Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shaker Side Tables: Simple Lines Define Round Stand

In my opinion, no piece of furniture defines Keats' observation  "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" like the Shaker Round Stand.  Everything about it makes sense.  Three legs mean that it will never wobble unevenly; its shape allows it to fit in the smallest possible space.  Even the round top ensures that there are no edges to chip or corners to poke passers-by.

The only surprise is that it did not emerge, wholly formed, from the mind of Shaker craftsmen, but evolved over time.  Early incarnations have the look of a high school shop class gone terribly wrong -- a square top, peg legs, and awkward turnings.  The model for my stand was made somewhere around 1850, (according to Christian Becksvoort) in the Mt Lebanon or Hancock communities.

I made only a couple of modifications to the original.  The first being that the top for my piece is turned on the lathe, from a single 17 1/2" board I found in the "odds and sods" section of Groff and Groff.  I think I paid something like $15 for it.  The top starts life at around 1 1/2" thick, so the main purpose of turning is to lighten the appearance and keep it in scale with the whole piece.  I actually used the screw center in my Novatek chuck to secure it to the lathe, and steadied it with the tailstock.  It would have been better to use a faceplate with an integral screw, but I don't have one.  I turned it at around 300 rpm and took very light cuts and sanded to 220.

The second modification was that I cut a wide 1/16" groove in the bottom to accept the support piece and extended the tenon from the pedestal so that it extended into the top.  There is plenty of meat in the 1 1/2" top to accept about a 3/8" deep hole, and its only real purpose is aid in assembly.  This is part of an experiment I'm doing to see if I can create pieces that can be shipped with ease, allowing the client to assemble it at home. 

I will secure the top with brass insert nuts that are drilled and embedded into the top.  These accept a 1/4" round head screw and, since this is a cross grain application, I will expand the hole in the support to accomodate wood movement.  My normal finish for pieces such as this is Tried and True oil, however, I'm going to wait until the other tables are complete and finish all in one go.

Next, I'll look at a handy tool and complete the Single Drawer Sewing Stand.


  1. That is just awesome. You are right, simple and beautiful and you did a great job making it.

  2. Thanks guys, I love working with cherry. It doesn't make me itch, it's easy on the tools, and I love the way it mellows with age.

  3. Or as Will Shakespeare said: O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem/By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!

    That's one true table, Chris. You've stayed true to the Shaker simplicity but there is grace there too (it looks like it would like to fly) and cherry is a true and honest wood.

  4. Thanks Tiffin! I think one of the biggest challenges in any arts/crafts venture is finding a way to make your statement - playing originals, not covers. I'm not sure how far I am from really getting my own voice, but I'll just keep building. On my blogroll and furniture links I've tried to link to those who I think are on a similar path.

  5. Simple and Beautiful, You use any other wood apart from Cherry ?

  6. @HTF - Shaker furniture is pretty cherry-intensive (except for rockers and chairs that seem to go for figured maple.) I'm always looking for an excuse to use walnut and I use quarter-sawn white oak for any arts & crafts projects.

    I am noodling around with a design for a shaker-inspired walnut tilt-top table on a pedestal. Something between the shaker stand and an English breakfast table.

  7. Lovely! Is it for sale? You mention flat-pack for shipping. Would be interested!


  8. Hi Lisa- I sent you an email about the price and delivery of this table. Thanks for asking!

  9. Are you open for reseller?
    Do you have a brochures and price list?
    Canadian Home Decorating Blogs

  10. very nice, thank for your article