Butterfly tables by Michael Fortune
I have one of the best jobs in the world, at least if you love furniture making. And one of my favorite parts of the job is working with our authors, like Michael Fortune. His design chops are first rate, but I’m even more impressed by his technical skill in the shop. He is a true master of the craft. That’s why his article in FWW #220, “Finest Way to Expand a Table,” is such a wonderful contribution to furniture making. Not only is the table’s aesthetic design elegant, its technical design is exquisite, too. He has taken something which could be a nightmare to figure out and presented it in a way that all of us can understand. Before this, the butterfly table was something only the most advanced furniture makers could execute. Hoewever, it’s now something that just about all of us can do, because he has clarified and simplified the most complicated part: figuring out where to put the pivots. And even if you can’t do it now, it’s certainly within your reach not too far down the road.
The reason Michael is able to present the technique in a clear and easy to understand manner is that he’s done all the hard work, making a lot of butterfly tables and learning his lessons. I’d thought it would be nice to show you some of his other work. Enjoy.
(By the way, I’ve always found that the truly gifted people are those who can take complicated material and present it in a way that makes it seem easy. Thank goodness for Michael Fortune and all of the other wonderful authors writing for FWW! I’d be a worse furniture maker without them and the craft would be far less healthy.)
Works with any base. The table in the magazine had a standard base, but this table has one that's definitely non-standard. Still, the same technique for making the leaf was used.
No square leaf here. As he mentioned in the article, your leaf doesn't need to be rectangular. The edges on this one are a very straight 'S'.
Easy to open. This table sits six when expanded and you don't need a handle on the leaf to open it.
Shaped tops are fine, too. Don't limit yourself to rectangular tops, either. This one, like the one in the article, has a decidedly strong elliptical shape to it.
Out of sight. What's great about a butterfly table is that the leaf is stored in the table. Finding a place to store leaves is one of the biggest headaches associated with standard expanding tables.
But the big leaves are still easy to open. The pivot moves smoothly and the handle does its job. Opening the leaf is a one person job.
Use a custom pivot, too. On bigger tables Fortune also uses a custom pivot design to better suppor the weight of the leaf.
Get an extra hand on bigger tables. Fortune makes a nifty handle for leaves that would otherwise be too big or heavy to lift.