Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Mesquite Dining Table : Dinner is Served

The Sketch: Mesquite Dining Table
I just noticed that in all these blog postings we have not ever shown a mesquite project complete from start to finish. Since the mesquite dining table was recently delivered in time for Easter Dinner and we happen to have all the photos of the project from start to finish handy on the desktop of my computer a mesquite dining room table will be our first project shown from beginning to end.

Most of Lou's mesquite furniture projects start with a sketch.  The sketch is a way to make sure he is on the same page as the client.  This project started defined as as a mesquite dining table.  The client  knew he wanted Lou Quallenberg to design a mesquite dining table for his second home that would seat eight comfortably.  We had photos and dimensions of the room but no decision on the shape of the table: rectangle, square or round.  In order to help the client make a decision Lou made scale model versions of a square mesquite dining table and a rectangle mesquite dining table. He had enjoyed making the tiny scale models of "The Dancing Trees", the chapel and benches so this was inevitable. Several clients have expressed interest in the tiny model versions but I doubt it could ever be a profitable business model and talk about a niche, niche market. Not just mesquite furniture but mesquite dollhouse furniture!  We are however looking at smaller versions of some products as a product line but more on that in a future blog post......
Square Mesquite Table Model

Square  Mesquite Table Model

Rectangle Mesquite Table Model
Rectangle Mesquite Table Model

After the client decided on a rectangle the approximate sized book matched mesquite slabs were found but once Lou started working with them the question became whether there would be enough space on the table to be comfortable. Lou recommended adding a five inch similar piece of mesquite down the middle to give a bit more elbow room and space on the table and the client agreed.

Two mesquite slabs too small?
Center strip added for size.
Brent Catterton's Shop
Rough mesquite dining table with tiny model.
 Once the three pieces were joined the top required some evening up and major sanding. Since Lou does not have a wide belt sander but an artist friend that makes beautiful doors has one, Lou Quallenberg asked Brent Catterton of Catterton Woodworks in Boerne, Texas if he could give him a hand and run it through his machine - a step that would literally shave some time off the project. In this solitary workshop life sometimes it is really nice to visit with and share ideas and information with another artist.  Lou drooled over the sander and the rest of Brent's shop and set up, a scene that has played out in reversed roles many times before.

Seeing the pieces all fit together roughly for the first time is always kinda magical.  The table still required hours of sculpting and shaping but visually it was well on it's way at this point. Looking more and more like the tiny model version.  
Black epoxy fills the hole.
A mesquite knothole inlay.
Knothole inlay?
The sculpting of the mesquite tables edge revealed that the one dip was going to be deeper and larger than Lou had originally thought.  The table was to have a sprinkling of turquoise inlay throughout  but this was a large spot. Lou filled it in with black epoxy and then tried to come up with a better solution than a large sunken black spot or turquoise spot. My brother, Shawn's idea was to use a knothole as an inlay to fill in the dip. Lou agreed and thought maybe it would add a bit of interest and camouflage.  The client also preferred the look of the knothole so Lou went for it with his usual attention to detail. Another wood artist friend has already told Lou he would be stealing this technique for one of his special projects.  That's the thing about artists they are always taking each others ideas and making them their own.  It is flat out copying that we frown on, but can also see the flattery in.
Attaching legs to the base.
Pouring the Waterlox Tung Oil
Bob Pheil sprays a layer of the Waterlox finish.
The legs were attached to the base and final sanded for Lou's hand rubbed oil and wax finish.  The mesquite top being used for a dining room table in a family with young children would require a more durable finish than Lou normally uses. Lou had brushed on the more durable Waterlox Original Satin tung oil finish in the past but artist friend and neighbor Bob Pheil of Pheil Forges had recently had success spraying the finish onto one of his pieces and offered to spray Lou's top.  Lou stood by and wiped any drips as the eight day process built up a beautiful, layered, durable finish. 
Lou Quallenberg wiping up drips.
Delivery is always an exciting day as the client gets their first look at their much anticipated new piece. It can also be a day of creative solutions as sometimes the homes have extensive landscapes, interesting entrances, and objects and animal that must be navigated through.  This delivery was relatively easy compared to a few in the past.
Delivering can be a tricky process.
Top and base ready to be joined in their new home
Placing the mesquite top on the base.

We had our artist friend, helper and deliveryman Karl Rhodes and his lovely wife Mary along for the ride.  It was a beautiful day to be out and about in the Texas Hill Country. Because we were in the area  we ended up taking in a demonstration by Wimberley glass artist Tim deJong of Wimberley Glassworks. Lou would love to collaborate with him one day.

Saying goodbye as a new owner finds her spot.
Lou Quallenberg always has a hard time saying goodbye to each piece, as he has released a part of his spirit to be left with it. 

I had fun watching as the children on this delivery picked their favorite special spots on the table.  I hope that mom agreed with their choices because they seemed pretty determined that their choices would be their spots for the many future meals they would enjoy on it. I am confident it will become a treasured family piece either way.