A glass top table with opposing arches

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Blog entry by John Fry posted 06-05-2008 01:46 AM 13515 reads 9 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I call this the “Opposing Arches” table.

This commissioned glass top display table, or buffet, is 50” wide at the base, 14” deep and 29” tall. It supports a piece of glass that is ¾” thick by 18” by 66”.

The construction is shop sawn zebrawood veneers, laminated on two layers of 1/8” poplar bending ply, on a curved torsion box inner core. The curved members are then framed in sold quarter sawn sapelli. The divider box is shop sawn veneer, cut from a very fine grained piece of Macassar ebony.

But first, I want to thank everyone who visited and responded to my last project post; and, as always, I welcome your comments AND critiques on this latest project;

A carved, ebonized, and gilded, wing back chair.

The unique curvy design is clean and simple, yet very dramatic!

This elevated and angled shot shows the consistency of the book matched zebra veneers.

I started by laying out a “half template” and then creating the full size pattern for the curved torsion box construction. I will make three “ribs” for each curved box.

Each torsion box gets a solid bolting plate in the center zone, so the three main structural elements can be screwed and bolted together. Then cross member dividers were glued in between the ribs all the way down to the ends.

All the zebrawood veneers were shop sawn at 1/16” thick, from the same straight grained, 8/4 by 10” wide, plank of wood.

The bookmatched veneers were trimmed, jointed, and edge glued together. First the layers of bending ply were laminated on the torsion boxes with the vacuum press, then the veneers were pressed on last.

I flushed trimmed the edges of the veneers and ply using a router. I installed a long rectangular base plate to help steady and keep the router flat on the concave side.

I trimmed most of the over-hang on the ends with a low angle block plane, and then using 3” strips of my drum sander rolls clamped to the bench, I sanded the ends flat and flush by sliding the assembly back and forth.

My next step was to make a prototype divider box out of MDF. This fit was going to take some special effort to get curves and bevels to match up perfectly. Once fit, the prototype would serve as a template for making the actual ebony veneered, four panel box

I had a beautiful piece of very tight grained and consistently dark Macassar ebony in stock. It is so dark, it almost looks like Gaboon. I resawed it for the box and some maple to line the inside. The box was grooved to hold a ½“ Baltic birch ply for screwing and bolting the assembly together.

The box is dry fit together to check the miters, splines, and grooves. Then using the MDF prototype, I drew out the curves and cut the bevels.

Oversized end caps were cut, drilled, screwed and glued to the bottoms of the ends.

After they dried, the contours were hand sculpted to follow the curves of the veneered surfaces on both the top and bottom faces. The screw holes were plugged with sapelli.

The solid sapeli side frames were glued up from several pieces of wood by staggering the blocks over a full sized drawing in order to save wood going around the curve. If I did this again, I would spend the money to cut the curved pieces from two glued up planks and NOT have so many glue lines. I was careful with the glue lines matching, and I think it came out great, but I know I could have done it better!

One at a time, I glued the oversized frame pieces on to the sides of the arches. These would have to be trimmed with a flush trim bit and a lot of climb cutting to avoid the potential tear-out from the grain changes in the sawn curved edges.

The first complete dry fit. I needed to mark out the location of the holes in the glass and drill the pilot holes for the 5/16” threaded inserts.

The box still needed final fitting by hand. Here it is already fitted and screwed to the under side of the upper curve, and I’m final shaping the fit to mate with the bottom curve.

Once the fit was perfect, I drilled four ½” holes through the skin of the bottom arch, and I ran four ¼” by 7” lag bolts up from the underside and through the bolting blocks in each member of the assembly. I used clamping cauls to keep the two arches co-planer while I drilled and bolted. The ½” holes were plugged with sapelli.

I used 5/16” flange bolts to make the hold downs for the top. I used a circle cutter to cut two 3-1/2” circles of Macassar ebony at 1/4” thick. I used a forstner bit to cut the recess in the top of the circle so the flange bolt’s head would sit flush, and then I veneered a 1/16” piece of the ebony veneer on top of that.

After it was sanded out, you can’t even see the seam.

The Chisel and Bit medallion is inlaid in the underside.

This low angle shot shows a little different perspective, and it also shows the tear in my seamless backdrop. Ha! Ha!

A close-up of the Macassar ebony hold down knob.

