Category Archives: Furniture

Mackintosh Tea Table–Construction

A tea table by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

The carved leaves present the greatest joinery challenge in this reproduction of a Mackintosh tea table design.

Reproduced in quarter sawn white oak, this tea table designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh shows its art nouveau and Arts & Crafts roots, perhaps mores than in the original’s white painted finish. The carved leaves are the most daunting aspect of the build; otherwise construction relies on dadoes and half-blind dovetails. Patterns for the shelf, top, and cutouts help make quick work of repetitive actions.

More Information

  • Read more about the table’s design here.
  • I detailed this build in the October 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking.

Mackintosh Tea Table–Design

Willow Tea Room Table

Mackintosh’s design for a tea table features an elliptical top over a base with four slatted legs. Set to follow the curve of the top, the legs feature carved leaves set in cutouts.

In a world where living room furniture is often designed around the TV, a tea table can seem an anachronism. Shorter than a dining table, they provided a space for conversation over tea. Today they can still serve for intimate dining or largish occasional tables. This design by the Scottish Architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh features an elliptical top over a base with four slatted legs. The legs are set at an angle relative to the base so that they appear to follow the curve of the top. Cutouts frame carved leaves, an organic embellishment showing an art nouveau influence.

Glasgow School of Art

Glasgow School of Art

Mackintosh designed the Glasgow School of Art in two phases. This archival photo from the GSA’s collection shows it after completion of the second phase.

Although it met with mixed reviews upon its completion in 1909, Mackintosh’s design for the Glasgow School of Art is now generally regarded as his masterpiece. Built in two phases, it bookends the peak of his creativity. Today later construction has crowded the building, so it is interesting to see it captured, as in this photo from the School’s archive, in its original context.

Mackintosh Argyle Street Side Chair

Detail of Mackintosh side chair

Though time hasn’t been kind to this example of Mackintosh’s side chair for the Argyle Street Tea Room, the back still shows a high degree of work, including the cutout and pierced and curved stiles.

I was in Glasgow recently to take a look at the furniture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I began my tour at The Lighthouse, Mackintosh’s first public commission for the Glasgow Herald. The building has been reimagined as a gallery and museum, featuring a fine overview of Mackintosh’s work (and spectacular view of the city from its repurposed water tower. This example of Mackintosh’s design for a side chair for Catherine Cranston’s Argyle Street Tea Room shows its age in the cracked back, but age doesn’t diminish the distinction of the design. The cutout evoking a bird in flight shows an Art Nouveau influence, and the high back creates a strong impression of verticality while also fostering an air of intimacy around the table. Having sat at in one of these at the Tea Room, I can report the design is more attractive than comfortable.

More Information

See the side chair in the Museum of Modern Art’s online collection.

Mackintosh Argyle Side Chair

Mackintosh designed this distinctive side chair for Catherine Cranston’s Argyle Street Tea Room

Limbert No. 239 Tabouret–Construction

Limbert Number 239 tabouret

Limbert’s No. 239 Tabouret in fumed white oak.

While the tapered columnar base looks a bit elaborate, building it is relatively straightforward. I produced a pattern then used it to bring the sides to final shape, cut their mitered edges, and plow the grooves for the corbels. After roughing out the side blanks, I then routed them to final size with a pattern bit and mitered the edges with a  45-degree chamfer bit. A a 3/4-inch guide ring kept the ¼-inch spiral upcut bit straight as I plowed the grooves.

I took my usual approach to corbels, then cut the top to final size and chamfered its edges lightly. After sanding things to 220 grit, I fumed the table and applied a coat of boiled linseed oil. While I generally prefer to prefinish my parts that decision here proved problematic: packing tape does not stick to oiled wood. I had to scramble during assembly, replacing packing tape with masking tape and a couple of strategically-placed clamps. Despite this obstacle, I managed to get the base together, then installed the corbels, using a shaped caul and clamps to glue each one in place. Screws through corner brackets attach the top to the base.

Step-by_step Mid-century Modern Coffee Table Available Now

Mid-Century Modern Coffee Table Cover

My step-by-step video on building a coffee table in the style of Finn Juhl is now available on shopwoodwhorking.com.

