Furniture designs and constructional details 41 Tables and desks (domestic and office)

The general term 'furniture' has wide meanings. but from the standpoint of the cabinet-maker its range will be limited to four main classes as follows:

Supporting units Tables, trolleys/carts, desks, writing fitments, working tops, etc.

Seating units Chairs, stools, settees, etc.

Reclining units Beds, divans, daybeds, etc. Storage units Cabinets, chests, sideboards.

wardrobes, bookcases, wall fitments, etc.

Additionally there will be miscellaneous items including mirrors, occasional furniture, some kinds of wall panelling and small articles of woodware commonly known as treen which do not fit readily into any of the above categories. Obviously only a fraction of all these can be included, nor is it necessary to describe in detail a great number or variety of furniture examples, for the underlying principles of construction remain the same throughout, and all that is needed is the application of basic techniques already described under the various chapter headings. In all probability the only real difference between a good cabinet-maker and an indifferent one will be the former's ability to think for himself and to apply his knowledge.

TABLES General note

The normal height for any working-top in the seated position is now accepted as between 28 1/2 in (72 cm) to 29 in (73.5 cm) with chair seats 1O1/2 in (27 cm) to111/2 in (29 cm) lower. Elbow-room, i. e. width around the perimeter of the table for each sitter, should be not less than 23 in (58 cm). Normal width of table-tops is taken as 30 in (76 cm), but if there are flower - bowls, candles, etc. then 34 in (86 cm) will be required. A square table for four people should be 40 in (101 cm) by 40 in (101 cm), while six can be accommodated at a rectangular top 60 in (152 cm) by 30 in (76 cm). Circular tops 44 in (112 cm) in diameter will seat four, and 48 in (122 cm) six. Table legs should not interfere with sitters, and 20 in (51 cm) clear space between legs is required for each.

Types of table

Boardroom and conference tables: very large tables usually composed of smaller units linked together.

Refectory tables: long narrow trestle-type tables with fixed tops, so called after the monks' refectory or dining-room in the Middle Ages.

Extending tables: incorporating some form of lengthening the top for additional sitters, of which the oldest type is the draw leaf extension table dating from the fifteenth century and still one of the most popular forms.

Drop-leaf tables: in which the side leaves hang vertically in the closed position and are supported by brackets, sliders, or, in the case of the gate-leg table, by a hinged leg or leg frame.

Double top tables: in which the top leaf or leaves fold over and are supported by brackets or by pivoting the top.

Pedestal tables: usually circular or D end and supported by a central podium or pillar terminating in three (tripod) or four legs.

Pembroke tables: small rectangular tables with drop leaves on the long sides supported by brackets, and an end drawer or drawers.

Sofa tables: rectangular tables with drawers on the long side and small flaps at the end supported by brackets.

Side tables: generic term usually referring to all types of occasional table placed against a wall, writing-tables, hall-tables, console-tables, serving tables etc.

Coffee tables: originally small circular tables with tray-type tops, but now embracing a wide range of low occasional tables.

Nest of tables: usually three small tea - or occasional tables diminishing in size and nesting together.

Boardroom and conference tables

354 Directors' dining-room furniture in rosewood for Courtauld Ltd. Designed by Edward Barnsley CBE, made at Barnsley workshops

Normally this work is undertaken by the larger contract furniture manufacturers, but increasingly over recent years the designer craftsman has been getting involved. There is still, however, a natural reluctance on the part of companies, institutions, architects and interior designers to place this important and often quite prestigious work with smaller workshops. They have an understandable fear that the conditions of manufacture will not be adequate, that delivery dates will not be kept.

and that craftsmen generally are not business­like enough to undertake work of this nature. Edward Barnsley proved long ago that all this need not be so, and demonstrated also with his table for Courtaulds (354) in 1963 that veneered construction, so necessary with tables of this size and complexity, could be exploited in an honest way. All too often boardroom tables have meant acres of exotic veneers laid in a manner to simulate solid timber, the sole feature distinguishing them being their monotony, equalled only by the wood veneered panels that usually clad the walls. There is a huge potential here for imaginative designers and craftsmen to create environments that are unique and individually designed for the companies and institutions involved, but they have first to be persuaded that quality and individuality are both worth waiting for and worth the slightly higher cost.

