Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Table in Copper

Back in January, when I was feeling a bit rundown by work, I was handed a strange little coffee table. Some lady wanted a round coffee table, in our bungalow style, but wanted to set a copper "disc" in a frame for the top.

Now, custom stuff peaks my interest a little more than the standard stuff. Take our Bungalow Rocker, for example. When I first built that, close to two years ago, I had almost no information to go by. It was like our Parlour Chair, which had a nice write-up, and was not terribly difficult. But unlike the Parlour Chair, there was only 4 diagrams with some labels. I had to figure it out, and talk with the one other person who had recently built them. That was really interesting to me, but now that I've figured them out, and written a step by step procedure, they are somewhat boring.

So, when I get something that I have very little to go off of, I get excited. I had: a total height, an AutoCAD drawing of the top frame, and the copper disc upstairs in the office.

From that info, I had to double check the outer dimension of the disc (which I found wasn't really round), compare it to the AutoCAD drawing of the 4" frame (which didn't account for the largest diameter of the out of round disc), work out my support structure (lap jointed crossbraces under the top, and under the round lower shelf), leg placement (which would determine the length of the crossbraces as well as the size of the round shelf).

I think I spent the better part of a day working out all of that, before I was able to start picking the wood. But when I took the drawing of the frame to our CNC guy, so that he could program it to cut our 8 board mitered frame round as well as the round shelf, I realized that there was no way for a shelf that size to be able to fit between the legs once we put it together. The only way to make it work, was to assemble the base around the shelf. Which led to our next problem, the stain. It was an Americana stain. A dark brown, very aged cherry, stain. The problem with the stain, was that in order to get a good finish on the shelf, it needed to be finished before it was assemble and mounted. But, if we scratched the finish, it would be almost impossible to fix without it standing out.

So, we had to have the shelf finished, with the lower crossbraces, as well as the insides of the legs (so that the colors on the "inside" of the piece all matched). This enabled us to have raw wood on the outside of the piece, that could be fixed if it got scratched, dented, or dinged during the assembly process.

I think the mitered frame was the most rewarding of the whole thing. Even though I had all the dimensions, including the angle, from the AutoCAD drawing, and had someone else program the CNC to cut it out, there was still the feeling of it being new and uncharted. I had to trim the miters two extra times to make sure it came together just right, as well as spend an hour on the CNC one night to get the frame lined up just right so it would cut where I wanted it to. And it was an immensely satisfying feeling when the copper almost dropped right into the frame fresh off the CNC. I did have to spend a couple of hours sanding the interior of the frame because even my updated measurements of the copper weren't exactly right.

Once I had all the parts, I handed everything off to the finishing guys, and took my vacation. I left the partial assembly to one of my very capable guys. I had to get the top mounted, and make sure the copper still fit with the finish on it (and it did), and then I thought I was done.

It just so happened that I was at work the Saturday that the lady was coming down to pick up her coffee table. I was there to put the last coat on the simple bookcases I was making, and waiting for the van to become available so I could deliver them. So, I got to meet her. She was very happy with the how the table came out. However, she wanted the tag moved (we put a tag on everything we make, saying made for...., by Hardwood Artisans, and the season Spring 2008). We place it usually on the bottom shelf of a coffee table, but she wanted it moved up under the top frame, so that it could be seen without having to flip over the table, and that it should have the craftsman's name on it. Since I was right there, I was introduced, and was happy to have my name on a piece I was proud of.

I have placed my own signature tag on pieces I've made for myself, or people I know, but this was the first thing with my name on it for work. And because Mrs. Clark was so adamant about having the craftsmen sign their pieces, it started a new "policy" at work. A bunch of us 'senior craftsmen' have been issued tags to sign and date and place on pieces. Right now, it is solely up to us which pieces we decide to put the tags on. The guidelines being "put them on the pieces you feel deserve to have them on". Since that policy is so vague it's almost worthless, I guess I'll have to come up with my own criteria.

Be certain that my name will be out there on pieces of furniture. Under Hardwood Artisans for now, but one day I'll get top billing.


Lynda said...

I love this table. It's beautiful. Nice job! I'm glad you got to meet the client and that she liked your work and wanted your name on it.

Lynda said...

Do you have larger pictures that you can E-mail us. Dad wanted to see more detail of the table before and after the top was put on.