In the first post on the this strange, but intriguing, wedding gift, I talked about the original legs and the found objects that I spotted in Purchase's wood department. In this entry I will talk about the design I picked up for these objects.
First lets go back to the walnut plate and the broken glass canopy that surrounded it. Those objects, I was told, belonged to one of my predecessors, an Artist in Residence at SUNY Purchase who started that project. The idea was that the glass canopies, or hoods, were intended to fit over a walnut plate/base in order to house a cake or a pie – display and protect it. Indeed near the pair that I found I saw a few more glass canopies.. So why was the one that surrounded the walnut base got broken? It did not take me long to discover why……
It was wood's most impressive characteristics, and the one we should always take into account when we build things from wood: seasonal expedition and contraction…. of course!
You see, wood swells in a humid climate (summer) and shrinks in dry weather (winter). It happens across the grain or perpendicular to the boards length. Think and remember this example, which I give to my students: much like us people, once we pass the age of eighteen we can only expand (grow wider and fatter) or contract (get thinner … after a diet of course); it is unlikely that we will get taller nor shorter, and we do it across our length. Yes, it is true that length-wise, wood can get affected by humidity changes. However, this is a negligible phenomenon and we don't really take this into account when we design furniture components or joinery. The person who turned the walnut plate aimed for a tight fit between the canopy and the base, and did this in dry weather (probably winter). He or she placed the hood over the base and went on to do something else. Then came the humid summer, the walnut base swelled and started pressing against the glass rim of the hood. Glass is not affected by humidity changes so it kept its diameter fixed, wood however kept swelling until it broke the glass. This characteristic of wood was instrumental in rock and quarry work. Wood wedges once placed in pre- drilled holes, then moistened with water, generated enough swelling force to crack and break rocks.
Anyway, we should go back to our story of the crazy wedding gift. I decided to re-turn the walnut base and make it fit – not too snugly, and with extra room to expand over the summer – into one of the remaining glass hoods that I found. I then drilled holes in the bases' underside to anchor the legs. My design called for a Windsor like stool that will carry a hood to house a french cheese under it. Next time I will talk about the ornaments I made on the hood….
And since this project is a wedding gift here is nice Youtube treat: Elton John's version of Chapel of Love.