Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Contemporary Live-Edge Dining Table - Designing and Building the Base

Creating bespoke furniture often means designing a piece that fits both the tastes of a client and a specific space in their home.   In this case we were looking to build a live-edge table, with the capacity to seat six, that could fit in a cozy dining room.

I really enjoy it when you can go as a team to the hardwood supplier and your customer signs off on the stock right from the start.  With a spray bottle of mineral spirits in hand, you share in the excitement of finding the perfect board (particularly important with live-edge pieces), and they appreciate the complexities and costs of building a fine piece of furniture.  It reminds me of why I do this in the first place.  We selected a slab of walnut for the top, took it to the studio, and set it aside.

The most important design decision was how I would construct the base.  After some back and forth I agreed to build a couple of models to illustrate our options.  I like making models because each can be saved for future reference and everyone gets a much better idea of the scale of the piece.  I also find that major joinery challenges show themselves long before you pick up a tool.

We selected the cantilevered option on the left and this led me back to the lumberyard to find a small slab for the base.  I then set about inlaying three functional-yet-decorative butterfly inserts in the wide crosspiece.

Contemporary furniture often lends itself well to the unobtrusive style of joinery offered by the domino system.  This piece, however, seemed to be better served by traditional western and Japanese mortise and tenon joints.  I  also got it into my head that I could make this table much stronger if I could make each joint self locking -- using the weight of the top to secure each connection.

The key bit of joinery is the angled support in the front -- fully bridled at the bottom and slipped in place at the top with the table support acting as a stop.  It holds the weight of the top, plus the weight of the builder, with ease.

Next Up:  Flattening and Surfacing the Top