Lee Valley Coffee Tables
November 1, 2005
Entry Details
 

# 300
David Frechette
Barnet, VT
Dimensions (inches):  
  Width:   44
  Height:   17
  Depth:   19.5
Materials:   cherry, cherry veneer, plywood, glass
The inspiration for this coffee table was a desire to make a project combining curves and veneering to increase my skills.
 

Each of the top two sides was constructed of two pieces of 1/2" plywood cut out on a bandsaw using a circle jig and refined using a similar jig on a disc sander. The central index point on each was retained. A 3/16" recess was then routed to within two inches from the center to accomdated the 3/8" glass center using a specially constructed router jig. The inside of the recess was dyed and the edge of the plywood that would contact the glass was veneered using cutoffs from the bandsaw to assist clamping. After trimming the veneer with a plane blade, the two sides were glued with yellow glue and the glass with silicone glue and the entire top structure was clamped. Following this the glass was covered with tape and paper for the duration and the remainder of the top sides was veneered. After this was trimmed, the top and bottem surfaces were veneered with bookmatched curly cherry.
 

The legs were made of solid cherry resawn to a thickness of 1/8", half lapped, steam bent as a unit of 12 pieces (six for each side of the leg) over a mold and then, after drying, epoxied together and pressed in a vacuum press. A pin and index holes were used to align the pieces for steam bending and then pressing. The same mold with a different pin site was then used to square the leg ends. The legs were then cleaned up with a grinder, draw knife and spoke shave. The leg sides were hammer veneered and the front and back were veneer using the vacuum bag.

The upper ends of the legs were drilled for dowels using the mold to hold them square and then the matching holes were drilled in the top using dowel centers to mark the placement. Then the whole was glued together and clamped.
 
The spindle was turned from solid cherry with a dowel to fit the indexing hole in the legs. Three attempts were required to find a design that was satisfactory. The end balls or knobs were turned from the ends of the same piece of cherry with a hole to accept the end of the dowel.
 

The table is finished with 3 layers of shellac. The first two were brushed on with a sanding in between. Following a wet sanding with oil, the final layer was padded on until an acceptable level of gloss was achieved. The table was then waxed.
 

Judges Comments
AR : A very creative and challenging piece. Nice job. I worry that the glass is irrepairable if it ever breaks. Overall, the form is lovely. But I find the cherry stretcher distracting and out of synch with the rest of the table. A simpler, perhaps un-turned, stretcher might have worked more successfully.
CS : I admire the technical virtuosity of this piece.
GR : Congratulations for taking on such a technically difficult piece in order to challenge yourself. It's the best way to learn. I think the shapes are fighting one another a bit. Strong O's and strong X's. Perhaps a different shape on that stretcher would have helped: something with more cove and less bead or a bit more striking. It has a tough time I think as a simple beaded column standing up to the visual impact of the curved X's. I like that captured glass idea.
LG : This piece is creative, it's functional and the workmanship appears very good. Kudos. This table is strong with all of the stresses addressed and yet appears light. Using solid cherry for the top would have been a slight improvement for the sake of durability of the edges but that is a minor point. This table has a lovely form and appears very well excecuted.
RJ : An unusual and original piece demonstrating much good joinery ability and a great deal of problem solving. I like the tension in the design and, whereas I'd often find the base too narrow, here the base is visually extended because the eye follows the curved legs at the bottom 'filling in' the gap. It seems from your description that the glass is permanently bonded in to the two circular ends. If this is the case and a breakage occurs to the glass how do you go about repairing it? Perhaps this is an ocassion where you've assessed the risk and decided that if there is a calamity then you have to completely remake the top. Attaching the top to the base as you have with dowels is unconventional and I suspect this method will eventually give out.

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