The design features influences of the Greene and Greene style.
SHOP OWNER: Jim Shaver
LOCATION: Oakville, Ontario, CANADA
This coffee table features design influences inspired by Greene and Greene. The coffee table design was scaled to fit a space and function that best suited a specific multifunctional application for its owner, a close friend of mine.
The requirements for this table were that they could use it as a traditional coffee table, but the height be suitable to place items on it at a comfortably. Sitting in front of a new sofa, the lower shelf needed to be suitable for storage or display. They wanted a drawer to store small items such as TV remotes, coasters, and other items, and it needed to be accessible from both sides of the table. They also wanted the design to have a top with soft edges so that people could easily move around it and not get hurt by sharp corners.
Basically, this coffee table is my own design. I researched many typical G&G designs on the Internet and I found that there are a multitude of sources available for evaluation. I began by drawing several scaled variations of the table from a variety of perspectives, selecting joinery and detail features that would give the work a classic sense of function with some value-added details that keep the viewer looking for more. Visible joinery is important in the design, but also that it has the right balance and visual appeal.
While doing my design research on the Internet, one current Greene and Greene furniture maker caught my eye, Darrell Peart. As I needed some direction, I contacted Darrell on a few occasions and he was very generous in sharing with me some of his methods for detailing legs and drawer pulls.
Once I finalized my design, I selected my lumber based on grain and proportion for the final size of the table. I dimensioned my material to ¾” thickness, the legs to 1¾” square. I know that traditional G&G furniture often features mahogany as its primary wood with ebony accents, however, I decided on quarter sawn white oak.
I began construction with the tabletop. I wanted the top to have a single glue joint down the middle, which required a wide board that I was able to bookmatch and allow the ray flecks of the oak to be featured. I also wanted the top to feature gently curved breadboard ends. The breadboards are attached to the top using a 3/8” x ¾” tenon, cut the width of the top and a corresponding mortise in the breadboard. The joint is attached to the top using screws through the ends of the breadboard, recessed in 3/8” wide mortises and hidden by walnut accents. The six securing screws (three in each breadboard) are held firm into the end grain of the tabletop tenons via the use of dowels that were glued cross-grain into the tenons. Only the center tenon was glued to the breadboard. The outer mechanical screw joints are set into mortises with elongated holes that allow the top to move and the screw heads to slide within the breadboard during seasonal movement.
I chose the walnut keys to add some contrast in appearance, but also to keep in tone with other walnut furniture that would be in the same living space, otherwise I would have picked a darker accent wood. The side walnut keys are set into mortises cut into the sides of the tabletop and into the end grain of the breadboard. The side keys are glued only to the tabletop and allowed to move freely within the mortise. The tabletop is attached with screws to the case assembly using the side aprons and a wood brace with slotted holes to allow for seasonal movement.
The legs feature a sculpted cut detail, with a gently curving foot. The detail on the leg is done using a router and an angled sled that allows the cut to increase in depth towards the foot, about 1/8” deep at the bottom of the detail. Creating a lighter look and point of interest, this detail adds a nice shadow effect. The legs of the table are cut from a single board and grain match between the legs determined the positioning of the legs in the layout.
The legs also have through mortises to accommodate a set of haunched/stepped through tenons that intersect through the leg. The mortises on the legs were laid out and cut to accommodate the tenon configuration. The tenons on the aprons intersect inside the legs of the table. To achieve maximum strength and still allow them to intersect like fingers the tenons are full-sized for half their length where they are cut to split tenons or a single slim tenon. The tenons are then pinned using ¼” square walnut pins. The foot of each leg was fitted with a felt pad to assist in moving or sliding the table and not scratching the fine wood floor.
The aprons of the table are cut from a single board that has a continuous grain match all around the table. The aprons were designed with a small lift detail to give some credence to the G&G influence, but it is not an authentic detail in its reproduction in this work. The lift detail is spaced proportionally along the long aprons and then recalculated for spacing along the short apron.
One of the most important details to satisfy in this design was the drawer. I wanted a drawer face cut and matched from the apron on that face, to have a clean smooth slide-through function that allowed it to be opened from either side, and to have a visible classic through joinery on the drawer face with an appropriate drawer pull.
I cut out the corresponding drawer faces from the aprons and keep the grain match homogenous with the balance of the apron face. I wanted to tie in the walnut accents on the table with the drawer, and knowing walnut end grain would add a nice detail to the drawer, I chose walnut for the drawer sides and through dovetails for the construction. In keeping with the other walnut accents, I made them 1/16" proud of the surface and sanded them to a smooth roundness as I did all the other walnuts accents on the table.
The drawer pull features a simple 3/8" cocobolo dowel set into shaped white oak supports, all glued to the drawer face with no hardware. I liked the dark tone and richness that cocobolo added as a detail, saying the pull is different but still within the design. There are no metal hardware components to the drawer or support assembly.
The lower shelf mirrors the top of the table, made from a single wide board with a centered glue joint. The board was grain matched from a single board. The shelf and the supporting cross rail are shaped to have the same symmetry as the apron lifts. The lower shelf is tenoned into the lower rail. The rail attaches to the legs using mortise and tenon joinery and has similar accents to the breadboard, but with no screws, only glue in the center third. The walnut keys are scaled to be proportional to those on the upper breadboard and add a nice detail.
The table finish was simple and all hand applied. I sanded to 220 and hand scraped the surfaces, then finished with two Danish oil coats followed by three coats of a homemade oil/poly/thinner mix, rubbed out and waxed with 0000 steel wool.. . . Jim Shaver
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