355 Eight-foot diameter table in solid English oak with central motif in marquetry. Designed by Jon Barnsley and made by George Taylor in the Edward

Barnsley Workshops. 1984. (Photo by courtesy of White Eagle Lodge)

356 Boardroom Table commissioned in 1978 by the Oxford Centre for Management Studies. Overall diameter 12 ft 6 in (3.8 m). Surface width 2 ft 6 in (0.76 m) Made in eight sections, constructed from 1 in (25 mm) birch ply with plain sycamore veneer on

horizontal surfaces and red stained sycamore veneer on the verticals. Cross bracing structure in stainless steel wire and tensioning devices. Designer and maker: Fred Baier

357 Boardroom table and chairs in olive ash for PosTel Investment Management Ltd, King William Street, London. 1985, by Alan Peters

З59 Anting boardroom tabtes in sycamore wift 56 Brokers' Association, Bevis Marks, London, by


358 Table and chairs in cherrywood leather and by John Makepeace MSIA

cane for Toynbee Hall London. Designed and made

chairs. Designed and made for the British Insurance Rupert Williamson

360 Dining table and chairs in olive ash for BIBA House, Bevis Marks, London. Winner of Design

Competition, 1985. Seen fully extended to seat 18. Designer and maker: Alan Peters

361 Alternatively, end sections can be removed either for use as sidetables, or linked together to make a six-seater square table, while the centre

section will seat eight. The illustration is of a one - eighth scale model

362 Simple, robust, solid wood refectory tables to seat eight, 10 or 12. Treske (Workshops) Ltd

363 & 364 One-quarter scale winning entry in the open design competition for the High Table for Pembroke College, Oxford, 1983. The 22 ft (6.7 m) long table top was eventually made from two single planks of English oak. Designed and made by - Richard La Trobe Bateman

Refectory tables

This old type is still popular and large numbers of reproduction refectory oak tables with solid tops are made. Figure 365:1 shows a representative example and 365:2 the method of construction, with 363:3 another form with square column and shaped brackets tenoned or dowelled to the column, and tenoned, dowelled or screwed to the foot. Figure 365:4 shows various table-tops: solid timber rub jointed or tongued and grooved (4A); solid planks with end clamps (4B); flush panelled (4C); plywood or laminboard, etc. veneered and edged (4D) with a double-tongued edge for thick tops (4F); and thin plywood, etc. with wide rebated/ rabbeted edging in which the increased gluing area will hold without the necessity of tonguing (4E. G). Other examples of this type appear in 366. In 366:1, carried out in English cherry with 1 in (25 mm) finished thickness jointed top, the

366 Refectory tables (2)

3 in (76 mm) legs are formed of two thick laminations (the 3 in [76 mm] plank cut through the centre) and glued together with a veneer thickness between to hold the short grain (366:2), and the centre block dowelled in on either side. A top stretcher rail is dovetailed and screwed to the ledges or top bearers, and a lower stretcher rail diamond tenoned through the leg blocks and wedged as 366:1. The jointed boards of the top are tongued together, with the ends of the tongues cut back and decorative insets of contrasting wood inset as 366:2A. Figure 366:3 shows a table end with turned twin columns.

Fastening tops Solid tops must be fixed with slot screws, wood buttons or metal shrinkage plates (see also Flush-top carcasses, p. 197) to allow for shrinkage; the centre is permanently fastened and the outer edges free to slide. Plywood and laminboard tops can be fixed with metal shrinkage plates, or screwed through the stretcher rail and top bearers without fear of movement.

