Trestle Table – The Dreaded Prototype

Article - September 22, 2010

After creating the template discussed in the last entry, it was time to make a prototype. For this table, a prototype is critical simply because there are just too many things I DON’T know yet. I need to see this thing in 3D space before I can determine if I’m even on the right track. And as much as I would love to do four or five prototypes, I’m afraid I will only have time for one.

So the first step is to transfer the template shapes to a piece of poplar. Everything is cut out at the bandsaw and cleaned up on the oscillating spindle sander. The three pieces are connected using Domino joinery, which really makes quick work of what would otherwise be a tricky angled mortise and tenon joint. And speaking of the angle, getting this sucker glued up was a bit of a fiasco! A hastily-constructed curved caul saved the day, but this was another big lesson learned from the prototype!

Once the assembly was dry I took it into the bedroom to get a better in-place visual. I placed the leg near the existing desk and tried to use my imagination. In the first image below, you’ll see what the leg looks like on a slight angle. Not too bad. The shape is pleasing but the legs could probably use a little more meat. All in all, it seemed like I wasn’t that far off. Well, that is until I looked at it from the front (second picture, below). My jaw just about hit the floor as I realized how far off I was in my original estimation. This leg will look like a skinny little twig under a big 92″ long top!! So although the profile looked acceptable, the thickness just wasn’t there. And to make matters worse, consider that this leg will be heavily rounded over and sculpted to achieve the look I want. Literally, it was time to go back to the drawing board.

So fast-forward a few days and here’s my second prototype. Problem is, this is actually the real leg. I just call it a prototype since I am still not 100% sure about the dimensions and everything. But time’s a wastin’ and I need to get moving. So I am running with it. But as you can see, I made a number of changes from the original prototype. Not only did I use thicker stock, but I also widened the stance a bit. Now I have plenty of material to sculpt away and in fact, I could very well have too much. Fortunately, I can always take wood away, but I can’t put it back. So tomorrow I’ll head back in and do some initial roundovers and try to figure out if I want to slim the leg down a bit. But one things for sure, these will look far better under a 92″ top!