|Project by JRPortman||posted 09-13-2011 06:19 AM||5078 views||8 times favorited||10 comments|
I was commissioned to make this table after the client saw another table I built out of lath strips for a design contest (a pic is in the Reader’s Gallery of the October issue of Fine Woodworking). Along with the table, he wanted the sort of write-up a gallery would do explaining how the table was built and the story behind it, so i’ve copied and pasted below what I wrote for him. I realize that I lack a nice photograph of the table in a clean environment, but (as usual) I finished it at the last minute and the client picked it up before I had a chance to shoot it right. I am, however, planning to go to his house this weekend and photograph it properly. Anyone else out there ever use lath in building projects?
“The Lath Console Table”
John Robert Portman 2011
Laths are long slender pieces of wood that are nailed horizontally between the studsof a house leaving narrow gaps in between strips so that the plaster of the walls and
ceiling have something to adhere to when applied. Lath and plaster work is a
specialized building trade that is very labor intensive and requires considerable skill.
Since the invention of gypsum board, which is faster and cheaper to install than
plaster, the use of lath and plaster in residential construction is very rare, even though
its durability and quality is far greater than that of drywall.
As New Orleans is an old city, most of its houses were originally built with lath and
plaster walls. Since Katrina, the first thing a renovator does to a flooded home is to
gut out all of the plaster and lath and discard it in a dumpster. Because plaster is water
resistant, the wooden lath behind the plaster is still in nearly the same condition as
when it was installed, and thereby still usable. A standard gutted shotgun house
yields hundreds of wood lath strips. This table is made from approximately 100 laths
that have been fished out of dumpsters from all over New Orleans and re-purposed
into a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture.
Built using traditional joinery, there are no nails or screws or fasteners of any kind
holding the table together, only wood-to-wood connections. The top is made by
process of lamination, in which each individual strip is planed smooth and glued to
another strip and another and so on. The table top is connected to the legs via a
through-wedged dovetail mortise and tenon joint, in which wedges are driven into
slots cut into the end of the tenon. The wedges expand the tenon within a trapezoidal
-shaped mortise, thereby locking the tenon in place permanently (which is why this is
also called a “suicide” joint).
The lath shelf underneath is connected to the legs by a square peg running though the
legs and into a square hole chiseled into the shelf. Even the pegs are made out of
lathing strips. The only non-lath part of the table are the legs, which are made of light-
colored cypress in order to contrast the rich dark browns of the pine lath.
-- J.R.Portman, New Orleans, http://www.jrportman.com