One of the things I find great fun is to build a piece of furniture that many woodworkers know, but build it with a twist. It’s not about curves or shapes. It’s about building with materials that are not associated with that particular project. Arts & Crafts furniture is a great example. When you picture a piece of Stickley furniture in your mind’s eye, you most often see a fumed finish on quartersawn white oak. Building with a twist would be to make the piece, such as my rendition of a 1901 Gustav Stickley tea table inset with 12 Grueby tiles, using tiger maple with a natural finish.
Gone is the deep brown finish associated with Stickley furniture. Gone is the ray fleck of quartersawn white oak. It’s replaced with bold stripes of tiger maple. But why stop there? Drop the matte-green colored Grueby tiles in favor of solid black tiles that spar with the wood’s grain to compete for your attention.
Even if you’re not a fan of my contemporary take on Stickley furniture, you can still benefit from this project. Construction is classic mortise-and-tenon work, but the exposed tenon ends on my project are a deception. I used faux tenons. (Another twist at which ole Gus would have frowned.)
You may think that this table begins with the legs. If that’s your train of thought, you might just jump the track. Your first move is to acquire the tile for your top, so you don’t find yourself in my shoes (Fig. 1).
I thought finding the right tiles would be too easy. A quick trip to a home-center store for 12 pieces of tile turned out to be a 1-1/2 day search. Plus, at the end I had to make my purchase online. (It seems that no stores, at least those near me, have 4-1/4” square black tile in the store.)
Having your tiles on hand is important so you can design the top. Yes, there are a multitude of ways to adjust the field to fit your tiles. You can trim the tiles if you have a wet saw. You can change the width and length of the four parts that surround the tiles, which modifies the overall design of the table, or you can adjust the overall size of your tabletop. And what you do for the top affects the overhang, or changes the base dimensions. Get your tiles first! (We have information on the cut list, or we have tile for sale in our store, Click here.)
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