BY

JOHN A. FRY

CUSTOM CRAFTED FURNITURE

 

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This commissioned project is a coffee table ensemble that is designed to sit in a seating alcove created by a very large “L” shaped couch on two sides and a large chair on the third. It is made from selected white maple solids and veneers on Baltic birch plywood substrates and it is definitely on the artsy side. It stands 18” tall and with any of the two round tables nested in the “tilde”, it fills a zone of 26” by 52”.

 

The three “roundies” all have a different top. They are all veneered, 16 segment, radial starburst patterns. One is Asian ebony, one is maple, and the last is done on a bowl shaped substrate with three leaf inlays. This was not an easy task!

The pedestal construction would be made by creating twelve layers of hexagon glue ups. Doing six sides kept visible end grain to a minimum at the final shape. I started by making a special 30/60 degree miter sled.

The miters had to be cut perfectly and clamp up perfectly or I risk gaps when the shaping gets deeper into the center. Each of the smaller tables had 72 pieces. I cut enough to be able to glue up the ends of the larger base too.

Before gluing up the disks, I cut rabbets on the inside edges so I could lay in these hexagon plates. I need to be able to drill center holes to keep everything aligned during the pedestal glue up.

This is a dry stack of the parts for all three small tables. As you can see, I made the disks as close to the correct size as possible to save on wood and cutting.

After “finding centers” and drilling all the holes, I made this clamping fixture to keep everything in line. I laid out and marked the glue lines on each layer so I could stagger them as I worked up the stack.

The top and bottom plates of the clamping fixture were made with a double thickness of 3/4” MDF for additional rigidity. I used medium colored Unibond 800 and wrapped this up in an electric blanket for the night.

I made a template from my full sized drawings and turned the three round tables on the lathe with a Duplicator.

And it made easy work of the three pedestals.

For the tops, I made torsion box type substrates out of BB ply.

The finished diameter will be 14”, so I rough trimmed them first. Then using a trammel and router, I trimmed them to 13-5/8”. This permits the laminating of the 1/8” bending ply on the edges, followed by the 1/16” thick vertical grained maple veneer edging.

The edge banding was selected from the outer edge of wide boards to get the tight straight grained pattern I was looking for. After resawing and sanding, the pieces were edge glued together to make a strip long enough to completely wrap around the top.

The 1/8” bending ply was glued on the edge first as the substrate for the veneers. I used plain old Pony band clamps. The finish veneer was done the same way after the bending ply had dried. I veneered the bottom surface first, then the sides, then the starburst pattern on top gets veneered last. I use this sequence so the top’s veneer covers the side veneers, and the side veneers cover the edges of the bottom veneers. I think this gives a much better appearance to the top as an assembly.

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Next, I start making up the starburst veneer sets for the tops. I cut the wedges to perfect size and angle, then edge glue them together. Then I put them in the vacuum press.

tilde table

This is the start of the larger tilde top’s torsion box, the top and bottom plates were cut from BB ply using a full sized MDF template.

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The top plate is put on, aligned and then clamped

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The 1/8” bending ply was attached and glued using my friend “blue tape” as a clamping method. The final veneers were all applied using the same methods and sequence as the round tables.

tilde table

I started gluing up the stack lamination for the large base. I used the extra hexagon wedges that I had cut previously to form the round ends and segmented and glued up the “stretchers” in between them. This thing is not only heavy but very crude at this point.

tilde table

I am using an Arbortech cutter and a carbide shaping disc on 4-1/2” angle grinders to rough this thing out. I made a template standing on blocks to check and guide me around the base to make sure I don’t over cut anyplace.

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Well, I’m gaining on it. I’ve added a grinding disc on a third grinder now and boy, this is not easy!

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Yep! It’s coming together now and I’m feeling much better. After a lot of time and hard work, two grades of carbide wheels, and finishing out with flap sanders in an electric drill, I’m down to final sculpting with a curved card scraper.

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The next very difficult element is how to veneer a 16 segment radial starburst on a bowl shaped top. I started by gluing up five layers of plywood to cut the 16 wedges for the substrate.

tilde table

I built a fixture to hold each wedge at the proper angle to get a perpendicular cut and then cut out the bowl shape from the top of each wedge.

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I’ve dry fit the bowl wedges together to ensure I have a perfect fit, and now I am going to veneer each wedge BEFORE they are glued together.

tilde table

I used a piece of the cut-off from the band saw as a clamping form. The band saw's kerf is about the same as the 1/16” thickness of the shop sawn veneers, so with the addition of the 1/4“ hardboard as a backer, this should work to bend the veneer. I let the wedge of veneer overhang the substrate wedge by about 1/16” on all sides and I used epoxy as my adhesive in case of any gaps.

tilde table

I built one more jig to hold two wedges at a time and I used a 2-1/2” long flush trimming bit on the router table to trim the veneer overhang flush to the edges of the wedges. Theoretically this will let me put the 16 veneered wedges back together with no gaps. It worked very well!

tilde table

My client is an artist who happens to collect fossils, shells, stones and other collectables. She wanted the bowl top to display these items at different times, or fill it with candy when her grandchildren visit. She also drew three bay leaves to adorn the bowled top as inlays.

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Hmmmm! This wasn’t very easy either. I used verawood for the green leaves and I cut and glued them into a 1/6” sheet of waste veneer using marquetry techniques. Then, I cut out the individual marquetry leaves from the backer, and inlaid them into the top using a Dremel to rout the recesses.

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Here is a close up of one of the leaves.

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Here is a close up of the 16 segment, maple top.

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I sure do love this Striped Asian Ebony. It is absolutely beautiful!

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And of course, my “Maker’s Mark” medallion and signature to prove that I didn’t buy these at a Levitz sale!

 

Chisel And Bit Custom Crafted Furniture

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