The Coffee Table Conundrum
The idea was never to build a new table, just to breathe new life into one that I had built over twenty years prior. I intended to only change one decorative element on the table, but every step forward left me with a “but now what am I going to do about that” until it only made sense to leave it behind altogether.
The table had been stowed away in a corner of my woodshop for the better part of ten years and, let’s face it, that’s just no life for a handcrafted marvel of curly maple and wenge (marvel might be a stretch, but repeating the word “table” over and over does get a bit redundant). It’s not that I didn’t like it, but the time for shiny aluminum diamond plate has come and gone in my eyes…plus the shape of the legs bugged me.
This might be a good time to mention that I do have some experience working in a furniture repair shop, so disassembling furniture that is not meant to be disassembled is not entirely foreign to me, however, that doesn’t mean doing so doesn’t offer some risk. The table in question, named “Dog Bites Table” due to the carved elements resembling a dog bite, had a top which was attached to the under body by a dado slot and a series of seven wenge pins on each side. I would have to firmly tap the underside of the top with a mallet in a way to create even pressure across all the dowels to break the glue joints free while also preventing the top from binding against the dowels and splitting.
Well, that didn’t work. While I was trying so hard to keep the edge aligned while forcing it off the dowels, I neglected to pay equal attention to the pressure of the dowels on the opposite side of the top resulting in a fairly significant crack. I did everything I could to conceal the repair, but the results were just not acceptable. I had toyed with the idea of making a “river” in the top using wood instead of trendy resin, but, ultimately, I determined that the location of the split would just not work with a river and a whole new top would have to be made.
This was really the point where the snowball began to form. I found some beautiful ambrosia maple that I decided to use instead of the original curly maple. Since it was a new top altogether, nothing was to keep me from trying my river idea so I dug through my stash of exotic lumber and decided to create a purpleheart river, lined with yellowheart, and surrounded by a beach of ipe. The problem now was that the underbody of the table was white maple and contrasted too much with the ambrosia maple, so that had to be remade. If I’m remaking the underbody, why not add some mid-century style sliding panels out of ipe, also? After all that, am I really going to put the legs on it that bugged me in the first place? That just wouldn’t make sense. This led to the Japanese pagoda inspired purpleheart base pinned with maple dowels. Did it functionally need to be pinned? No, of course not. I didn’t need to pin the top to the under body either, but I did. I always do it because I like it. “It’s my jam”, as the kid’s may or may not say.
In the end, I feel like the new Ambrosia Table, as I call it, is one of my best pieces. It is currently available for $730, but if I’m being honest, I’ve been dragging my feet a little on selling it as I do love it. The original problem still persists, though, as the original Dog Bites Table still lingers in the woodshop, albeit now in pieces. Here’s some more photos of the Ambrosia Table for your enjoyment. Please contact me if interested in purchasing.