Lath Console Table

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Project by JRPortman posted 09-13-2011 06:19 AM 6106 views 8 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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
Pine, Cypress

Laths are long slender pieces of wood that are nailed horizontally between the studs

of 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,

10 comments so far

View woodworm's profile


14465 posts in 3559 days

#1 posted 09-13-2011 08:40 AM

That’s beautiful.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3656 days

#2 posted 09-13-2011 11:53 AM

Unique and beautiful project : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2532 days

#3 posted 09-13-2011 02:53 PM

nice job JR and welcome to LJ…you gonna post pics of other projects?

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View mrksiddiqui's profile


6 posts in 2417 days

#4 posted 09-13-2011 06:31 PM

Did you think of doing the legs with lath as well? Very Nicely done.

View TheDane's profile


5404 posts in 3631 days

#5 posted 09-13-2011 06:40 PM

JR—This is a terrific idea … very unique concept, and a good way to give the lath another life and new purpose.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View JRPortman's profile


17 posts in 2418 days

#6 posted 09-13-2011 07:03 PM

I made a table before this one called “the lather’s table”, and in it the legs out of lath- talk about time consuming joinery! i’ll post a blog entry about it eventually, but till then here is a pic of the other lath table, and thanks everyone else for the compliments.

-- J.R.Portman, New Orleans,

View Bricofleur's profile


1440 posts in 3162 days

#7 posted 09-13-2011 10:01 PM

That’s what I call creative. Beautiful table and unique method of dealing with wood. The fact the lower shelf is not planed gives this piece much more ‘caracter’, keeping in mind it didn’t need more.

Best, and Welcome to Lumberjocks.


-- Learn from yesterday, work today and enjoy success tomorrow. --

View B13's profile


463 posts in 2662 days

#8 posted 09-13-2011 10:17 PM

Welcome! to lumberjocks. great looking table I’ve seen something like this my dad made a table and benches the narrow strips came from a custom trim shop.

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3433 days

#9 posted 09-14-2011 08:50 AM

Unique and interesting piece and process. Makes me think I’ll save more materials on my next rehab. This would be a great way to make a new / old piece for homeowners whose house has been rehabed. You know, a coffee table from old house parts to put in the new space. Kinda corny but people seem to love that connection with what they just destroyed.
Thanks for posting and welcome to LJ’s.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View JRPortman's profile


17 posts in 2418 days

#10 posted 09-14-2011 02:51 PM

You’ve got a good point there BTKS, and possibly a nice niche/upsale to offer someone. I don’t think it is too cheesy, especially if what you make is attractive in its own right and stands alone as a quality piece. If it does, then the new homeowner not only has a cool piece, but they can also have that awesome story behind it as a bonus. Case in point, I made a lightbox for a super chic bar in Austin that was rehabbed from an old Auto mechanics shop (It’s called Gibson Bar now). The designer knew I had a photograph of the building from when it was a body shop (i’m a photographer) and that i made lightboxes, so he asked me to make one from a steel window frame they removed during rehab. It now hangs in the bar as the center-piece. All this was this fancy designer guy’s idea, not mine, so that should say something about the coolness of re-use :)

-- J.R.Portman, New Orleans,

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