From the eyes of Barnby & Day...
Our ‘Wish List Project’ so far:
Due to Mike Bradley the professional wood turner being away over the original making week we had to start our project the week before.
Finalising the construction technique:
After our final meeting at Benchmark with our commissioner Alex de Rijke, Sean Sutcliffe, Benchmark designer Peter Lowe and wood turner Mike Bradley things were starting to fall into place. We had almost finalised the shape of the table with Alex but there were several questions we needed to put to Benchmark before we could decide on the most appropriate manufacturing technique. For two reasons Alex was keen to use a cross laminated timber structure (CLT), firstly he had pioneered it previously with huge success in his ‘Endless Stair’ project, and secondly for its strength and ability to remove almost all shrinkage and expansion issues often found when using timber.
Cross Laminating Timber makes it hugely stable. You build your CLT up in layers, alternating the grain direction with each layer. In between each layer you apply glue and when it’s built to your required thickness you place it in the press and leave to dry. When the glue goes off it prevents the timber from shrinking, expanding or cupping.
Our table was to be 2m in diameter and made up of rings cut out of our CLT panels. We needed to confirm that putting such a large object on a lathe was going to be possible. Mike the wood turner decided that turning the whole table in one would be too much, so we decided to build and turn it in 3 sections. Turning end grain on a lathe can be quite rough so we had to make sure Mike was confident we could get a good finish. Luckily he was so the manufacturing technique was decided upon!
Deciding on Tulipwood:
Tulipwood makes up around 9% of the standing hardwood resources in the U.S. It is also one of their largest trees, allowing you to get it in very wide and long specifications. It is relatively knot free making it excellent to work with.
Although it’s not often used in furniture both Alex and ourselves love how the timber looks. It gives a fantastic range of colour, from the white creamy sapwood through to the beautiful brownish and olive green heartwood.
Finalising the shape:
Now the manufacturing method had been decided on we had to finalise the shape. We gave Benchmark our CAD drawing which they printed off full size. We glued it to a piece of MDF and then cut out the profile of the table with a jigsaw. Several hours were spent tweaking to ensure we ended with the most aesthetic shape possible. Alex wanted the table to be quite low to give a relaxed dining experience so we had to make sure there was going to be enough leg space.
We had previously given Alex the idea of incorporating a hollow in the centre of the table top to act as a fruit bowl or wine cooler. Being quite a prominent feature it took some time getting the shape spot on.
The making experience:
We were both blown away by the enthusiasm and expertise of the Benchmark furniture makers….they are all very much of the attitude that anything can be achieved and it was great working with them to find solutions to problems and ways around dilemmas.
We got stuck in first thing Monday as the timber was waiting for us. Staggered by the speed at which the Benchmark planers were able to machine our timber it didn’t take too long to get everything to the correct thickness and widths.
We then edge glued all the panels and clamped them up to dry.
After a few hours in clamp we started sending the panels through the drum sander to get rid of glue marks and take the timber down to its exact thickness. By Tuesday we were starting to glue up our CLT panels and placing them in press to dry.As soon as the panels were ready we started marking out the various ring sizes we required. We did this with a router and jigsaw. We built the lower of the 3 sections first applying glue in between each layer before placing back in the press to go off.
By Thursday the first section was ready for Mike to commence turning. It was incredible watching him shape such a large object on the lathe. He was pretty apprehensive to begin with but was pleasantly surprised with how it turned….apparently our clamping up had been spot on so it was spinning pretty true! We helped him finish the outside, smoothing it up with orbital sanders before he started to remove some of the inside to reduce the weight of the table.
On Friday we got the second largest section on the lathe which looked colossal. There was a constant flow of Benchmark makers and designers coming out to watch blown away by the shear size of the thing! We worked out that the outside was spinning at around 50mph….this meant it would have rolled off at 50mph had it come off the lathe! Turning something of that size is quite dangerous, but Mike calmly got on with it in a professional manner….and certainly seemed to be enjoying the challenge.
Using the calipers and templates we’d made we constantly checked the shape and dimensions. It was going to be cruitial that the three sections fitted perfectly together, any inconsistency had the potential to spoil the finished product.
We turned grooves into the ends of the sections to act as a locater; this would make life easier when we came to gluing the 3 sections together later.
That’s where we’ve got to for now…..turning the largest section takes place Monday!