Big Leaf Maple Round Coffee Table

Big Leaf Maple Round Coffee Table

Custom-made Furniture Design Review

This table was crafted from a live edge slab of Big Leaf Maple. Big Leaf Maple grows in the Pacific Northwest, as opposed to the Eastern US (and Canada) where “Hard Maple” grows. Big Leaf produces a more intense grain pattern than other maples. It often has highly figured grain, burl (A) and curl (B) in various places throughout the wood.

We fashioned a low, round table from the slab to create a very contemporary coffee table that would look great in any modern space. It is in the truest sense of the word, a minimalist coffee table that has a very natural appeal.

When Distress Actually Produces Characteristics that One Desires

This piece was cut horizontally, known as a cookie or disc cut, as opposed to lengthwise. This cut allows one to see the history of the tree – and in this case – the mystery of the tree as well.  Once completely finished, the growth and death of this wood slab produce a unique and beautiful piece with highly figured grain.

Although it is unknown exactly where the tree came from it, just by looking at it one can tell this tree was highly distressed. Wood is a bit like people: it gains character and becomes more interesting as a result of such distress.

I believe the tree probably grew on a steep hillside or rocky crevice, based on the shape of the trunk. You can see one portion is clearly not as “circular” in shape (C) as the rest. In addition, the grain here (D) looks different than in the rest of the tree, which was likely the result of stress from the pressure of the tree leaning away from the hillside.

Big Maple Leaf Coffee Table Greenwood Bay Woodworking of Houston, Texas
Big Maple Leaf Coffee Table Greenwood Bay Woodworking of Houston, Texas
Big Maple Leaf Coffee Table Greenwood Bay Woodworking of Houston, Texas

It was rotted in the middle (E), which is another sign of stress: this tree had a tough life, but was beautiful inside! Rocks, gravel and dried weeds needed to be cleaned from the crevices. Some stabilizing was required, but I was able to maintain a completely natural look.

Big Leaf Maple is characterized by a very sort of unruly outer edge. One can say it has a significant amount of character to it. Gnarliness if you will (F).

There are three smooth Cherry legs fastened directly into the tabletop itself, which complete it’s contemporary styling.

In all, the distressed history of this tree makes for a magnificent end product.

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This table measures roughly 45 by 50 inches across, and about 15 inches tall. It’s low, round shape produces a truly contemporary furniture piece that surely would be the focal point of any room.

Questions or comments? Leave them below or contact us directly by calling (281) 684-7102.

Amish Spalted Maple Waterfall Coffee Table

Amish Spalted Maple Waterfall Coffee Table

Furniture Design Review

This spalted maple slab came from an Amish farm in western Pennsylvania. Spalting may cause a variety of wood coloration, including these black inky lines and is caused by fungus. Spalted wood is highly sought after by furniture makers for its intense beauty.

In this case, there’s a darker form and lighter form. Then black lines – like zone lines – separate the two, building up a defense barrier between the two colonies of fungi. The drying process completely kills all the fungus.

Spalted Maple Waterfall Coffee Table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking
Amish Spalted Waterfall coffee table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston
Amish Spalted Waterfall coffee table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston
Amish Spalted Waterfall coffee table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston
Amish Spalted Waterfall coffee table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston
Amish Spalted Waterfall coffee table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston
Amish Spalted Waterfall coffee table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston

As wood dries, it shrinks, which typically results in some portion of the wood cracking, particularly in large slabs of wood. Sometimes the crack is large enough that the slab is unstable. There are a number of ways to address this. My preference is to maintain the natural beauty caused by the crack and to play it up as a design feature in the piece. Where many artisans use a “butterfly key” to stabilize cracked slabs, I prefer to use non-intrusive joinery applied to the underside of the crack, which stabilizes the wood while maintaining the most natural appearance.
I further enhance the beauty of the crack by sanding it as smoothly as possible, so that it is a feature that is as beautiful to touch as it is to look at.

This design also incorporates the waterfall effect. The slab of wood gets cut in half and then essentially folded over on itself. There is a mechanism inside, called a mortise and tenon joint, which makes it more solid because otherwise, this would be an unstable joint.

This piece of wood was not quite long enough to make the table I wanted into a full waterfall table so I added an extension to it. In this case, I had a custom fabricated, black metal extension designed. Lines were etched into it to echo the lines that are caused by the spalting.

The final size resulted in 48” x 24”. This table is currently on display at the Greenwood Bay showroom and will be entered into a juried furniture competition and show in late 2018, at which point it will be released for sale.

