It is trendy these days to ‘upcycle’, and many online storefronts are full of of reimagined-refinished-refurbished pieces that appeal to a vintage-loving, shabby-chic crowd. If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, or even if this is your first time browsing my collection, you probably realize that I’m not into that sort of thing. You will not find a chest made from rough re-cycled barn board in my collection — I have nothing against it, but it’s not my style. I will admit however that for several years, I’ve been collecting pieces of old furniture that have some element in which I see potential. It could be a nice leather top on an otherwise decrepit table, an oversized brass tray that may someday be the top for a modern sideboard, or  as in this case, a battered old drafting table that has some unique hardware.

For many years my aunt, an art teacher in NYC, had an old drafting table that she used as a desk in her studio. I remember that studio very well, but it wasn’t until the space was being cleared out that I noticed the table. All I had ever seem was the top of it nestled in a corner and surrounded by easels, canvasses, stacks of paper and printing supplies. To be honest, once it was finally revealed, there was nothing spectacular about it. If anything it was a bit of a let down, like the opening of Al Capone’s vault. It was oak, and it was ugly.  The only reason that I ended up taking it was that I needed a drafting table, didn’t have the time to make one and didn’t want to buy one. This is probably the same reason that she had it. So, it consumed space in the corner of my shop for a while, unused, because, as it turned out, I didn’t need a drafting table. Well, at least I hadn’t bought one.  As it sat there, though, I began to notice the hardware – the cast iron hand wheels, threaded rod and a some interesting cast parts holding it all together. These were used to raise, lower and tilt the top in a crude but effective manner. 

While I had no use for a drafting table for the purposes of drafting, I decided that I did need some kind of desk that I could break down and bring with me to shows. And, if I was going to be exhibiting Rocket Age Lighting, I needed something with a mid-century feel. With the Paradise City show literally five days away, the pressure was on to design and make something – and do it quickly. With the deadline looming, I broke down the old drafting table, discarded everything but the hardware and spent about an hour bead-blasting the parts in my sandblasting cabinet. The hand wheels were less than stellar, as the casting were really rough, but after a bit of sanding and buffing they looked great. Well, not necessarily great, but they had that worn, but cared for look that I wanted. Ultimately, I sprayed all of the cast parts flat black, including the hubs of the wheels, but I left the rims a natural satin.

As I was working on refinishing the hardware, the rest of the table began to take shape in my mind. This turned into a ‘design-as-you-go’ project, but the original piece offered a lot of guidance, and I decided to use the hardware exactly as it had been used in the original desk. I knew from the start the piece would be black, and I had a load of ash, so that was settled. All that really remained was to decide what to do about a top.  I had just finished a production run of Cyclone lamps, which use acrylic cylinders as a substrate for the shoji paper, so acrylic naturally came to mind… I finished this table at 5:30 PM on Thursday afternoon and by mid-afternoon on Friday, it was in my booth at Paradise City.

As always, thanks for reading.

-Michael

P.S. Please visit the blog section of my web site

 

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Comment by Anthony Scheffler on October 22, 2011 at 6:47pm

I really like the table... the clear top and especially the "footbar".  Reminds me of my old drafting days. 

Comment by Brigitte Martin on October 20, 2011 at 8:04am

Thank you for the great write-up. It's always wonderful to be able to better understand the motivation and thought behind a work! Appreciate your time.

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