The second video I shot at the Popular Woodworking shop in January is now available on DVD and download. Include with the step-by-step video is a cut list and pattern for the tapered leg.

I find the minimalist design quite appealing–I especially like the effect of the floating top and the juxtaposition of sharp angles and smooth curves. I’ve built it with a plywood top to be historically accurate, (that’s the approach documented on video, too), but I think there’s enough play in the metal pegs joining base and top that movement of a solid top wouldn’t be too much of a problem. I think a solid, vertical grain fur top over a cherry base could look good.

 

More Information

If you prefer your woodworking instruction via the printed word, this Juhl-inspired coffee table is also one of the step-by-step projects featured in Mid-Century Modern Furniture.

Building Techniques in Mid-Century Modern Furniture Video Now Available

Mid-Century Modern construction techniques cover

Building Techniques in Mid-Century Modern Furniture is now available at shopwoodwhorking.com

I spent the first week of January at the Popular Woodworking shop to shoot a couple of videos. The first, Building Techniques in Mid-Century Modern Furniture, is now available on shopwoodworking.com.

To help promote the launch of the video, I wrote “Five Lessons from Mid-Century Modern Furniture” for the PWM shop blog.

On video in the Popular Woodworking Shop

Popular Woodworking Shop

Giant soft boxes illuminate a bench in the Popular Woodworking shop.

I spent the first full week of January in Blue Ash, Ohio at the Popular Woodworking shop to film two videos–one on Mid-Century Modern construction techniques, the other on building a coffee table in the style of Finn Juhl. It’s a little intimidating to be in front of three cameras, but I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product. And I’d love to have those lights in my basement shop.

Of Umbrella Stands and Table Bases

Lambert Umbrella stand

The base of the No. 239 tabouret reminds me of the No. 254 umbrella stand.

I’d leaned the sides of the tabouret against the bench to get them out of the way to begin work on the corbels when something in their shape seemed familiar. Because the Limbert Furniture Company produced so many designs featuring the tapered column base, it took me a minute to realize why these sides look familiar: They are very similar to the the shape of the No. 254 umbrella stand. The stand may have a slightly wider mouth than the table, but both share the same footprint and similar cutouts, though the tabouret features two cutouts the stand’s one. It would be easy to repurpose the template I created to build the umbrella stand, either preserving both cutouts or omitting the second. The umbrellas probably won’t mind if I’m not 100% accurate to the original.…

 

More Information

The No. 254 Umbrella Stand is one of thirty-three Limbert designs featured in my first book, Building Classic Arts & Crafts Furniture, available on Amazon and Shopwoodworking.com.

Holy @&*! You Can Epoxy Aluminum

epoxied aluminum miter joint

I’d read in the past that you can use woodworking tools to mill soft metals like brass and aluminum, but I didn’t give that much thought. I also read you can bond metal using epoxy. Again, I didn’t give the fact much thought–until recently. Researching an upcoming project, I’ve finally had cause experiment with epoxy and aluminum tubing, and with my first results, my reaction has gone from “oh, you can epoxy aluminum” to something like “HOLY @#!$! YOU CAN EXPOXY ALUMINUM!” No need to braze or weld, you can just glue. Couple that capability with the ability to mill soft metals using woodworking tools, and it opens up new potential in the shop.

I’m still in the early stages of my experimentation, practicing simple and compound miter joints, but it’s a short step from experiment to fabricating parts. The base of a Nelson bench comes to mind, as does a variation on an Eames surfboard table.

To build the miter:

  1. Cut the aluminum tubing at the miter saw.
  2. Sand the miter with 50-80 grit paper. Scuffing the metal helps the epoxy adhere to it.
  3. Clean the metal with mineral spirits.
  4. Mix epoxy per the instructions. I used JB weld.
  5. Apply the epoxy yo the tubing and clamp together. I used a corner clamp for this miter, but for a trapezoidal frame (like the base of the Nelson bench, I’ll try packing tape.

 

More Information

  • Chest of Books has posted an electronic version of G. W. Birdsall’s Do It Yourself With Aluminum. It’s an older title, but has useful information on cutting, shaping, and joining aluminum.
  • The Nelson Bench is one of 29 projects featured in my Mid-Century Modern Furniture.