Whitehall Blog

Archive for August, 2013

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Monday, August 19th, 2013

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David and Elizabeth

Country French Table Doubled

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

I have categorized this for new items in the shop because I feel this table is new to me–I have finally seen it dismantled to understand how truly clever the mechanism is!  We bought this c. 1830 cherry table with it’s sexy legs and luscious wood in France.  Because it has a fantastic and original scalloped apron (most are faked from straight aprons), it sat a bit low and we sent it to be raised.  Also the leaves had major shrinkage in the ash panel within the cherry frames and we decided to have those splined.  Today on a visit to our restorer’s shop I saw it totally apart and could enjoy the brilliance of the mechanism that literally allows the table to DOUBLE in length from 80-160 inches!

From this angle you see a hint of some strange holes in the table end and this next photo clarifies the image.

There are three slots with boards filling them at each end concealed near the top of the table.  When you begin to pull each end out you realize the two side bars are immensely long lopers that attach the ends to the table and the middle one turns out to be a drop down leg!

Here it is with a leaf drawn almost our and the next photo shows the full extension with the “secret” leg dropped for support–no diving board effect here.

The tops weigh a ton and I had until today never seen the table apart.  I knew there were a set of three medial braces under the table and that the lopers had to traverse the entire length of the table to both support the leaves and keep the open table still totally stable–and they must slide past each other as they open and close.  Furthermore the legs had to be flipped up into a closed position to fit into their slots simultaneously with the pushing closed of the leaves.  Occasionally they tangle a little and must be wiggled to go through the arches and slide past each other so we were also hoping our cabinetmaker might obviate this issue.

Here is a photo of one side of one of the medial braces:

From this photo you can see why this table is heavy–the apron is nearly 3 inches thick!  Each of the medial braces–again some seriously stout wood–is slip dovetailed into each side of the apron providing solidity against any warping of the aprons AND providing the inverted tunnel through which those 6′ long lopers under each leaf will glide.  Notice in the trough a rectangular peg/tenon projecting upward–these guide the lopers as they pass each other.  Simple and totally ingenious!

Over the years the passage has become very tight as the lopers moved slightly (tiny warping) and the ends are hard to guide easily through their respective tunnels–so our restorer is widening the tunnels slightly and tapering the ends of each loper so they are inclined to meet and slide by rather than risking butting each other and bringing the closing of the table to a sudden halt.

By next week our table should hopefully be back in the shop!

PS  Curious as to why the tops of the aprons and medial brace look so fresh?–read my blogs, articles and books about the importance of oxidation and what allows wood to darken or remain fresh!  It is the opposite of what most fakers believe–they alway seem to darken the wrong places!