Friday 02 December 2011
This article shows how Andrew Varrah solved the problems posed by the brief
My client gave me an interesting brief. He wanted this piece to stand on the first staircase landing so that when he began to go upstairs he would see a really beautiful shape. Upon arriving on the landing he wanted to be surprised by an additional detail which was not seen from below, and when he came down the next flight of stairs he wanted to see a further shot which allowed the shadow it formed by a spotlight to reveal yet more of the subtle curves. He also said he wanted something with very beautiful lines.
I am not sure whether I have met all his expectations but it has been a wonderful challenge trying.
This console table looks easy but the curved support to the top was a real challenge as the edge angle kept changing. It is made in anigre and ripple and solid sycamore on a rio rosewood plinth. It is 1700mm long by 450mm deep and 810mm high. The client approved the design, see drawing, and I also made him polished samples of the actual woods.
The tricky part in this design only really became apparent when we
tried to shape the edge of the large curved lamination.
Initially we used 1.5mm birch ply and veneered the sycamore in our press first on 1.5mm birch ply with a balancer, then we sanded the sycamore in our speed sander prior to laminating. Having glued all the laminates, we put the whole curved base, about 18mm thick, in a vacuum bag on our jig, and left it overnight.
Then we shaped the edge but did not really take on board - hindsight is useless - that the edge was at 90° in the middle and about 30° when it met the end.
To solve this we made a jig which held a router and allowed the cutter in the machine to pivot up and down and at the same time follow a curved template so that as you moved the cutter up and down and left and right at the same time, the edge angle slowly changed.
We then had to use dog cramps to hold the ripple sycamore veneer to this ever-changing angled edge as the client wanted the timber to run over the edge as well as being on the top and bottom.
The other problem was that the anigre came to a point on the top at each of the four corners, which meant we had to be spot on where the solid met at the top, and the end of the solid had to meet perfectly with the curve at the extreme end of the lamination. This was because we could not plane a little off to make all the points meet exactly, the veneering having been already completed.
Then we discovered we had to glue the top and solid end sycamore lipping to the curved member at the same time on both ends. It was almost impossible to get the pressure exact on all the shoulders but we only had one chance to succeed.
I had to pre-polish the internal faces prior to this gluing up process, and at the same time had to work out the angle on the solid sycamore to take the angle of the end of the curved piece.
I think it would be fair to say this was a masochistic design, and an even more masochistic way to make a â€˜simpleâ€™ piece of furniture.
The pain of making this piece was marginally less than the pure joy of seeing it completed.
Of course, we did not know how well it would balance until it was complete, and also whether the top would remain perfectly flat on the point of the pyramid as it is not fixed in any way. The gods were on my side, and it balanced perfectly.
(PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ANDREW VARRAH)