Tom, my client, wanted a metal and glass coffee table.
We discussed shapes, dimensions, glass thickness, and overall look.
I showed my sketches to several members of a local artist-blacksmith group, including Dana Flanders. Based upon valuable feedback, I refined the bracing and connections for stability.
Collaboration was an essential component in this project. Admittedly, I’d designed a complex piece incorporating traditional joinery (rivets and tenons) and multiple curves.
After making detailed shop drawings, I set about finding a partner to assist in the table’s execution.
Enter John Crouchet. John is a founding member of Balcones Forge and has years of blacksmithing and jewelry production line knowledge.
For about six weeks, I made a daily 70-mile (one way) drive to Marble Falls, TX, and worked in John's spacious and well-furnished shop. We forged and assembled the Art Nouveau-inspired coffee table which honored my client’s wishes for “timeless” design and “simple/clean lines” while incorporating “interesting shapes.”
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During execution, I learned much from John, such as practical tips on how to ensure a table is level to receive glass (hint: never assume the surface you’re working off of is level...). I learned techniques for bracing one’s work to ensure a snug tenon joint.
I began visualizing components from a different perspective and became more exacting.
Whereas I tend to adopt a wing-and-a-prayer approach, John views blacksmithing (forging shapes) from a ‘production’ point of view due to having created and produced his own nationally distributed jewelry line.
We stood before the table drawings and John asked, “What if you were making 300 of these components? How would you break this down into reproducible steps to get identical shapes each time?” The goal is to find efficiencies where one can, as the process of blacksmithing is inherently time consuming and laborious.
This collaboration took planning, time, and determination. Particularly during the fitting/assembly stage, at times we’d realize only 30 minutes of headway during a 6-hour stretch. Nevertheless, we continued showing up daily, seeking those elusive 30-minute chunks of progress at a time.
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I’m grateful for clients like Tom who allow me the opportunity to create artful pieces for them. I find that I produce the best product when allowed sufficient design freedom and time to hone in on details and ferret out potential design flaws.
Thank you to Annika Franco and her photographer’s eye for capturing the elegant lines of this table.
And mil gracias to John Crouchet for his generosity of time, shop, and spirit.
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Mild steel stock: 3” x .5” flat bar for the body and arms; 1.5” x .5” flat bar for the legs, upper spanners, and lower spanners; .5” round bar for rivets.
The 1/2”-thick glass is from Alamo Glass.
Overall measurements: 43” long x 32” deep x 17” tall.
I'm pleased to have Tom's Coffee Table as the first table in my repertoire.
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