A LITTLE unusual in its assembly, in that the top may be lifted and carried away as a tray, is this little adaptation of an old Hepplewhite tripod stand. Hepplewhite was the famous American cabinet maker of the 18th century, who has left us many a priceless memento of his handiwork. The fact that many of them are copied today and are in popular demand (and try as we will no designer seems able to improve on their beauty) is ample proof of the correctness and beauty of their design.
Adapting the idea of the old tripod stand and adding a matched crotch mahogany veneered top we have as a result a wonderful little coffee table. And it teaches many things to the newer craftsman, and gives fine practice to the more advanced.
Making the Tripod Section
First, it is almost imperative that a full size layout or drawing be made, to get the shapes of the legs, turnings, the angles of the spindles, and the size and angles at which to cut the veneer for the top. Be particular in laying out the full size plan of the knee block and the ball top of the turning. Note that the spindles are on centres between the legs.
Bandsaw the legs, leaving a small shoulder on the inside so you can bore for the dowel which is inserted in the "toe" of the leg. This prevents the toe from breaking off under excess strain. Note how the grain is indicated. After the glue on these dowels has hardened the shoulder may be sawed off. The bevel is 1/4" x 1/4" and is easily cut by tilting the bandsaw or jig saw table to 45 degrees. Or it may be done by hand with a spoke shave. If the leg has been tapered properly the beveling should leave a uniform flat on the upper surface of the leg, with straight line edges. Locate centres for dowels.
The knee block is one piece, bandsawed and drum sanded. Transfer leg dowel centers. Bore for these and for 3/4" turning dowel.
Make your turning template and your spindle turning. Pay particular attention to the sphere at the top. Upend the turning and stand it upright on the exact centre of your plan and mark where the three centres for the spindles will come. To get the correct angle at which to bore the holes, lay the spindle on its side on the drawing, and sketch a line on the ball by sighting, which will be a continuation of the centre line of the spindle centre. Repeat for three spindle centres. Now clamp the ball in a wooden cabinet clamp and lay this clamp on the drill press table with turning hanging over, to adjust the angle, through the medium of your sight line and the drill. See sketch of this operation on the drawing. There is nothing hard about it, but take your time and get set up properly
before doing the actual boring.
Turn the three spindles with the ends a tight fit for 1/2" hole.
The assembly is easily done, but see that the spindles centre properly between the legs and that they are equi-distant from the centre to the ball-shaped ends. Check up with your drawing by inverting and stand on the drawing, resting on the ends of the spindles.
Making the Top
For the top, a solid top may be substituted for the veneered one, but remember, it will warp and it will not have the grace nor appearance of the veneered top. A five-ply veneered top of plain mahogany or walnut may be used instead of the matched veneer top, if losing in this substitution only the appearance.
Crotch mahogany or crotch walnut is a cranky thing to handle, the natural grain of the veneer making it' curl or warp badly. Six pieces of straight grain mahogany may be used with good effect, as suggested in the sketch. Note the direction of the grain. To match up the veneer, take six pieces of veneer board sufficient . size and put them between two pieces of 1/2" or 1/4" board. With No. 18 or No. 19 brads, nail these together, clinching the brads over each side. Treat this as a solid board and carefully cut out the shape of a segment one-sixth of a circle or a 600 angle. Do all planing toward the point with a large plane or the jointer. Get it as nearly 60 degree accurate as you can. Remove the clamp boards. Take three of the veneer segments and tape them together with gummed paper tape, making sure the joints are good. Do the same with the other three. Clamp these two halves between two boards and plane the two edges straight. Now tape these two half circles together.
Using a compass, draw a circle the exact diameter of inlay motif No. ID-21 and cut out the veneer of the segments to as close a fit for the motif as possible. Cut away the veneer that surrounds the motif and set it in, with the paper side on the same side of your veneer as your taping. Tape it in.
Your core piece is made up of enough pieces of board to make a piece 23 inches square. It is better to use eight pieces 3 inches wide jointed and glued together, than two pieces 11-1/2" wide, making a stronger core and with less likelihood of warping.
For home craftsmen who have not the facilities for properly handling glue, the casein type of glue is recommended for veneering, since its slow-setting qualities are ideal. A rather thick paste is used. Provide yourself with some kind of a roller or make a small edition of a rolling pin, with which to spread the glue. A wide trowel or putty knife may also b used.
It is assumed that the craftsman has provided himself with the veneering press, as outlined among the accessories.
The procedure in veneering is as follows. Lay one-half of your press on a box or table, where you can slip the braces on and off. Lay a sheet of newspaper over the surface and on this lay your backing veneer. It is the usual thing that whatever veneer used on the face, is used on the back, except in the case where the back will be concealed, in which case any cheap veneer will do.
Now, coat both sides of a sheet of poplar veneer with the glue, spreading it to an even coat with the roller. Lay this on the backing veneer, with the grain at right angles to the backing. On this lay your core, which has been surfaced to 11/16" thick, and lay it with the grain parallel to the backing veneer.
Now coat both sides of another piece of poplar veneer and lay it on the core, again crossing the grain with the backing and the core. On this lay your matched veneer top, taping side out. If a solid sheet of face veneer is used, run the grain parallel to the core and the backing. You now have the backing, core and face grains running one way, with the poplar intermediate or "crosslay" veneers at right angles to them. Clamp this in the press, giving it all the pressure possible, clamping down first on the brace which crosses at the middle, following with the others so as to get an even pressure. Twelve to twenty-four hours should be allowed for the glue to set.
After taking the top out of the press, draw a circle 22 inches in diameter, using the centre of the inlay motif as a centre. Scrape and sand away all paper taping and bandsaw carefully to the circle drawn. Sand the edge as carefully as if it were going to be left square. With cutter SS-16 on the shaper and a collar 11/," in diameter as a bearing collar, cut a quarter round all around the top edge of the top. Be careful to hold the panel firmly down on the shaper bed while shaping. Sand the edge and the quarter-round.
With a cabinet scraper and sandpaper no coarser than 0/0, smooth the face veneer, finishing with 4/0 paper. Do not use a plane.
The little horseshoe-shaped collars are located on the back and glued in place. A ring made of three or more segments, 18" inside diameter, 20-1/2" outside diameter and 3/4 " thick may be used in place of these collars, if the top is to be lifted off frequently. Check the location by placing the assembled tripod in an inverted position on the back of the panel.
The model in the laboratory workshop was stained and finished in a deep cherry color on the mahogany, which brings out the grain of the crotch veneer used, with telling effect. It will look as well in brown mahogany or walnut. Hepplewhite and mahogany are a synonomous combination, and when one mentions the first he thinks of the other, and for this reason, mahogany is recommended.