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Butterfly tables by Michael Fortune

comments (4) June 2nd, 2011 in blogs

MKenney Matthew Kenney, special projects editor
thumbs up 35 users recommend

Works with any base. The table in the magazine had a standard base, but this table has one thats 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 doesnt need to be rectangular. The edges on this one are a very straight S.
Shaped tops are fine, too. Dont 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. Whats 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.
Easy to open. This table sits six when expanded and you dont need a handle on the leaf to open it.
Get an extra hand on bigger tables. Fortune makes a nifty handle for leaves that would otherwise be too big or heavy to lift.
Use a custom pivot, too. On bigger tables Fortune also uses a custom pivot design to better suppor the weight of the leaf.
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.
Works with any base. The table in the magazine had a standard base, but this table has one thats definitely non-standard. Still, the same technique for making the leaf was used. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

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.

Photo: 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.)

posted in: blogs, michael fortune, butterfly table

Comments (4)

miniaturehome miniaturehome writes: I love the concept of the butterfly leaf, but it seems that, with the exception of a pedestal table, the legs would get in the way when the table is extended to seat six with two on each side.
Posted: 11:13 pm on July 24th

bergerac bergerac writes: The article by Michael fortune is excellent with simple explainations of the mechanism, its well put together.
My next project is an extending dining table , its closed dimensions being 36 inches x 72 inches with an insert leaf of 21 inches extending the table to 93 inches long.

Before reading the article by Michael Fortune I intended to use ball bearing steel slides located outside a compartment within the table frame measuring 24x 56 inches. The leaf would be stored inside this compartment together with other ancillary equipment like protective pads and table mats.

I am now undecided whether or not to give up this storage space and opt for a slick folding mechanism ? Maybe I can find room to make one of each!
Posted: 8:24 am on July 5th

pjlimon pjlimon writes: I have a question: How long an extension would be stable with the slide design shown in this article. I am thinking of a cherry table about 45" wide and 72" to 80" long in its compressed state, going to 110" long when extended. So, each side has to extend 19" and would have a 38" leaf. Is that too long not to have secondary supports that slide with the extensions?
Posted: 4:52 pm on June 6th

Capella Capella writes: When will this article be available online? I'm looking forward to it!
Posted: 3:06 pm on June 3rd

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