An ExpERimENTAL Table | Popular Woodworking Magazine
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The designer Enzo Mari gave the world this design (e many others). But they are is it worth building?
WWhen my grandparents got married before World War II, they bought a dining set that cost several months of my grandfather’s salary as a paper salesman. At that table, Popo and Grandma raised my father and my uncle. And our family ate at that table every time we went to visit my grandparents until they died and the table was sent to who knows where.
While this behavior might sound insane now in the era of disposable flat-pack furniture, my grandparents were typical for their day. Before the 1950s, it was common for your furniture to stay with you for life. It was also common for it to cost quite a bit.
In 1974, Italian designer Enzo Mari observed how furniture was becoming cheaper and less durable. And so, he created an experiment that we can still hear echoes of today. The experiment developed into a book called “Self-design?” (Corraini), and was a set of free plans for furniture that could be built using a hand saw and a hammer.
Mari wondered: Would people accept this utilitarian furniture in their homes? What would have been the reaction to a series of sticks that were nailed together but served perfectly as a bookcase, bed, dining table or chair?
Also, would the people who built the pieces learn anything from the building process? Would they appreciate things that are well done after doing something on their own?
This, according to Mari, is an important aspect of design: “Design is design only if it communicates knowledge”.
I have often wondered what are the pieces of “Self-design?” Could an experienced carpenter learn anything from his projects? This year I decided to find out.
This dining table, called Tavola Quattro, is bigger than it looks. With a 55-square-inch deck, you can seat eight people around it, thanks to the smart base that works like a bridge beam. The material needed to build it is minimal. If you have a table saw, you can easily cut the material from five 1s5⁄8“X 111⁄4“X 12 ′ pieces of construction lumber (total cost: $ 80). To assemble the table, you can use nails or wood screws. I planed all the pieces up to 1 ″ thick and used them #8 x 15⁄8“Screws. If you don’t have a planer, use # 8 x 2” screws. Cost of screws: $ 12.
My finish is shou sugi ban, a carbonized finish popular in Japanese architecture for making building materials resistant to fire and insects. I charred the wood with a propane torch, brushed off the soot, and then applied a finish of linseed oil and beeswax.
In the end, this may just be my best time ever to build an eight-person dining table; only 10 hours of work. But was it a waste of time?
Parts and fire
This project is a bit unusual as it is best to cut all the pieces to sizeto the cut list, finish them, then assemble the project. Neithermally is better use a cut list as a rough road map and make your changes as you go. For this project, however, cut all the files parts, letters and stack them in piles.
If you don’t want to use the shou sugi ban finish, apply your favorite finish at this point using paint, shellac, varnish, whatever. Or take out the propane burner and get ready for a blast (of heat, that is).
Propane weed burners are inexpensive tools that typically cost $ 35 to $ 50. They attach to a propane tank like the one that powers your gas grill and function like a flamethrower. Wood has no escape.
I placed parts of my project on cinder blocks and blasted them with the propane-powered flame. Keep a sprayed water bottle (and fire extinguisher) handy to put out any flare-ups.
Enzo Mari‘s Table Four Cut List
Item Size (inch)
❏ 5 A Top 1 x 11 x 55
❏ 4 B. Top battens 1 x 2 x 54
❏ 6 C. Legs and feet 1 x 2 x 27 1⁄2
❏ 4 D. Horizontal support 1 x 2 x 21 5⁄8
❏ 4 IS Horizontal support 1 x 2 x 19 5⁄8
❏ 8 F. 1 x 2 x 12 diagonal brace 1⁄4
❏ 2 G. Vertical brace 1 x 2 x 11 3⁄4
❏ 4 H. 1 x 2 x 8 diagonal brace 5⁄8
The top is easy to assemble; there are not board joints. Join the edges of the planks, drill the distance and pilot holes through the slats, and screw the slats to the underside of the top.
To aid in the movement of the wood, I reamed the holes in the battens a little to allow the screws to rotate as the top boards shrink and expand. Set the top aside and make sure all other parts are stacked and labeled with the appropriate letters as indicated on the cut list.
Assemble the ends of the base
To make it easier to assemble the ends, I recommend making four MDF jigs that will carefully space the parts as you screw them to their neighbors.
Create a spacer mask of 35⁄8“X 24”. This will go between the foot of the table base (C) and the horizontal brace (E). The second spacer jig is 33⁄4“X 24” and goes between the horizontal reinforcement (E) and an upper batten (B). The third spacer is 71⁄2“X 24” and goes between the table legs (C).
Place the parts on top of each other as shown in the drawings and photos, using the spacer jigs to keep things square. Then screw the foot, braces and upper splints to the legs.
After screwing the horizontal and vertical pieces together, add the four diagonal braces (F on top and H on the floor). To be effective, these braces must make contact with the legs, plus the bottom of the floor and feet. This diagonal reinforcement gives the base of the table its strength. After building a final assembly, build the second one identically.
The two end groups are joined by four horizontal braces (D), which nestle in the corners created by the legs and by the horizontal braces at the ends (E). To assemble the base, attach the four brackets (D) to the end assemblies. Screw them to your legs.
There is now some internal bracing to install in the open spaces between the end sets. The vertical and diagonal braces here also retain the extension
transfer base. Use the drawings as a guide. Note that I made a small mistake in my version of this table. My braces are arranged like the letter “W.” On Mari’s table they are arranged like an “M” I don’t think it makes a difference.
Add the top
The last step is to attach the top to the assembled base. I chose to use 50mm square shank nails made by Rivierre Nails (available from Lee Valley Tools or Lie-Nielsen Tool-works). These nails hold like penises and are beautiful too. Drill pilot holes and nail the top to the base of the table below.
And at the end
After completing the table, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, despite the fact that it looked like a craft fair item in popsicle sticks. In my opinion, its proportions are excellent. Thanks to IKEA, the table doesn’t look all that strange (although I doubt my grandparents would have liked it). It’s shocking how quick and easy it is to build. All cuts are square. All joints are fasteners installed.
The bigger question is: will it last? Are the screws sturdy enough to keep the table from wobbling (or worse) after a dozen Thanksgiving? There is only one way to find out: it has to be used and abused by a young family.
Mari once said that this was her intention for her free furniture projects: “I have an idea. If someone really tried to build something, they would probably learn, “he said.” If, for example, they bought a table, which is an industrial product, they would check the prices of that item. figured out if a leg was well built and didn’t swing. This person would learn little things. “
I too have learned a little thing. Maybe everything I do doesn’t have to be framed, drawn and worked on for weeks. Maybe, just maybe, I can relax a little sometimes and build something quick and easy that is useful and useful.
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