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The marquetry adorning the top of this 18th century table is beautiful, but after over 200 years, it's colors have faded significantly.
Nowadays, any enterprising woodworker with a bit of engineering know-how can easily purchase any number of manufactured gears, cams, and ratcheting mechanisms for use in extraordinary pieces of furniture. But back in the 18th century, when this exquisite table was built by a French craftsman, there certainly weren’t any Woodcraft, Rockler, or McMaster retail stores from which to purchase these sorts of mechanical items, and that’s what makes this little table such a marvel of engineering.
Jean-Francois Aubin had privacy in mind when he built this small table for a female French aristocrat. It’s chock-full of incredible mechanics that’ll make your head spin.
With the turn of a key, the top and writing surface extend in opposing directions, revealing a silk-covered writing surface as well as two hidden wells for the storage of writing paper and other supplies. A small drawer centered beneath the writing surface has no pull with which to open it. Instead, the user depresses a small lever hidden beneath. For even more storage, Aubin incorporated a full length side drawer with a mortised lock set.
Marquetry Worn by TimeInterestingly, the colors of the marquetry on this particular table are rather muted–a result of the ravages of time. In much the same way that we’re not accustomed to seeing the original colors adorning the old ruins of Rome, the artist’s rendering of what this table’s beautifully-adorned top would have looked like some 250 yeears ago is simply stunning.
Secrets UnfoldThe J. Paul Getty Museum’s animation of the inner secrets of this little table is stunning as well, and well worth watching. It’s sure to inspire just about anyone who has ever built anything at all!
With the turn of a key, the top and writing surface extend in opposing directions.
A dizzying array of mechanics make this table an engineering marvel.
The drawer beneath the silk-covered writing surface features no pull. Instead, the user must depress a hidden lever beneath it.
Need more storage? A full length drawer opens out from the right side. Of course, it features a beautiful mortised lock set.
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andybarss: Actually, it does mean exactly what I intended:
"to overwhelm with amazement; astound; astonish"
scootsp8: Exactly. I'd certainly classify this little table's engineering elements as absolutely stupifying.
Stupify = verb or adjective meaning jaw-dropping
My initial double-take at the headline was a result of my own sense of what the word means; in my speech, it has a completely negative connotation, meaning to dull the senses, confuse, make befuddled, and so on. This is shared by several other speakers I just asked, though it may well be that there is regional or interpersonal variation.
Nonetheless, the editor chose unwisely in picking a word that has this restricted meaning for some, and whose first dictionary definition (OED, Merriam-Webster, and Free online) is that same one. Particularly when 'stupendous', 'remarkable', and many other adjectives capture the intended meaning and are not variant between speakers. (My best guess was that "stupendous" was confused with "stupefying", but that's just a conjecture.)
You need to check your sources. While "stupid" and "stupefy" obviously share etymology, their meanings have diverged over the years. To stupefy is to stun, amaze, etc., or to put into a stupor (i.e., knock out). In other words, to stupefy is to make stupid only in the old-fashioned sense of "dazed and unable to think," rather than the modern sense of "lacking in intelligence."
Here is the Getty link, Very Interesting indeed, what a marvel! Inspiring!
Amazing and intriguing table.
Note to the author/editor: "stupefying" doesn't mean what I think you think it means. Did you mean "stupendous"? 'Stupefying" = "to make stupid"; "stupendous" = superb, of extreme quality.
The link to the video seems to be broken and no longer to points to video about 18th century desk
the J Paul Getty Link is . . . http://www.youtube.com/user/gettymuseum#p/search/0/EblnaLMjdNg
What a beautiful piece of work. Beautiful to look at, and beautiful in function. The guy who came up with this desk must have really been in demand in his time, especially with those who didn't want private or sensitive papers to be accessed by just anyone. I can sum it up in one word: wow!
Fantastic table, such genius.
Oh and Praath here is a link to the maker of your youtube video, DB Fletcher Designs. The is a pdf download on the capstan table page that shows part of the mechanism.
I would expect FWW to do a bit more research, the correct spelling is Jean-François Oeben. He was one of the greatest ébénistes of the XVIII and was also the master of Jean-Henri Riesener (many consider the latest to be the greatest). Their work sure deserve a whole article each.
There is one book on Oeben's life: http://www.amazon.com/Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois-Oeben-Rosemarie-Stratmann-Dohler/dp/2859173544/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
FWW should really get out to see Robert Yarger of the Stickman Box Company.
He is a puzzle-box maker extraordinaire.
You can see some samples of his work, including his amazing Pirate's Cipher Puzzlechest by going here:
Seriously, there's a cover story here.
The Amish make a round table that remains round when extended.It is amazing. The pie-shaped pieces unfold, and the table slides out to accept them.
I take my hat off for Jean-Francois Aubin. What a wonderful piece!!! Are plans available?
Superbe table. Maitre Aubin certainly was a master artisan. I'd love to get a set of plans replicating this table or similar 18c pieces.
I forgot something;
Here is the link to the extending round table that I found on the internet about a year ago.
Is this the table that was to be seen at Harrods?
Is this the extending round table you saw at harrods?
I think it's a marvel
I must be being a bit thick (not unusual) where is the link to the animation?
... and speaking of stunning craftsmanship, I am reminded of the Jupe Table, which I saw in Harrods, London. This is a round extending table, which remains round when extended !
Maybe FWW can find some info on this marvellous piece ?
Wow, what an amazing piece. Cant imagine how much this piece must have cost in its day. Agree, amazing craftsmanship.
That looks like a clockwork motor doing the work of moving the top and writing surface, activated by the key. You can see the ratchet winding set on the front. Nice and a good use of then available tech. Probably more robust than our modern tendency to use electric motors as well.
Stunning design stunning craftsmanship - pretty stunning video too - and all done with hand tools.
Carl Swensson's woodworking skills go very, very deep. But they go wide as well.
Grids and cutouts define a practical piece
Fast, fun approach to making a comfortable, casual seat
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