An experiment - a three-arm table

Several months ago I started playing with plastilene, a non-drying synthetic clay, used for exploring sculptural possibilities. I was introduced to it at Haystack in 2015 (see my Oct 3rd posting). I began envisioning a coffee table -- or bench -- with multiple "arms," instead of the classic linear table. I liked the idea of it - if only because it was different. I played around with various dimensions (length and width of the "arms" and the height), and soon began to realize that it could get large rather quickly. I also saw that it might be difficult getting matching live edge pieces that would work.

Several weeks later I went to a supplier in New Jersey with my sister Loren (who is an excellent wood carver) and I found 2 long and relatively narrow slabs that had interesting grain (ash and walnut). I brought them home and immediately put butterflies in the cracked ends of each, to prevent further splitting. They sat around for several weeks until I realized they could be the basis for one of those tables. I chose the walnut piece for my first experiment (saving the ash for a waterfall table, which I'll write about later).

I like to experiment with possibilities before cutting the wood (drawings don't work for me). First I built some small, scaled models in foamcore and thin plywood - to consider proportions. When I found a size that looked OK at the small scale, I built a full-size foamcore model, to examine it in full 3-dimensions. For the full-size model, I traced the walnut slab onto the foamcore and began cutting. I made a few different sizes before I came up with one that looked good, and could fit comfortably in a living room or den setting.

The next decision was how to join the sections to each other. As you can see from the photo, I chose to have them meet at a point in the middle (a little tricky, since any gaps would be obvious). I needed legs on each of the extensions, and a center support where the three parts met. The three legs in the center are the same dimensions as the legs at the ends of the arms, and are built around a hexagon. After cutting all the pieces to size, I then shaped and sanded them, I joined the three top pieces at the center, then created the center support, and finally each of the external legs (much less complicated than some of my other tables!). After gluing, I re-sanded, applied sealer, then the Sutherland Wells tung oil I always use (for a smooth, silky finish).

So -- you can see it here - and also in the Coffee Tables section. I'm still assessing the proportions - and considering if there are more of these in my future.


Jay M. Siegelaub, Woodworker

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