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Dining table inspired by the Greene & Greene Thorsen table #1: Designing the dining table

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Blog entry by TungOil posted 02-04-2017 02:02 AM 2456 reads 4 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Dining table inspired by the Greene & Greene Thorsen table series Part 2: The First Derivative »

I recently started the design work for my next project- a dining room table inspired by the Greene & Greene Thorsen House table. My wife has been requesting a new dining room table for quite a while. Her biggest requirement is that it “must seat 12 people”. I decided to blog the construction of this table, I hope a few folks will be interested in following along and provide advice along the way!

Since I have always liked the Greene & Greene style, I started looking at the various tables they designed for their clients to gather design ideas. At first, the Robinson table caught my eye, but the ability to extend that table to comfortably seat 12 people seemed like a non-starter. Then I came across a photo of the Thorsen table with the two bases- this is a design that I can likely get to extend to seat 12 while still remaining structurally sound.

I have only seen one photo of the original Thorsen table (on the Greene & Greene Virtual Archives) and at first I thought the table was round. Upon closer inspection it is actually slightly elliptical (67.25×62.5), greatly complicating the construction! As I started to get deeper into the design work, I realized that the Greene’s probably made the table elliptical to fit the extension slides. Since I plan to use commercially available table slides in my version, I will need to resize the top slightly to allow room for the slides while still maintaining an 18” overhang.

For a project of this complexity I would normally go straight to AutoCAD to do the layout. But as I began thinking about how this table would have been designed over 100 years ago, I decided to go old school and break out my old drafting instruments.

My initial design work was done over the course of a week of evenings after work and got me pretty close to what I think will be the final dimensions.

Fitting in the commercial extension slides required that the base geometry be altered and stretched a bit. This lead to having to increase the size of the top slightly as well to maintain a comfortable 18” of knee room. My top is looking like it will be 75” x 65”

The elliptical top on this table presents some interesting construction challenges. I very nearly went with a round top to simplify the construction, since the ellipse requires four separate routing templates for the table rim pieces. In order to make this top look good the facets cut on the inner table core must be very precisely made, and the length and miters between the rim pieces must be perfect as well. This was shaping up to be a real challenge, so I decided to switch from old school to new school and drew the top up in AutoCAD. A few emails later and I had a quote from a local millwork shop to CNC cut my routing templates from MDF, saving me a lot of work and frustration.

The next challenge was how to construct the inner core for the table. Normally I favor solid wood construction, but with the rim banding on this table the center core really needs to be laminated construction for stability to minimize wood movement. As I was researching ideas on how to do the center core, I came across an article by Tom McFadden in the June 2001 issue of Woodwork magazine. In the article, Tom outlines an interesting technique for creating laminated “boards” using 1/8” thick shop sawn veneers laminated to MDF cores. After laminating, the “boards” are trimmed to width then glued up like solid lumber.

The concept appealed to me, so I contacted Tom to see if he has changed his methods at all in the 15 years since he wrote the article. He hasn’t changed it much, although he utilizes Baltic Birch for some of his cores now in addition to MDF. Tom utilizes a small army of clamps to glue up his boards. I plan to vacuum bag mine.

As a test, I grabbed a few scraps of 1/2” MDF I had in the shop, along with some ash cut-offs to test the process. I laminated up four test boards, trimmed them to width on the table saw and glued them up.

After a little cleanup on the drum sander, they looked great so I will use this technique to glue up my center core sections of my table top

The appealing thing about this technique is that I have full control over the wood used for the veneers. I plan to resaw my stock on the bandsaw, then after a few passes through the drum sander to clean up the faces I’ll lay them out as either a bookmatch or slip match, which ever looks better.

That’s it for now, I hope you will follow along with me as I take on this project. I could sure benefit from your ideas and advice along the way!

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"



6 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile (online now)

pintodeluxe

5706 posts in 2839 days


#1 posted 02-04-2017 05:08 AM

Looks like a monumental build. I’ll be watching this one.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View abie's profile

abie

875 posts in 3797 days


#2 posted 02-04-2017 03:54 PM

a local furniture maker here in the SF bay area uses bamboo plywood as you are using MDF
finds it completely stable and true for his laminations.

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

View sras's profile

sras

4811 posts in 3155 days


#3 posted 02-04-2017 05:08 PM

I’m looking forward to following this.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

6565 posts in 3174 days


#4 posted 02-05-2017 02:40 AM

It seems you’ve got this project pretty much under control, so I don’t have anything to add right now. I’m following along, though, as this sounds like it’s going to be a great project, and a great learning experience!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View CaptainSkully's profile

CaptainSkully

1600 posts in 3585 days


#5 posted 02-07-2017 04:18 PM

That’s an unbelievably beautiful design. You’re giving Darrell a run for his money. Can’t wait to watch this blog unfold. Thanks for taking the time. Seriously.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Kelster58's profile

Kelster58

670 posts in 566 days


#6 posted 02-12-2017 11:52 AM

Looking forward to watching this unfold. Would love to see the AutoCAD drawings. (I teach AutoCAD…....I see a teachable moment here)

-- K. Stone “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin

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