Not far south of my ancestral homeland (one of them anyhow, as Americans tend to be from lots of places) on the French side of the English Channel – near the Blanchard Straights in fact, you’ll find Mont Saint Michel, a tidal penninsula on the Breton/Norman border.
Constructed under, as well as commissioned by ancestors of mine (the Dukes of Normandy – future kings of England – and their forefathers, I feel a connection to the island, turned tidal penninsula, turned architectural wonder.
I’m not able to imagine the sheer numbers of cousins 28 to 30 times removed that may also share this ancestral link, however, my connection comes moreso from having visited twice. Once in college, where I had one of the simplest, but best meals in my life, and years later with my future wife. We both wound our way up the cobbled streets to the top admiring the sites, and blissfully ignorant of the fact that my camera was broken.
When this contest was announced, I knew I wanted to use something that I felt a connection to, and thought of various sites I’d visited across France, but thought that the medieval architecture would be too “chunky” to translate into a usable (and moveable) table.
When I saw pictures of the cloisters, my mind started working, and I did some doodles. Althought I quickly decided that this would be too complex to work out in SketchUp, It would make a good plan B. I never came up with a plan A, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Using this photo as my basis for inspiration:
I could envision using the arches, almost verbatim, perhaps adding inlaid or carved details from the Norman Flag, the crest for Mt St Michel with its fleur-de-lys and oysters, and perhaps a representaion of the Archangel Michel slaying the Dragon/Devil as depicted on the top of the cathedral spire.
Through mostly trial and error, lots and lots of both, I managed to get some good curved shapes – I’d watched a few videos and felt confident, but why didn’t I try a nice linear design for my first attempt at learning new software? I also did the typical guy thing and didn’t bothering with more turorials.
I started working out the leg design first, and the closer I got the the actual shape of the columns and archways, the less I liked the look and weight of what I was going for… but since one of my strongest skills is to simplify things, I took a few steps back and started playing with things until they looked right. Generally going with a less is more approach.
I also wanted to do something that could be loosely described as Arts and Crafts inspired – to better fit in my 120 year old farmhouse, if I ever decided to make it. I’d read that the Oak is the oldest and largest tree in France – one more nod to both geography and the arts and crafts notion. The finish would likely be a medium brown finish, preferably quartersawn, though the slightly raised panels on the legs may be left natural, or stained but plainsawn.
As far as construction details go, I used this table from Woodworking Magazine, as blogged about by Christopher Schwarz last summer.
I liked using this table as a launching point to know what I’d need to do structurally, to keep the table from racking and without the need for a lower rail. I also liked “beefing” up their design a bit, without getting clunky. However the addition of breadboard ends (which weren’t on the model table, so I suppose are optional) I don’t know if those make the center support unneccessary. So here is a cleaner look at the table, without that center support:
or this could be morphed into bench seating for the table.