Putting the "log" back in Blog

Stacked Lamination Coffee Table

Posted on April 9th, by Andy Brownell in Gorilla Glue, Projects, Publications. 10 comments

Arbortech Random Contour Sander

Most furniture I’ve made it’s been about angles, curves and accurate joinery of dimensional lumber. In order to stretch myself a bit in both design and execution, I’ve recently begun working on a stacked lamination coffee table. This stacked lamination style became popular during the Midcentury period by artists like Wendell Castle. After seeing some of his highly carved, organic work in person at the Chicago Art Institute, I couldn’t resist giving it a try for myself.

Depending on the size, stacked lamination projects can either be created from single solid pieces, or smaller pieces mechanically joined together to create a void on the inside—thus cutting down on both weight and materials. You essentially create a rough topographic map version of your final piece with staked pieces that either change in size or direction based on the needs of the design. Brownell Furniture Renwick StoolOnce together, you then use a series of power and hand tools to hog, chop, grind, sand and refine the piece down to the desired shape. This can be messy, and time consuming labor, so power tools and accompanying cutter heads that excel at this type of work are a must if you want to achieve any results in a short period of time.

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some tools from Arbortech to try out on this project, after sharing my experience using their Turbo Plane tool for grinding out the seat of a stool I made late last year.

Having reviewed their Contour Random Sander attachment in Popular Woodworking, I wanted to give a bit more detail in the process that led up to using their sander on this particular project.

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Made from some beautiful, solid 10/4 and 6/4 ribbon-stripe Sapele, it’s a work in progress, and I’m teaching myself both the skills of using a variety of carving tools, as well as a completely new type of furniture fabrication and design. So far, I’ve made a significant dent in the base, which weighs about 75 pounds. In order to avoid tipping, I wanted the base to be heavy because I plan on having a bit of an overhang once the top is laminated to the base. 

The base design I’m going for resembles a large, oblique tree-trunk, not entirely dissimilar to how a real Sapele tree looks before getting cut down. It will then quickly blend into a more oval-shaped top that will thin out considerably as it approaches the edge. All of this requires the expected heavy duty removal and shaping to get to the final design.

A real time-saver (and knuckle saver) was the Arbortech Contour Random Sander, which really excels and smoothing out concave and convex curves. This project is nothing but curves so I’m glad an after-market attachment is available for my angle grinder to help with this task.

I still have a way to go in the final shape, as well as attaching the top. Plus, I’m considering an inlay of either a local fossil trilobyte or some other long-dead fossilized critter for the top, just to add another level of complexity to the design.

I think I’ll call this piece “The Tree of Life”.


10 thoughts on “Stacked Lamination Coffee Table

  1. Actually Wood is my favorite furniture. I don’t like as plastic, steel etc. Which is damage our environment. But wood is Environment friendly. Maximum furniture in our house made by wood which is very comfortable more then plastic and steel. Thanks for sharing your valuable openion.

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