Ming Inspiration: Studio Photos

I finally received the photos of the Ming-inspired dining table today. It’s amazing what some good lighting, quality photographic equipment and general photographic savviness can do!

Looking through all the photos of the build, which stretch into the hundreds, I go back to where it all started, with this classic, yet unassuming Ming side table of huanghuali, maker unknown:

This simple looking corner-leg table, which appears to be no more than a slab of wood upon a frame and four legs, hides an ingenious framing system:

Many hours of design work later, in close consultation with the client who was delighted to be involved, I produced the plan for a dining table to seat eight:

Design was done over the course of a couple of weeks, though many details were refined through the learning that is part and parcel of the build process. If you’re new to the blog and want to go back to the starting post, click >> here <<.

The whole project really started to come together when the planks of bubinga arrived:

This was the most expensive slab of wood I had ever acquired for a project, and that added some extra oomph to the mental stress of the cutting and joining phases of the job.

Four months later, the table was complete, and I know many readers have enjoyed following along with all 50 posts comprising the design and build process. I very much appreciated the supportive and kind comments along the way.

So, without further ado…(these are somewhat larger files than I normally load up for the blog – if you click on the pictures they will become larger)…

The big picture:

End View:

Zooming in on a corner:

A look down the side:

The underside:

I believe a piece of furniture should look good from any angle.

A closer look at the point where the central rail meets the short apron:

A view of where the Giant’s arm braces, banwancheng, come together, tied with the hiyodori-sen:

I took the original maker’s brilliant framing methods and enhanced them with some specialized Japanese joinery methods, both in the photo above and in the way the frame’s aprons were connected to one another.

Another view:

And, lastly, the maker’s mark in Holly and Gabon Ebony:

I hope that if the maker of the Ming original could see my table he would feel pleased to see how I piggybacked on some on his ideas. I wish I could have met him, but his work spoke volumes about his philosophy as a maker, and I was glad to live in a time and place in history where I could learn of his genius and take inspiration from it.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way today.

11 thoughts on “Ming Inspiration: Studio Photos

  1. Thank you Chris for the wonderful shots of this amazing piece. It's been a real joy to follow this project with you. I also want to thank you for posting so much detail about its build and your thoughts along the way. One of the most inspiring aspects of this whole piece for me has been learning that such a large, heavy piece can be made without glue. I hope you will post some detailed posts on the locking miter joints you use. I'd love to pack away my domino and lamello in favor your methods.


  2. Gregore',

    thanks! The client seemed very happy with it, but I'll let him comment if he wishes.


    the chairs have been discussed, and will likely happen, but not in the immediate future. Glad you liked how it came out!


    glad you enjoyed the photos – I was very pleased with them as well. There are detailed posts showing the making of those corner locking joints in various thread here on the blog, like the Screen build from last summer, and the series from 2009 on the “Vanity Build”. There are many versions of that joint.


  3. Chris,

    It's been said about other things, but it applies here as well: The BOTTOM of your table looks better than the TOP of most tables…

  4. Chris

    The table is as close to perfect as any piece of woodwork I have seen. I'm sure the maker of the other table would be pleased.


  5. Tom,

    well, the table is certainly not without its flaws, but I appreciate the generosity of your remark. Perfection in woodwork is not something I will likely ever reach, though I do tend to enjoy the struggle in that direction.


  6. Hi Chris

    Thank you for your posts about your work, I'm a Chinese woodworker, this is one of the most detailed Ming style table i have ever seen. If you ever visit China i would like to show you Ming furniture musuem and traditional furniture factories.

    No offense but i would like to point out that from my point of view, this table is out of proportion, maybe the bawangzhang is kinda too straight and it seats too high on the leg, maybe the legs are in a unusual shape. I'm not sure you made that on purpose of not? I always admire people who not afarid to change the size/proportion of Ming style furniture.


  7. Eason,

    thanks so much for your comment!

    Your observations on the proportions are welcome, however what drove the proportion was based on more practical concerns as the standard table height relative to the chairs the client owned, the number of diners the client wished to seat and the typical amount of room allocated to each diner, etc.. That these proportions would be at odds with classical Chinese norms does not entirely surprise me. The average height of a person in the 1500's in China is not even close to the average height of a person in North America, just for starters, so building to strict Ming ideas as to what constitutes proportionality doesn't make sense to me.

    All the above said, i have not been able to find information about ideals in proportioning of elements in tables like this – is there some material to which you could direct me? I'd be interested in learning more.


Anything to add?