We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Poetic Waxing…

…to bring you a quick update on a project from the honey-do list.

My wife knows that I’m chomping at the bit to get started on Windsor chair, but she had a few requests before I get started. Numero Uno was to build a replacement for our kitchen table.

We like our kitchen table. It’s a big, beefy trestle table made from thick white pine. My grandmother bought it new in the 1960’s. It was well-built, but when I inherited it, the dark finish was gummy and depressing. I was too busy renovating a house to worry with fixing it. When my wife and I were married, one of her first requests (demands?) was to re-finish the table. We sanded it down to bare wood, painted the base with barn red milk paint, and oiled the top with linseed oil. We’ve shared many meals around this table over the last 5 years.

But, we now live in a small ranch house with a small kitchen, and the trestle table is 3′ wide and 6′ long. It’s just too big. A round table was requested, which should fit the space much better.

A table is a simple object. It can be built as quickly as you like, or you can dress it up with as much fancy joinery, carvings, or veneer as your imagination allows and it can take a year. For this project, my aim was workmanlike efficiency, but with a tolerable aesthetic appeal.

I began with a search of Google images, using a number of keywords. “Round Dining Table”. “Round Shaker Pedestal Table”. “Round Modern Dining Table”. “Round Tripod Dining Table”. “Round Modern Tripod Table”. Something like that, you get the idea. Each iteration was inspired by something that caught my eye in the previous search. I quickly latched on to one theme: a modern approach to a tripod base with the legs intersecting along X, Y, & Z axes.

Modern Round Table
This was the first table that really caught my eye. The interlocking “puzzle-joint” makes a minimalist, but visually interesting, joint. It’s just three intersecting planks, but the mind immediately wonders how it was made.
Modern Tripod Table
I liked this one as well. The maker chose a more interesting wood (looks like zebrawood to me) with a strong, straight grain pattern that echos the simplicity of the design. The glass top is appropriate for the alluring base, but I would like the table more if the legs actually intersected, instead of just criss-crossing alongside one another.
Interlocking Tripod
Finally, I found another glass-topped table, but this time with a base that includes some interesting joinery.
Tripod Joint
The execution is a bit loose, but I like how each beam seems to be embracing another. The wood appears to be beech.

I love geometric puzzles, and the final photo had me imagining how the joint fit together. A few minutes in Sketchup confirmed my suspicion that the basic joint was just a simple half-lap. I quickly settled on this design for the base of my table. Even though I don’t find it as visually striking as the first joint, I like the elegant simplicity  of its engineering. Unlike the first joint, this one can be assembled from whole timbers, rather than cutting and gluing up at least one leg (but if anyone thinks they can demonstrate a way to create the first table’s base using whole timbers, well, good luck…)

One thing that became apparent from my work in Sketchup was that the height of the table directly impacts the diameter of the top. If you want your tabletop at 29″ high (a usual height for a dining table), then you’re going to have trouble making it  much less than 48″ in diameter (and even this requires truncating the legs, such that they have squared-off ends, rather than ends that follow the plane of the floor and tabletop. Hopefully the Sketchup drawings make it clear what I mean by this).

So, I’ve settled on 48″ for the diameter of the table, but if I find that this is still too big for the space, then I can probably shave another inch off the radius without too much trouble. A bit of work in Sketchup yielded this model:

Sketchup Tripod

With a simple, 44″ half-lapped 3×3 as the basic component:

Leg

I can’t say that this is the prettiest or the most exciting thing I’ve ever built, but it meets the criteria that I had in mind when I originally set out to build this table: It’s visually interesting, expedient to build, and I already have the necessary materials on hand.

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2 thoughts on “We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Poetic Waxing…

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