Extending tables

These are two types: telescopic in which

dovetailed or keyed sliding frames fit within each other, and are pulled out as with a tele­scope to receive extra leaves which must be stored elsewhere; and extending leaf tables in which the stands are fixed and only the leaves slide open, with the extra leaf or leaves stored within the framework of the table. Figure 367:2 shows the principle of the telescopic tables with frames extended; 367:1 the table closed, 367:3 the separate frames sliding on sturdy tongues with cross-rails dovetailed on, and 367:4 dovetail keys which do not require connecting rails across the frames if the keys are sturdy enough. Tables of this description were often actuated by a long quick-thread screw working in a tapped barrel, and actuated by a detachable handle at one end; but as there was always a tendency for the separate frames to sag in the open position, a middle leg was often fitted, and the frames themselves were planed in rounding on the top edges by as much as 3/8 in (9.5 mm) over the length of a long table. This extending system was a great favourite in large Victorian and Edwardian households, but has now been superseded by the smaller types of sliding-leaf extending table, while large boardroom - and conference-tables are now usually made up of smaller units coupled together as required.

Fixed stand extending tables Figure 367:5 shows the simplest type with loose centre leaf stored within the framework of the legs. Rebated/rabbeted sliders or lopers are secured to the underside of the outer leaves, and engage in corresponding rebates worked in the side rails screwed to the table rails (367:6), with 367:7 showing the detail of the rebates and the end table rails notched out to allow the sliders to pass through as the outer leaves are pulled apart. Locating pins or keys and matching sockets must be provided in the leaf edges for location (see also p. 391); also stub dowels let


into the underside of the sliders to limit the travel, and centre stops to prevent the leaves passing over the halfway mark. The loose centre leaf can be stored underneath, with a 1/4 in (6 mm) ply tray bottom screwed to bearers dovetailed to the end rails, one of which has an opening cut to receive the leaf (367:6A). A half­moon hand hole should be cut out of the ply bottom, and a slight scoop cut in the underside of the leaf sufficient for the tips of the fingers. Another version of the sliding action is shown in 367:8, where the sliders are rebated as 367:8A and screwed to the outer leaves with a moulded bar-handle grip (367:8B). This type of slider is also used with drop-leaf tables where the centre leaf is fixed to the table framing, and the sliders are made up as complete frames which are pulled out to support the drop leaves in the raised position.

Draw-leaf tables This is the most popular of all extending table movements, and details are given in 368. Figure 368:1 shows the elevation divided on the centreline (CL) to show the closed and open positions of the leaves, which should be of identical thickness as the main top. Figure 368:2 is the underview plan with the bearer rail (368:2 A) of the same thickness as the leaves, and firmly screwed to the table framing. Cross-guides are screwed to the bearer rail, and the diminishing sliders (368:2B), whose width should be twice the thickness of the tops, are firmly screwed to the two leaves and free to slide between the cross-guides, with a dowel-peg (368:3x) to limit the travel. Slots equal in depth to half the width of the sliders are cut in the end framing, and the angle at which the sliders are cut to diminish is shown by the dotted line at 368:4B. The main top is not fixed, for it has to be raised slightly to allow the leaves to be pulled out and slid back, and it is held in position by shaped blocks (368:5) glued and screwed to the underside, with small locating blocks screwed to the main block to guide the top into the correct position over the notched bearer rail (368:2A). As a refinement card-table pivots or coach bolts welded to a fixing plate are screwed to the underside of the main top, passed through the bearer rail and set to allow the required upward movement, but these are hardly necessary unless the table is frequently upended. Baize strips glued to the top edges of the end rails provide a sweet sliding action to the leaves as they are withdrawn.

