Follow the twists and turns a design can take to the end result.
SHOP OWNER: Alan Young
LOCATION: Ypsilanti, MI
To answer the question - from whence do designs originate, in my case, they can be immediate inspirations but more often take a longer route. This project took about three months of the calendar to pass but seeds that were planted twenty-plus years ago were influential, if not critical, to its development. The end project is a table that holds a chessboard and its pieces.
I started planning this project about six months ago when I realized I had an already-made table top left from an earlier project. I set about to make the exact piece but with a black finish. I also decided that I would make this as a display table for a chess set and give the entire project to my dad for his upcoming 80th birthday. This is a shot of the original table.
I began by cutting out the legs and milling the mortises.
The bottom edge of the aprons gets a bead detail. I cut the beads with a tool I made, which is shown here.
I tried a different method for making the tenons on the aprons. I glued two different lengths of Baltic birch plywood together. Then I glued the beaded detail to the bottom side.
It was at about this point that I was in a local Woodcraft store looking to spend a gift certificate. I saw a bag of twelve maple balls. They looked pretty cool and I was certain I'd find a use for them sooner or later. It turned out to be sooner. I though they might be fun to add to my little tea table design, so I spent some time drawing a re-design.
I clamped up the legs and aprons and started balancing the table on its ball feet. I wanted to get an idea of how this will look with the balls on the end of the legs and upper corners.
I drilled out the ends of the legs to receive a 3/8” threaded rod, which would attach the balls to the leg.
I needed to drill a hole through the ball at its center. I used a machinist’s vise set in my Mill Drill. I drilled a 5/16 hole and then tapped it for a 3/8 threaded rod.
It was at this point that I started having second thoughts about the whole look. I was still intrigued by the wood spheres but the slim cabriolet leg was looking too dainty for a chess set and I was having questions as to how sturdy this design would be.
I then made two drastic changes. As this is a pretty low table, the upper spheres were not as visible as I wanted, so I modified the top to let the spheres on the upper part of the table "poke through" the surface. Now I would be known as the woodworker who cut corners!
I also decided to cut off the curved sections of the legs and replace them with a straight but fluted and chamfered design. This would give the table a more masculine look and function. I would add brass rods for stretchers and brass plates for the feet.
The top will have the corners rounded out after the square cuts I just made.
Here is the table with its newly designed legs.
Before moving on, I need to share some background on my dad. A tool and die craftsman by trade, dad is also the inventor of the PanelLift, the world’s leading drywall lift.
Dad invented this device in the early 1970's and has since been working with two of my brothers in the development of this labor-saving device and other related pieces of construction equipment.
Here's my dad in his world.
The chess pieces were turned from aluminum stock and coated with enamel.
The table is made from poplar, brass, maple, and walnut. The finish is oil paint, black lacquer, and mica gilding powder. The legs have chamfered edges with a flute detail down the middle. Brass rods served as stretches to join the legs, which terminate in brass pads.
There are four maple and walnut disks in the middle of the table.
Four gilded maple spheres atop a series of brass disks and rectangles form the pediments that protrude through the table corners. They are bordered by maple and walnut half-disks.
Here is a shot of my dad opening gifts next to his new chess table during his 80th birthday party.
. . . Alan Young