It began with this video…
Isn't this a fantastic piece of furniture? Furniture like this just isn't made today. I want to change this, but I need your support!
Historical Introduction to Oeben & the Mechanical Table
J-F Oeben (1721 - 1763), the table's maker, is regarded as one of the all-time masters of marquetry (the piecing together of contrasting materials of the same thickness and then overlaying the assembled sheet onto another surface). A German emigrate to France, he produced commissioned works for the aristocracy, including King Louis XV, and was even granted the title "Cabinetmaker to the King". Oeben’s furniture is astonishing, incorporating mechanical complexities covered with ornate marquetry, and gilt-bronze mounts known as ormolu. Oeben and his craftsmen produced this table around 1750, about 260 years ago!
Who Am I?
I'm a woodworker and furniture maker in Huntsville, AL, and a student at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. After five years of studying various aspects of woodworking, and furniture making, I am preparing to complete my Michael Fortune Fellowship. The Fellowship, a program of both academic and technical study, requires students to demonstrate their ability by designing and constructing a significant piece of furniture. This specimen is evaluated by a panel of national experts.
Why Re-create This Work?
From the time I first saw this table, I knew that I wanted to re-create it for my Fellowship project. Furniture of this caliber isn't made today especially in North America. Instead, the industry has focused on creating cheaper furniture faster, which has resulted in lower quality products. The skill base simply does not exist in the United States. Even in Europe, the number of craftspeople knowledgable in the techniques and methods to build such works grows smaller every year. The skills are being lost as old masters join their predecessors leaving fewer apprentices to follow them. I want to change this, and help to preserve this dying art form, but I need your help.
In mid-June, I was granted the opportunity to examine, measure, and photograph the original 260 year old table at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Presently, I am creating my shop drawings and templates; preparing for the construction phase. Unlike Oeben, though, there is not an aristocrat commissioning this project, and it is a costly endeavor. So I am turning to you to help provide the support necessary to realize this undertaking! By backing this project, you will help to procure the necessary materials:
- Quarter- and rift-sawn poplar and North American red oak for the carcass,
- veneer to cover the visible surfaces and from which to cut the marquetry,
- resources with which to source the casting, chasing, and gilding of the bronze ormolu "mounts", and mechanisms to make the table operate, and
- materials necessary to complete a French polish finish.
In addition, you will be helping to preserve and perpetuate these skills. What better way than to study and replicate the work of old-World masters, as has been the case in arts education for centuries?
What’s Not Covered By This Project?
- The time spent researching the history, methods, materials, and design of this piece,
- travel expenses incurred to examine the original table,
- all of the tools necessary to design and build this piece, and
- the labor necessary to construct this piece and its prototype.
In return for your support all backers receive:
- regular updates on the project's status through pictures, videos, e-mail, and weblog postings,
- an acknowledgement of your support on the project’s website, and
- knowledge that you are helping to preserve the skills necessary to make this re-creation possible and sustain them for future generations.
- samples of the actual hand-cut marquetry used to decorate the surfaces (suitable for display),
- opportunities to learn and practice these techniques in a guided environment,
- an invitation to a special event to see the completed piece and watch it in action, or
- the chance to own the painted prototype, which will manually operate, but contain no marquetry, mechanisms, or ormolu.
How Kickstarter Works
The financial goal set for this project is modest - enough to (barely) cover the cost of materials. If we fail to achieve this specified level, the project receives nothing - Kickstarter operates on an "all or nothing" principle. Please take a moment to review this information and consider becoming part of this amazing re-creation. Thank you for your support and consideration!
Risks and challenges
This project involves competencies in several disciplines including:
- designing and cutting carcass joinery,
- executing marquetry,
- carving, casting, and gilding ormolu,
- creating mechanisms, and
Fortunately, my experiences and education with the Marc Adams School of Woodworking have prepared me to meet these challenges. I am adept at cutting woodwork joinery without the aid of machinery, and have created intricate marquetry portraits, for example. Where questions arise, I am fortunate to have a network of friends and craft masters with whom I can consult.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)