Flip-top (up and over) extending tables With this type the centre leaf is in two halves hinged together with Soss-type invisible hinges (373:1, 2), and pivoted at the sides to cross rails so that the complete hinged leaf can be folded up and swung down within the table framing (373:3); the outer leaves are then slid back to close the gap. These outer leaves have sliders attached, with worked tongues sliding in grooves in the sides of the table, and the cross rails must be notched out to allow their passage. The sliders can be kept short, in which case the leg shoulders will act as stops limiting the travel (373:6, 8), but the tops will be unsupported at 373:8X and careless handling could place too much strain on the short lengths of tonguing. If, on the other hand, they are extended out almost to the edges of the leaves (373:5), then either the side rails must be flush with the legs on the insides or filler pieces must be inserted (373:7) to take the grooves. The grooves must also be worked across the inner faces of the legs, and the end rails notched out as for the cross rails. Short stub dowels must be let into the grooves on the halfway mark, and also on the under edge of the sliders to limit the travel in either direction. Locating pins or keys must be fitted to the leaves; either short dowels entering corresponding sockets on the opposing edges or inset oblong keys of hardwood tapered in all directions (373:5), with appropriate mortises cut to receive them. If the sockets are placed either side of the centre leaf and keys on the outer leaves the positions must be offset, and each outer leaf must have both keys and sockets; but if they are fitted in sequence, i. e. key on outer leaf, socket on centre leaf, key on centre leaf, socket on outer leaf, then the keyed edge of the centre leaf must beset back from the cross rail by moving the pivot plate over to allow the key to clear the cross rail as the leaf is swung down. The position of the hinged centre leaf in the closed (under) position is not critical provided it does not foul the table sides, and the approximate position can be found on the drawing by placing the folded leaf in a central position, and placing the pivot point (373:9x)

369 Extending circular table with flip-over centre production by White & Newton

leaf and chairs. Designed by Philip Hussey for

370 John Makepeace: a special commission in burr supported by 12 laminated legs clustered into four

elm, the 6 ft (1.8 m) diameter top of this table is carved feet. 1982

I >

371 & 372 This 6-seater oak table extends in four stages to seat a maximum of 14 people. Chairs are the

now famous plank back. All designed by Robert Williams and made by Pearl Dot Workshops

374 The Kingsclarg dining/boardroom range. An industrial design of 1968, this extending table has a centre automatic flip-over leaf and extends from 6 ft 6 in (2 m) to 10 ft (3 m)

on the centre of an arc swung from the edge of the folded leaf to the outer edge of the table. The placing of the pivot point itself is, however, highly critical, and it can best be done by holding the folded leaf between the cross rails of the stand in the approximate position as indicated by the drawing. The pivot point will lie on a vertical line drawn halfway between the exact centre of the table framing (A) and the hinged side edge (B) of the leaf; and it is then only necessary to lay the centre leaf face downwards on a flat surface, register the stand in the correct position with the centre of the stand corresponding with the hinged joint of the centre leaf, place the pin of the pivot plate on the vertical line, prick through for the exact centre, bore and fit the socket, insert the pivot pin and screw the plate down to the leaf; it will then swing on the arc (A-B). The illustrations show a table 6 ft (183 cm) long in the extended position, with outer leaves 2 ft 3 in (68.5 cm) and centre leaf 1 ft 6 in (46 cm), closing up to 4 ft 6 in (137 cm) overall. Table widths can be 2 ft 6 in

375 Underneath view of draw-leaf table with 376 Swing ^ fall-flap table in solid English wdn^

panelled top showing one leaf fully opened with walnut platers and bowl. Designed by &п^

Joyce MSIA. Silverwork by Leslie Durbin MVO. Author's workshops

(76 cm) to 2 ft 10 in (86 cm) or wider if necessary, and the tops can be solid timber if very carefully chosen, although veneered laminboard is better. The grain of the tops should run across the width, and it will be necessary to fit either a cross-bar or screwed brackets to the cross rails, set at an angle to support the centre leaf and to direct the movement upwards (373:9). Pivot plates can be bought as cranked pivot hinges or as a special pivot-plate assembly for this type of table (373:4).

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