Stealing Design?

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Forum topic by Scott Key posted 12-21-2010 07:24 AM 2944 views 0 times favorited 43 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Scott Key

25 posts in 4015 days

12-21-2010 07:24 AM

Topic tags/keywords: stealing modern joinery design

I have recently found two tables that I would love to have. The problem is that they are European designed and crafted meaning they come with a hefty price tag. My initial thought for a post was to ask opinions on how to make these minimalist joints rigid enough for daily use; however, I started to wonder about the ethics of using these designs to build from.

I know that design cannot be copyrighted, but I wanted to know your thoughts.

Also, if anyone has thoughts on the joinery, I would appreciate your insight.

Tables both by e15:

Table 1: ta04

Table 2: ta01

-- -- a bad day woodworking is better than a good day at work --

43 replies so far

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3083 days

#1 posted 12-21-2010 07:43 AM

That is how people get their ideas, they do not steal, they change.

View Millo's profile


543 posts in 3073 days

#2 posted 12-21-2010 09:15 AM

To be honest, these are so simple I don’t think anyone can accuse you of stealing their idea. Also, I can’t remember the exact quote, but Picasso once said something like: “a bad artist copies, a good artist STEALS”.

I can’t help you with the joint issue, sorry.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18285 posts in 3699 days

#3 posted 12-21-2010 09:35 AM

I would say they are awfully simple to not have been made a thousand times before:-) I suppose an angle iron joint and a lot of screws and glue would be in order to keep the dining table standing. The coffee table should hold without angle iron :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4151 days

#4 posted 12-21-2010 01:03 PM

Look at designs for “Parsons Tables.”

-- 温故知新

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3768 days

#5 posted 12-21-2010 01:56 PM

The joinery on the first table is basic mortise and tenon. The legs being level with the top tends to leave the design open for joint separation on the ends, due to seasonal wood movement. Plywood, veneered top might work best, or leave gaps for wood movement.

The second table gets most of it’s strength from the stretcher that runs down the middle of the top, which isn’t much. I think if I were building this table I would use dovetails. I would make a poor design a little stronger.

The problem with a lot of the contemporary styles is they won’t stand the tests of time, due to poor engineering. Good luck.

View Scott Key's profile

Scott Key

25 posts in 4015 days

#6 posted 12-21-2010 03:36 PM


Do you have any experience with any kind of metal reinforcement inside of joints? I’m just wondering if to increase rigidity they could have imbedded some kind of angle.

I may just have to take a trip to a fancy modern furniture store and make all the clerks uncomfortable by crawling on the floor under their tables to see how they’re made.

I think you are right about modern design often being more about the aesthetics than about the practicalities. I just know there has to be a way to make these things rigid without adding any noticable components.

To avoid a $5,000+ price tag, I’ll do some thinking.

Thanks for your thoughts Tim.

Any other thoughts?


-- -- a bad day woodworking is better than a good day at work --

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3138 days

#7 posted 12-21-2010 03:58 PM

a little design change and they are yours
the constuction on them have been made before ,more than once


View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3504 days

#8 posted 12-21-2010 04:09 PM

I dont see any problems with a design copy. You are still building the piece. Norm on The New Yankee Workshop does this all the time. Most, if not all, of his designs on the show are copied (sometimes modified slightly) from other pieces he has found.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View helluvawreck's profile


31363 posts in 2890 days

#9 posted 12-21-2010 04:14 PM

I’m not going to hold my breath waiting on somebody to prosicute you for it. Go ahead and make the tables, IMHO.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3007 days

#10 posted 12-21-2010 04:23 PM

These designs are something that many woodworkers would make in their shops without even thinking they were copying someones design. As for joinery these are basic joinery technics and as Tim has stated these joints appear to in this case be subject to failure over time. As for using metal reenforcement inside the joints in my opinion would be futile. As for the mortise and tenon joints they can be pegged with wooden dowels. The second table would have more rigidness with the middle stretcher lower down as opposed to being next to the top, of course this changes the design but would give more strength to the table.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View WoodLe's profile


155 posts in 2820 days

#11 posted 12-21-2010 04:56 PM

Everyone copies to a certain degree. Plus, like it was said, I think you can make anything you want for your own personal use.

-- Wooster, Ohio

View TheDane's profile


5441 posts in 3686 days

#12 posted 12-21-2010 06:45 PM

PoorCollegeStudent—If your intention is build them for personal use (and not to sell), I don’t see any reason why you can’t use the photos you showed as a basis for your own design.

A lot of us build reproductions or interpretations of pieces done by the old masters. If you build them and post them somewhere (like here on LJ’s), you should acknowledge the creator or company that did the original design (e.g. ‘Based on a design by Xxxxxx’).


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

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3797 days

#13 posted 12-21-2010 06:54 PM

Are they done yet. There are hundreds of this style out there. These are knock down pieces that are put together with metal dowels and cam lock connectors. sells them. Even if you do not want knock down furniture you could use the cam locks and glue the joints. No clamps are needed for assembly and you have double the strength. Have fun!

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3197 days

#14 posted 12-21-2010 07:11 PM

I’d like to provide a useful answer to your question, but …

a) I think everybody else has, and …

b) I’m still very choked up over the pricing of those tables, from the source you linked to :-O

-- -- Neil

View Scott Key's profile

Scott Key

25 posts in 4015 days

#15 posted 12-21-2010 09:21 PM


Really appreciate your comments. Cam locks = cheap IKEA furniture – correct?

That’s at least where I’ve seen them used.

Maybe common knowledge, but does anyone know of a source for clever fasteners?

-- -- a bad day woodworking is better than a good day at work --

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