Now, for my next trick…

So as you have seen, the table’s mechanisms are (somewhat) working. Where do we go from here?

While there is satisfaction in reaching this point, there is still lots to do with the prototype. The small drawer latch must be mortised into the main box below the drawer opening. It requires two latch plates. There is also the matter of shaping the carcass aprons. I am thinking of leaving this partially complete as a pedagogical sample. I have seen this done before, where each leg shows a different state of progression, to great effect. Unless an interested buyer comes forward, this is my current intention. It would also be nice to create at least one proper Louis XV style leg (refer to previous attempts here, and here) before committing to the final piece!

With the exception of the small drawer latch, what remains is straightforward; almost no fiddling required. It will be nice to have a clear path for a change!

The light at the end of the tunnel could be the headlight of the oncoming train…

…and we’re back…

A sample of the mechanisms necessary for the Oeben mechanical table re-creation

Approximately five years ago, I contacted David Lindow to re-create the mechanisms necessary for this project. Together his crew members, Jon and Josh, managed to build exactly what was required. While parts began arriving to my studio three years ago, the final piece, the latch for the small drawer, only arrived this past June. Having completed some other outstanding work, I am pleased to be picking up this project anew. This past week, I’ve been creating latch, and stop plates which I’ll write about separately.

You might be asking why it has taken this long to progress…

I undertook this challenge to satisfy a requirement in my pursuit of the Michael Fortune Fellowship. The goals of which were to:

  • expand my skill set,
  • highlight the techniques necessary to create such pieces, and to
  • call attention to this genre of furniture and the subdomains which compose it.

Although I was able to create the majority of the prototype in a short amount of time, progress is only possible at the pace of the slowest element. This doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten, or “dropped” this undertaking…

In the interim, I undertook a personal project to examine several of the sister tables (some of which I’ve already posted on…). Eventually, I will relate these experiences, including one where I’ve been able to contribute to its conservatorial record! Nor have I worked out all of the details; I still wrestle with the process to create a Louis XV leg. For now, however, I will return the focus of this weblog to the details of re-creating this table. With all of the contracted work completed (I think!), the plan is to:

  • continue working on the prototype until it’s operable, and all of the mechanisms are properly tuned, then
  • switch to the final piece.

Hopefully, this will allow me to achieve the greatest efficiency during build-time. Expect a higher frequency of periodic updates.

A mounting conundrum

Before we can proceed to shape the carcass, the mechanisms must be completely installed and operating properly. With the mechanisms in place, the challenge becomes mounting the main box and tabletop to them. The tabletop is relatively straightforward: center it on the carcass, then mark the top racks. The main box, however, isn’t so simple. Not only does it have to be located left/right, front/back within its opening, but it also needs to be situated in height above the carcass floor. If it’s too high, the bolt on the latch won’t catch; too low, and the bolt will drag on the main box as it opens. To complicate matters, it is impossible to directly mark any of these components. They’re buried deep in the carcass interior!

Being the case, I’ve devised the following plan…

  1. With the tabletop removed, center the main box between the lower racks in the carcass. This dictates the thickness of the shims that will be needed.
  2. Remove the top racks such that the main box can be lifted out versus slid through the front.
  3. Coat the latch bolt with graphite.
  4. Retract the latch bolt by turning the key, and place the main box into the carcass. Align it appropriately, then release the latch bolt. This should imprint a line on the underside of the main box where the latch makes contact.
  5. Align the back of the hole in the metal latch plate with this line.

While I’m certain some level of adjustment will be necessary, this methodology provides a plan to move forward. Such is the nature of product development or, to put it another way, if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research!

The shape of things to come

While making the prototype, I’ve had to keep the aprons rough to facilitate installation of the mechanisms. No sense in making them curvy when I’ll need to stabilize them for mortising. This week, however, the project is starting to turn a corner.

To install the lower racks, there need to be defined boundaries. Unlike the upper racks which extend beyond the carcass, the lower racks are contained within the carcass, and are unseen. This means knowing the extents of aprons once they’re shaped. I created a template from photos of the original, and referenced it from the center line on each side block. Repeat the process on the undersides. These lines can now be carried down the verticals on each leg for reference during final shaping.