FLAME BIRCH AND PADOUK COFFEE TABLE
A product of design ideas from out of the blue.
SHOP OWNER: H. C. Sakman
LOCATION: Victoria, BC, Canada
This coffee table is a little bit avant-garde or studio (whatever that means...) in design. The top is made of solid flame birch; the bottom is solid birch, which is veneered with flame birch. The legs and spindles are padouk, and the aprons are curly/figured maple. The top floats on ten padouk dowels, which are embedded into the aprons. The bottom shelf is suspended from the middle stretchers, which are joined to the side aprons. Dovetailed padouk spindles hold the shelf securely, despite a full load of magazines, with no sweat at all. Each apron's tenon is pinned with two diamond shaped ebony pegs. These pictures don't even show 10% of this wood's striking figure.
My clients were renovating their home. They wanted a modern furniture piece, but had no idea what they wanted. So, I picked this flame birch out of my stack and slapped some paint thinner on it. My client said: "ok, I want this." I advised him that "we" needed to use some contrasting wood. I went through the same procedure on the padouk and, bingo!
The rest of the design just came to me in a week or so. At first, I was going to dowel the lower shelf to the inside corners of the legs, but I didn't like that idea because I feel it's too common and a real pain. So, I came up with this "suspended" shelf idea, which I think is a winner. The spindles were a pure Arts and Crafts influence on me! The shelf is a little lower than what I'd like, but they wanted low, so it's only three to four inches off the ground. The spindles, that hold the lower shelf, are dovetailed into stretchers, which are mortised into the side aprons and fox-wedged from the bottom of the shelf.
At my clients' request, I was going to add three small padouk butterfly keys, for which I'm known, but I convinced them to leave it with a clean look instead. Notched corners, beautiful wood figure, and graceful curves already provide plenty of visual interest. Adding inlays would only be a distraction to the eye.
How I came into possession of that flame-birch plank is a bit of a story. The hardwood lumber supplier I usually deal with, Westwind Hardwoods, are such nice people! They found this piece of 8/4-flame birch in a pile of regular birch and put it aside after writing my name on it. I was sure shocked when I saw that plank standing up against the wall. What a kind gesture! Thanks Jamie!
Lastly, the coffee table evolved from another table that I made two to three years ago. The legs are twisted and the aprons join at the corner of the legs. This design was one that just totally hit my mind out of the blue. I wasn't even thinking about building a table! Go figure! I don't know if this makes sense or not, but when I can visualize something clearly, building it becomes really easy. This table was a product of one of those moments. It took me an amazing two days to construct this hall table.
. . . H. C. Sakman a.k.a. "Chico"
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