Northbay, ON
Dimensions (inches):  
  Width:   30
  Height:   17
  Depth:   30
Materials:   Birdseye maple
Ash
Mahogany
Brass rod
Brass screws
I love my pond. It's not a big pond by anyone's standards, but it is my pond. I enjoy just sitting out on my patio in the morning and watching the fish come up for their food, or just to watch the breeze play along its surface. The idea for this table came from the pleasure I derived from my pond. I wanted to create the feeling of a lilly leaf floating on top of the water with a gentle breeze blowing.
 

The base for this indoor pond is a 24" diameter piece of mahogany two inches thick resting on  four turned mahogany feet. On top of this rests the bottom of the pond a 16" diameter two inch thick piece of mahogany. I sculpted this piece to look like a slight current had formed the bottom. I achieved this effect by using a gutter adz,a scorp, and spokeshave. For the weed bed I used ash which a friend of mine and I cut down at his camp. Each piece was riven from that log and then shaped with a drawknife and spokeshave.
To get the curve I steamed bent each piece and put them in forms that I made.No two pieces have the same curve. I can honestly say that I took those ash pieces from tree to table.
 

The reason I had chosen riven ash to support the top was for its strength. Being riven the grain was straight and since I steam bent it to achieve my curves the grain was still straight inside those curves. In my mind I said this should work, but I kept hearing that word "should" so I had to see if it was stong. The picture shows 50 pounds worth of weights sitting on the top. If I could have found more weights to add I would have. I am still curious as to how much weight it can actually support.
 

The top is shaped like a lilly pad roughly 30"x 30" in diameter and 7/8" thick. The top edge is rounded over with the bottom edge chamfered back. This chamfering back of the bottom edge was done to make the top appear to be lighter than what it is.
Coming off the back side of the lilly pad are two cat tails. The tail part is mahogany while the stalk is brass rod.
 

The finish for this piece was straight forward. A walnut oil based stain for the mahogany. I love to use a dark walnut stain on mahogany as it gives the wood that richness and depth that you just have to admire. For the ash and birdseye maple I used a spring oak oil based stain. The clear coat was a sprayed oil based poly (three coats).
This table had some demanding design issues. From whether it would support weight, to how do you level a table top that is just sitting on a bunch of weeds. I enjoyed doing this piece, it stretched me both mentally and physically. You know what they say "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger".
 

Judges Comments
AR : A unique, gentle, peaceful design... and very successful. I'm sure you will get many comtemplative years from it. The weeds are lovely in their assymetry, and in their riven strength. The cat-tails, however, look a little "stiff." I would explore forged or otherwise textured rod as an alternative to give them a bit more of a rough and natural look. The round base detracts from the otherwise natural lines of this piece.
CS : Excellent design, though it looks to me to be more of a side table. And I wouldn't want my Uncle Ron to prop his feet up on it.
LG : Wonderful.Your illusion of a gentle current is successful. I would have liked to see a less geometrically shaped base. All the other lines are very organic but it's perched on a round base. Even the mound of mud from which the weeds grow is a great shape for this piece. A larger mound of mud, large enough to be the entire base, will eliminate this distraction.
RJ : Original, inspired, witty, unconventional. Is it unbalanced? At first glance, yes. But it's soon obvious what the inspiration is and you are inextricably drawn into the theme of water, weeds, lily pad, bullrushes (cat tails) and the form makes sense. I would have liked to see the base less perfect than the circular geometrical form. By doing so you'd have extended the theme of the shaped muddy bottom of the pond just above it. The rendition of the bullrushes seems a little uncomfortable. Excellent though.

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