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Project Overview: Cherry & Big Leaf Maple Console Table

Project Overview: Cherry & Big Leaf Maple Console Table

Where Art and Craftsmanship Merge

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a charity auction benefitting one of Houston’s premier arts organization Diverse Works. The event was called “Art Design Life” and was held at Match in midtown Houston. At this event, several vignettes were arranged featuring designs and pieces from local designers, makers and other vendors. Each vignette had a theme of sorts, and all of the pieces in the vignette were available for auction.

Top of Cherry and Big Leaf Maple Wood Table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking Studios in Houston
Waterfall wood design of a Cherry and Big Leaf Maple Wood Table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking Studios in Houston
Waterfall edge of Top of Cherry and Big Leaf Maple Wood Table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking Studios in Houston
Bottom of Top of Cherry and Big Leaf Maple Wood Table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking Studios in Houston
Top of Cherry and Big Leaf Maple Wood Table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking Studios in Houston
Top of Cherry and Big Leaf Maple Wood Table by Greenwood Bay Woodworking Studios in Houston

I designed and built this handmade wood console table just for the auction. It is made from solid cherry hardwoods and topped by a waterfall of heavily figured Quilted Maple. I had previously spotted the Maple at my favorite mill in New England and bought it immediately because of its outstanding figure, even though I didn’t have any particular project in mind for it. So when I was planning this auction piece, I knew immediately that I wanted to include the Quilted Maple.

Creating a Waterfall Design

Since the Maple wasn’t especially large, I decided to show it off as much as possible by making it a waterfall over the edge of the Cherry table, which itself is a waterfall style. The Cherry had some nice color variation in it which enhanced the natural appeal of the wood. The lighter areas of the Cherry are called “sapwood” which is often cut off from the “heartwood” to create a more uniform color. In this case, I decided to leave it on.

The design is known as a “waterfall” because of the way the wood appears to flow over an edge. This effect is created by cutting the wood at the point of the “waterfall” at a 45-degree angle, and then “folding” the piece over to create the waterfall effect.

I always add “mortise and tenon” joinery to make the joint strong. Tenons are simply a piece of wood that protrudes from one piece and that fits into a perfectly shaped recess (mortise) in the mating piece. Then both pieces are glued together to create the waterfall.

Final Prepping

This entire piece is finished with hand rubbed penetrating oil. I use a special European plant-based product that is actually marketed to commercial flooring contractors. It looks great and gives excellent protection. I also love the fact that there are no solvents and no VOC’s, which means there are no bad fumes and off-gasses to contend with.

I attended the auction itself with my wife, Cynthia. We had a lovely time seeing all the other great pieces on display, eating great food and mingling with the crowd. Cynthia found some lovely jewelry pieces which she bought.

A day or two after the auction, I had the pleasure of meeting the family who bought my piece, and they were kind enough to stop for a photo op with me just before loading it in their SUV.

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Preparing Veneer

Preparing Veneer

Below is step-by-step process of how I make a vanity top using Maple veneer.

The top itself is about 15” wide and will need 3 pieces of 5” wide veneer strips be joined together. I bought some commercial veneer that is 1/16” thick and just a bit more than 5” wide. After ripping it to rough length, I needed to make the edges of each piece of veneer perfectly straight so they could be glued together. The process is much like working with thick wood with a few small differences.

 

STEP 1

Creating Maple veneer vanity top by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston, TX
Here are two of the pieces that will be joined together. Each piece has been marked to assure I keep everything in order.

 

STEP 2

Creating Maple veneer vanity top by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston, TXI took the two pieces that will be joined together, and folded them on top of each other, almost as if they were a book. I am pointing at the edge that will be joined.

 

STEP 3

Creating Maple veneer vanity top by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston, TXKeeping the edges aligned, both pieces are placed on this ledger board.

 

STEP 4

Creating Maple veneer vanity top by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston, TX

Another board is placed on top to make a “sandwich” with the both pieces of veneer in between the two outer boards. The entire piece is then clamped together.

 

STEP 5

Creating Maple veneer vanity top by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston, TXI use a hand plane to take several light passes along the edge. It’s important to have a well-tuned hand plane with a razor sharp edge to get the best result. If everything is aligned correctly, this will result in two perfectly matched edges.

 

STEP 6

Creating Maple veneer vanity top by Greenwood Bay Woodworking in Houston, TX
Everything worked out just as planned. There are no gaps and everything is ready for gluing up.

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