Illustrations By Simon Rodway

IN THE DISTANT past the French were required by law to plant two oaks for every one they cut down, so ensuring plentiful future supplies for warships. This exercise in forward planning resulted in many of the trees being planted close together in stands, a method which encourages tall straight growth with a clean bole.

With warships now built from steel, furniture-makers can take advantage of this good husbandry to reap the benefits, in this case some very nice quarter-sawn French oak (Quercus robur).

The wood is mild, clean and straight-grained, with a good figure and consistent colour. The minimum available board thickness is generally 28mm (1 '/sin), giving scope for "thicker finished pieces. I took advantage of this for the top of the table.

"Because I have an aversion to spending time making a jig for what is essentially small one-off job, I did it by hand"

Design

My client, who specified the height and diameter of the top, is particularly fond of fumed oak and wanted a Shaker influence in the piece.

The starting point for the design was a Shaker round stand on which candles would have been placed; this would more usually have had double arc tapered legs, but we decided on the double-curved or serpentine legs shown here.

The column profile takes on a soft curve in keeping with the leg shape.

The top has a substantial 22mm (7/sin) section to provide strength, the edge being bevelled down to 16mm (Vsin) to maintain the delicate look. The edges of the top and legs are rounded over to improve the highlights of the oiled finish and generally enhance the look and feel of the piece.

LEFT* Match the grain of the top carefully - only quarter-sawn oak should be used for this unsupported table top

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Oak courtesy of French law, design from the Shakers

Select the best pieces of wood for the top and match them carefully, as this surface will be the one on which the piece is judged. I used pieces from the same board to ensure even colour and flowing pattern of grain and figure, these factors being especially important when fuming.

Check that the pieces are truly quarter-sawn, with the grain running vertically through the thickness of the board, to ensure stability and minimum future movement.

After matching, plane the edges slightly hollow at the centre so that the ends pull up tight when clamped. Check that the top is flat with a straight edge, and leave to set.

Cut the brace to size, curving the ends to follow the top edge. Drill a 25mm (lin) hole in the centre to take the turned end of the column.

Cutting bevels

The bevels on the underside of the top and the brace can either be cut on the lathe - if a big enough example is available - or by using jigs on standing machines or even the router.

My lathe is not large enough and, because I have an aversion

Oak courtesy of French law, design from the Shakers

TOPI Underside of table showing brace connecting the column to the top

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