A Square Deal (52)

Final Post in a series which has described the design and construction of a pair of tables in
bubinga. Previous installments can be found in the blog archive to the right of the page.


A somewhat absorbing final few days just getting things buttoned up and the packing crates done and arranging for shipping, etc., etc. I had intended to take the two tables to a local photography studio today, however the photographer appears to be away at the present time, so that plan was regrettably shelved. Instead I set up a simple backdrop and did my best with what I have. It would have been helpful if it had been a bright and sunny day, but no such luck. The florescent lighting and flash combine to make the bubinga look a little pale and washed out. But, it is what it is, and I’m hoping to convince the client to allow a professional photographer to visit his home and take a few pictures of the pieces installed. We’ll see how that goes. The  color on some of the pictures was adjusted using some features on my computer.

Anyway, here is the side table before it went in the crate:

As you can see, I elected to make the leveler feet black instead of trying to match the wood. I thought they make a nice counterpoint in black to the ebony hammerhead keys, kind of like a pair of dress shoes.

Drawer open:

Another view:

Back side with demountable panel:

Another view showing the top a bit better:

A look around the corners:




My favorite photo of the bunch:

In the above pic it’s looking a bit more like the red color I see with my own eyes.

The coffee table.

The following pics were taken late in the day and before I had waxed the table. I was trying to make use of what limited natural light there was before it was too late in the day.

There is a little unevenness in the breadboard end finish, however a little steel wood rubbing will take care of that:

Corner view:

Another view:

Another corner:

You can see that the top has expanded slightly relative to the breadboard end on that corner. The two parts were flush a couple of months ago.

On the down low:

Not the best photos (I am no pro with the camera) but they do show the pieces after they have been assembled and are in the final stages. The freight carrier will not be by until tomorrow, after 10:00 am at the earliest, so I’ll be rubbing out a coat of wax and a bit of steel wool work in the morning. Hopefully there will be some sunlight to help make things easier to see. The coffee table is already sitting in its crate, and it won’t take much to button that up.

I’m elated but kind of spent at this point after the push over the past 6 weeks or so. I need to recharge a bit.

I feel that these two tables were projects that allowed me the opportunity to push my boundaries a little bit, in various ways.

In summary, the details that are special to the coffee table are:

-completely glue free construction, and most of the joinery is readily demountable
-a thick slab top which has control kerfs milled on the underside to limit its ability to cup
-hammerhead keys on the ends to tie the breadboard ends tight and yet allow movement in the slab
-three-way miter joints with a novel joinery system and stepped surfaces. I feel these came out especially well.
-custom designed bronze leveler feet
-the use of pillow blocks, a borrowing from Japanese/chinese architecture, to achieve a ‘waist’ with negative space and promoting even air circulation around the table slab. This also conveys a sense that the top ‘floats’ a bit above the frame.
-the top is mechanically attached to the frame in eight places without recourse to metal fasteners. It’s all joinery.

In regards the the side table, many of the same aforementioned points apply, plus:

-completely glue free drawer construction with the use of lignum vitae wearing elements inside the cabinet, which should ensure that the drawer never wears out — and if it does it will be easy to replace the wear parts
-an etched wrought iron pull fastened in the manner of a wedged through mortise and tenon
-rear demountable panel with clips to allow east access to repair cabinet internals
-dust panels with pierced work and ebony backing pieces.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. I feel that end result of the design and build process here – the things I can take forward with me – have been the successful realization of an idea for putting 3-way mitered corner joints together, along with a method of attaching a slab top to a framework without recourse to the usual methods, and finding that my ideas for a glue free drawer were entirely do-able. I feel I’ve honored the material I was given to work with, and hope the client is pleased with the result. The tables are heavy!

All for today – look for a topic change with the next entry on the Carpentry Way.

23 Replies to “A Square Deal (52)”

  1. You have built two temples, in a way. Their simple appearances mask significant underlying complexities. Congratulations for seeing them through successfully.

  2. From the very start, seeing the large planks of wood, you could see that these tables would be special. As the build progressed, the care in planning, joinery, finishing, again, something special…Well done Chris!

  3. Hi, My name is Erez and I am from Israel,

    I found your site due to my admiration to old fashion, and specifically Japanese carpentry, however the more posts I read, I find that you and your blog answer more accurately a different passion of mine, my quest to understand (or more accurately to experience) Quality.

    Every blog I read by you I always find myself contemplating Robert Pirsig, looking for his Quality at ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’

    For the last year which I have been lurking in the shadows of your blog, I have been learning so much, but more importantly I have been inspired to look for Quality in anything I do.

    Man, you have done an inspiring journey with this table.

    Good on ya

  4. It's been incredible to be a “fly on the wall” for this project from concept through completion. My sincere thanks to you Chris for sharing this with us, and to your client for allowing this project to be documented here.

  5. It was incredible interesting to follow the progress of the build, I am very curious as to what creations that will now emerge from your shop.
    Thanks for giving everyone the grand tour with pictures galore.

    Merry Christmas

  6. A fantastic arrangement. Truly superior joinery design undoubtedly rivaling most, or all of the pieces that helped inspire its final form. Shame there was no finish picture of the pair together, perhaps a job for the photographer if your client would be so generous to open his/her home. Excellent documentary. It leaves me with one question; where is your makers mark ?
    Rob in Erie PA

  7. Erez,

    your comment is greatly appreciated. I have read Pirsig's book several times, and it influenced me a lot in my youth – to this day really. I'm glad you feel inspired by what you read here, and hey!: don't be shy..


  8. Rob,

    ah, the maker's mark is absent. I ran out of time for that. However, there will likely be another piece for the same client for next year, out of the same slab of bubinga, and I will get that mark on there, somewhere discrete.


  9. The quality level of these furniture pieces, and execution of as such, gives me a sense that you know your work will improve with future work. I look forward to the next project.

    I want to share what my dollar estimate would be for these pieces built under my framework of building, being much less handwork. Do you want to know?

    God Speed for the future Chris…………………………..Jack

  10. Jack,

    thanks for the comment. Sure, if you wish to share anything, go right on ahead.

    I endeavor to always improve, always learn, always strive, at least when it comes to making things from wood.


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