This close-up really shows the perfect fit of the curves and beveled edges of the box, and the beautiful grain in the Macassar ebony.

This big, bold, and beautiful table base with its “Opposing Arches” was not all that difficult to make. It did require some intricate fitting and a little bit of hand work, but the hardest part of its construction, was trying to figure out how to clamp the damn curvy thing to the bench so I could work on it.

It is finished with four coats of an oil/varnish blend.

I built those round “drum” tables, a sculpted set of dining chairs, then this curved piece, and I just finished a set of free form tables you see in my avatar…..............

Hopefully, there is a nice straight bookcase out there someplace with my name on it. ;-)

Thanks for looking,

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

16 comments so far

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4006 days

#1 posted 06-05-2008 01:52 AM

thanks for the post. this is a really cool piece of furniture and i enjoyed seeing how you made it!

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 4113 days

#2 posted 06-05-2008 02:01 AM


Thanks! A real treat to see this project come to life. I never fails: I always learn something new from your builds, no matter how simple or how complicated!

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4134 days

#3 posted 06-05-2008 02:31 AM

Wow – that’s pretty impressive. I think you would get bored with a straight bookcase project. Better stick with those curvy jobs—- leave the straight stuff to people like me!

I enjoyed your pictures and description of how you built the table. I’m sure your customer will be very satisfied.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View bhack's profile


349 posts in 3959 days

#4 posted 06-05-2008 02:49 AM

Seeing master pieces like this is why I like this site. Not only do we see the project but get the process as told by the builder. Work like yours sends me to the shop every day.


-- Bill - If I knew GRANDKIDS were so much fun I would have had them first.

View moshel's profile


865 posts in 3922 days

#5 posted 06-05-2008 03:15 AM

Thanks for the detailed explanation. I always wanted to know how such beauties are made.
very generous of you to share all the construction details! thanks again.

-- The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep...

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 4026 days

#6 posted 06-05-2008 03:38 AM

Thanks for sharing this build. I really enjoyed seeing the entire process. I am sure your customer will boast about this one for many years to come.

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4227 days

#7 posted 06-05-2008 05:07 AM

Very cool construction technique! Thanks for the blog.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4054 days

#8 posted 06-05-2008 05:27 AM

This is a fantastic design and execution. Thanks for taking the time to show us how it all came together.

BTW, what is the setup on your bandsaw?

-- Scott - Chico California

View coloradoclimber's profile


548 posts in 4306 days

#9 posted 06-05-2008 06:06 AM

holey mackerel, that’s great. Very cool looking and nicely detailed blog. thanks

View John Fry's profile

John Fry

74 posts in 3939 days

#10 posted 06-05-2008 07:31 AM

Thanks everybody,

Scott, This saw is a Laguna 16 HD that is equipped with a band saw feeder. The feeder is spring loaded towards the blade so you can keep slicing and the feed rollers maintain pressure against the vertical fence with out the need to keep resetting it.

Here is a picture from another angle;

This 16” saw with carbide blades has sliced a lot of veneer for me, but I just recently sold it and bought the big Laguna 24 X 24” saw and put the great big feeder on it with a roller fence.

I saw a lot of shop sawn veneers and both of these saws are dedicated resaw machines. This big saw has a 24” high resaw capacity. I have a small grizzly 14” bandsaw that I use for cutting turns and small stuff.

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4054 days

#11 posted 06-05-2008 03:48 PM

Thanks John,

That is a nice setup. I resaw on my 14” jet but it is alwas a balancing act trying to keep the board against the fence while feeding it through.

-- Scott - Chico California

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 4024 days

#12 posted 06-05-2008 04:51 PM

Nice setup John,
I love the other tool as well….The Legacy. How do you like it? I have been thinking of getting one to make table legs as well as other things.

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View cowboy's profile


68 posts in 4026 days

#13 posted 06-05-2008 04:53 PM

very nice piece truly original with great lines. A winner!!!!!!!!!!!


View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 3951 days

#14 posted 06-06-2008 12:25 AM

A beautiful piece. How do your customers react to their projects being here on LJs. Personally I think it would be extremely cool to know the level of detail your blog provides about the piece. It be like seeing how your house was build…

Thank you for the great blog.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 4230 days

#15 posted 06-06-2008 10:44 PM

Great blog and a wonderful table, thanks for sharing.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

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