By Matthew Teague
Learning to work with veneers and curves enables you to design and build almost anything. This bow-front entry table serves as a good introduction to both – without costing a small fortune or requiring you to attempt an overly intimidating project. Veneer introduces to you to a world of beautiful grain patterns and species that are prohibitively expensive to buy in solid hardwoods. Having the confidence to add curved and veneered surfaces to your work also allows you to tackle a wide range of period, contemporary and original designs that were previously off limits.
This petite design teeters somewhere between a traditional bow-front table and a sleeker modern piece. The veneered bird’s-eye maple top panel and aprons are framed and highlighted by the darker, contrasting solid cherry used for the legs and top frame. A subtle but graceful detail is that the front faces of the front legs are angled to visually extend the curve of the front apron. Like this little detail, which you may not notice at first, I think all furniture should have a few secrets to be discovered only on closer inspection. The hidden drawer on this table qualifies as well; its non-traditional placement on the side of the table is completely disguised by a drawer front that is piston-fit between the legs. Unless someone points it out, you’d never know it was there.
If you’re new to veneering a curved surface or veneering altogether, this is a perfect project for expanding your skills. Thanks to a hand-pumped vacuum veneer press that costs only $60 for the complete setup, the veneering is easy, requiring no additional veneering tools. You could, of course, skip the veneer work completely and cut the curved apron from 10/4 stock. For that matter, you could even skip building and installing the drawer. But where would be the glory in that?
Start With the Curve
I stayed away from veneer work for years; I have a small shop and didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a vacuum veneer press that I don’t have room for. When I needed to veneer the occasional panel, I borrowed a press.But lately I’ve admitted that it’s difficult to regularly find solid stock that looks as good as fine veneers. And even if I could, I’d get better yield by sawing it into thick veneers. So I started looking around for an affordable solution.
There are many ways to veneer curved surfaces, any of which would work for this project: You could use a vacuum veneer press to attach veneer to an MDF substrate; hammer veneer over a brick-laid curve; or clamp up laminates or bending plywood between male and female forms. But I’ve been curious about the hand-pumped Roarockit veneer press system, originally designed to make skateboards, since it came out in 2002 (perhaps because much of my youth was well misspent on a skateboard). So I placed an order.
From the October 2012 issue #199
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