Hand Tools Archive

A fine beginning *PIC*
Response To:
Sofa Table: a beginning ()

Ellis Walentine
Hi Derek,

Thanks for asking for input on your table design. All I can give is opinions and suggestions, so forgive me if I come off a bit pedantic here. Your choices are yours alone to make and I'm just shooting from the hip.

Personally, I rarely incorporate big value differences in a piece, so dark walnut supported directly by pale maple would be a bold leap for me. I know it's been done successfully by others, so it's not an absolute judgment. When I do use highly contrasting elements, I generally try to have a transitional element between them, specific to the piece at hand.

Tables are, after all, horizontal surfaces of a particular size and shape to suit their intended use. How they are supported is primarily an aesthetic concern as long as the structural engineering is sound, and that is governed by things like the load and the tipping forces, whatever they might be. All engineering should include a safety factor, too, which can vary depending on forseeable risks. In this case, the only unaddressed tipping forces I can see would be in the front-back dimension because of the narrow footprint in that dimension and because the legs are only splayed in the side-to-side dimension. Since a sofa table stands adjacent to a wall or sofa generally, there shouldn't be any trouble there. And, the legs, while slender, are plenty stiff enough to hold up even a collection of heavy sculptures and resist moderate lateral forces.

In elevation, the table is very delicate, perhaps a bit more delicate than I would have designed for the overstuffed sofa behind it. But, it is in keeping with the delicate demilune and the Wegner chair in this particular interior, so it works. It also works on a more absolute scale, since freestanding furniture isn't obliged to assume any set form or other visual aspect; it only needs to be visually consistent within itself. Regarding the boat shape of the top, I've never been a big fan or it. I think of it as a 50s-vintage furniture meme. That said, I don't know what shape I would to complement the various other forms in the room. I guess any eclectic shape you like would work, but here's another thought you might consider: What about having the back edge be straight, so it fits directly to the back of the sofa or the hallway wall? For what it's worth, I'd consider something like this, but again, this is a design I've used several times in the past and have come to like. It has a slightly eased edge around the top and a 3/4" round-over on the bottom. To me, it serves your intention of soft curves and relative simplicity.

One other note on form, and that is to let the ends overhang a proportionate amount. I agree with others who feel that 4" is not enough relative to the overall width of the piece. And, if you do proceed with the boat shape, I suggest making the top wider so the legs are set in further. From your drawing it appears that the legs are only tucked under the edges of the top by half an inch or so. I wouldn't make the stance any narrower because of tipping thresholds. You might be able to continue the curve of the front rail onto the front faces of the legs to offset this proximity issue, though it would disrupt the splayed leg theory. A wider top would be the simplest solution. I would also suggest making the table longer overall. The existing table looks a tad short compared to the width of the sofa.

As for the drawers, that would depend on how motivated you are to have drawers. If the ends overhang more than the 4" you've proposed, the drawers will require even greater length if you want to access them at all. One possibility would be a partner's-desk type drawer that would slide out from either end of the table. You could pull it out three quarters of the length of the table and it would still be stable and the overhang wouldn't matter.

So there you have it. Just a few thoughts for you.


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