Lee Valley Coffee Tables
November 1, 2005
Entry Details

# 293
James Cohen
Camden , ME
Dimensions (inches):  
  Width:   48
  Height:   17.5
  Depth:   16
Materials:   cherry, quarter sawn maple veneer, stainless steel

The bent plywood top to this table is 15 layers of quarter sawn maple veneer, cross grain laminated for further stability.  West Systems Epoxy was the adhesive used.  The solid cherry frame is constructed with double floating tenons in each of the eight miters.  I made stainless steal spacers to float the table top off the frame to give the table a lighter and more delicate feel.  

The dimensions of the bend are based on the dimensions of a standard magazine with the intention for the user to be able to keep the table top clear of clutter.

Here's a detail of the bend.

Here is a shot of me (on the left) and my instructor (David Upfill-Brown) at The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, where I am a student in the Nine Month Comprehensive Program.  The photo was taken just before the first glue up… still not sure if the bend was possible.  The positive part of the former is made of ¾” chip board. Threaded rod and PVA hold to shape.  The former is about ten feet in length (five feet on either side of the bend) to give future presses the option of variety of where the bend will be.  

This is a photo of the glue up.  The negative part of the form is made of 1” MDF for strength – also bolted together with threaded rod.  Once the negative was carefully slid over the positive with the 15 layers of veneer sandwiched in between, cauls and clamps did the work.

Judges Comments
AR : The bent top reminds me of my bud Tom Stender's Wave Goodbye tables, which have wrinkled tops of solid wood. (See www.stenderdesign.com.) A great idea, and a stunning line! On a practical note, it seems the bend is a bit tight at the bottom. I'd like to see it able to hold a book or two, too. A larger bottom radius may have helped here. My biggest beef with the design is a structural one: The lower frame, particularly at the mitered sections, offers little or no triangulation in the way of stretchers, braces or gussets to prevent racking side-to-side or back-to-front. Those miters are being asked to hold a lot of potential racking forces, and are under-proportioned to do the job. Larger contact areas at the miters (think: longer shoulders provide more strength), and a stretcher situation close to the floor at either end would solve the problem. Nevertheless, a great piece for a student at one of the country's premier woodworking schools!
CS : I wish I had thought of this. I would have beefed up the undercarriage (I have kids) but in an adult household, you'll be fine.
GR : Nice concept! The photos don't show the top floating unfortunately. The base also lets this idea fall just short. Poor grain selection on the bottom rail doesn't help. What if you had included an upward blip on that bottom rail to mimic the main idea?
LG : What an idea! This simple line is so rich. I think it's a great concept and high marks for creativity are deserved. The top is fabulous. The overall structure though, appears quite fragile. The two "U" shaped legs are supported by only one stretcher just under the top and however deep the scew penetrates into the leg. A stronger base would help this table.
RJ : This is creative and technically very challenging. I very much like the top with its mix of flat planes and the sharp bend bringing to mind such forms as sine wave patterns, blips on radar screens or stylised depictions of the earths crust sinking into the lower core or magma. I've always been a bit of a sucker for the visual freedoms this form of woodworking can endow the designer with. The stark rectilinear underframing offers a strong visual counterpoint to the wave form but in this case I suspect the structural integrity is inadequate--- it could be made stronger in other materials. I give this high marks overall for original thinking and the willingness of the designer/maker to develop technical competence. As a side note a great deal of thought, materials and work is often required to achieve satisfactory bends, whether steamed, kerfed or laminated.

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