Around ten years ago, Porter Friedman drove away from his rental just off the Colorado College campus after saying goodbye to his landlord,
who also happened to be his woodworking instructor,
who also happens to be me.
Somewhere in the back of his packed-to-the-gills car, along with a graduation certificate and, no doubt, a few duffel bags stuffed with dirty clothes, was a coffee table he’d designed and built in the semester-long adjunct course in woodworking of mine he’d just completed. All that was left for him to do was safely navigate to the east coast and find a place to live, where he could apply a few coats of finish, or so we both thought. Knowing he would most likely be heading for the humid east coast after graduation, and that, as a result, the table’s top would swell across its width, we designed a couple of 1/8″ gaps between the top’s three primary surfaces, with long, sweeping curves, and slipped a few floating (not glued) brass rods between them to keep them aligned. Porter wrapped the three surfaces in a wide mitered frame, again only pinned in places on the ends for the expected cross-grain expansion due to the cross-continental travel. A month or two after driving away, Porter contacted me and said that not only had the two 1/8″ gaps closed nearly immediately upon getting to his destination on the eastern seaboard, but that the top had continued to swell further, causing the mitered corners of the top’s frame to bust apart.
However, Porter said he was determined to fix and finish the table, and I believed him – after all, hadn’t he and his co-tenants had done a decent job cleaning their rental?
But then, as often happens when I’m out of sight and out of mind (with the notable exception of the period of time CC students are renting from me), silence…
However, in 2013, Facebook redeemed itself yet again, when, quite out of the blue, Porter messaged me the following words and photos, which he gave me permission to share. It’s quite a testimony of resourcefulness, as you’ll read, as well as a testimony to the kind of quality craftsmanship that the 3D Arts Shop could produce, as you’ll see.
Remember when I promised to send you pics of the coffee table I built once it was finished? Well, it’s finally finished and I am now delivering. It’s only taken, like, four years…
So, right after I left CC, the mitered frame of the top cracked when the boards expanded past the allowed gap (1/8″ I believe).
(The original design, with its splayed legs and fully bordered table top, in Porter’s east coast rental:) The table then sat like that, in pieces for three years, until I had some basic tools and motivation to find a solution.
I decided to simply cut the breadboard ends of the mitered frame off, leaving the top that now exists.
I used those ends to make the ‘aprons’ that the top sits on as well as the excess from those for the bottom rails on the legs.
Worried about the same fate for the bottom shelf, I cut the breadboard ends off, cut those pieces in half, and glued a piece to each corner of the shelf to make it a bit wider. Since the legs were not going to be splayed anymore, the shelf needed to be wide for overall stability. I added brass rods similar to the top and got an extra piece of maple to make new free-floating breadboard ends. On the shelf, the cherry piece I glued to the end and then the maple boards are glued to the legs. On the shelf, the cherry piece I glued to the end and then the maple blards are ‘sliding dowels’ that should allow them to expand and contract. Pretty much all the joinery is dowels except for the sliding dovetails. The cherry board in the top is secured to the aprons with brass screws. And, the table is finished with about 12 coats of wiping varnish. I still need to let that cure for a month before I “rub it out”. (The rest of the photos show Porter’s new and improved “Danish”, mid-century modern design, in solid maple and cherry:) Pinned, sliding dovetails Brass supports on the top and shelf Cherry accents in the legs, magazine shelf, and top I think it turned out pretty well. I might even like this design more than the original. I am pretty excited about it, considering that I did it all with only hand held power tools, a chisel, a bench plane, and a cabinet scraper.
Hope you like it and that everything is going well with you in C-Springs!”
I agree, Porter: your new design beats the socks off of the first one. And the satin finish looks splendid as well.
But mainly: lovely dogs.
Way to deliver.
As soon as you do the final rub out, snap some more pics and I’ll be happy to get you your security deposit back. Gotta read the fine print on your lease agreement, people!
Since that time, as happens more frequently than I wish, Porter and I haven’t maintained a connection. Time to reach out and rectify that. In part, that’s why I’ve decided not to let sleeping dogs lie. Speaking of sleeping and dogs, I think I’ll follow my dog Ruby’s lead and catch a few more winks.
Only, not on the hardwood floor.
Andy Tirado, 11-19-19, 2:55 am