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My Moser harvest table.

My Thos. Moser dining table will remain as built, if unused for the foreseeable future. Some weeks ago I was considering rebuilding it so it would fit in a much smaller dining space my wife and I now have. At the time I posed that question on this blog, I had pretty much concluded I would do the alteration. I was somewhat amazed at the response the post received with readers evenly split on the question of whether or not to remake it. I even had a phone call from Thos. Moser on the topic who said it was OK with him.  I must say, I was moved by readers and in the end, was persuaded to change my mind. I feel good about the decision and have been spending a lot of time considering various design possibilities for a new table.

I think I’m closing in on some details. It will be solid walnut culled from some special wood I’ve been holding for years for just such a special use. I’m certain I’ll use a shape for the top called a “super-ellipse” (and here’s a shout out to John Hutchinson for suggesting I explore this extremely versatile and pleasing form). It will work perfectly in my dining space and best of all, with the right base, will seat up to six comfortably in a 72″ length. Check out this table by Fritz Hansen that has this shape.

Hansen super-elliptical table top.

I’m using a very different base than the Hansen table but haven’t decided what I want to do. But I am narrowing the possibilities. One option under consideration is a typical splayed, turned and tapered leg and apron arrangement. Another, more interesting option I’ll just call Maloof meets Artek. Here’s the Artek X table base. Now look at the Maloof inspired pedestal table base. The Arteck base is the Maloof base layint on its side. The forms are amazingly similar and I suspect the construction is too. I’d modify the shape of the X to adapt it to my table, but it is an interesting concept and both come from the same Danish Modern school. We ran an article on building the Maloof table some years ago so it’s quite familiar.

Artek’s “X” base table.

If you’d like to explore the super-ellipse shape, there are some interesting web sites and calculators to plug in dimensions to make various shapes (including inside curves). There’s also a free plug-inyou can download if you want to work with these shapes in SketchUp.

Maloof inspired table base.

At this stage, the practical question on using a super-ellipse is how to make the shape on the full-sized table top. Any suggestions out there? Yes, a pattern could be output on a grid, then cut with a jig saw. But that usually leads to slight imperfections in the “fairness” of the line and it just screams out. At this point, I’d thinking of outputting a SketchUp model that could be used in a CNC router. I’d have a template cut for one quadrant of the top and use that to duplicate the shape. Anybody have a ShopBot?

– Steve Shanesy

You might also be interested in “The Table Book,” with 35 projects covering a wide range of styles.

In you’re interested in chairs, “Build A Maloof Inspired Low Back Dining Chair” might strike your fancy. The package includes a book, DVD and full-size pattern.

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Showing 13 comments

    I too was glad to hear that you elected to save the table as-is. Even if Mr. Moser was OK with you re-modelling it, I would think it would be somewhat akin to cutting down an antique chippendale table because it “didn’t fit the space” – I can hear the future presenters on an “Antiques Roadshow” of the future lamenting the fact that ‘someone’ chose to cut up such a fine example of American original design!

    On another note, didn’t a recent article in PW show how to make pseudo-ellipses? Here is the link to the article on pages 54-57 of the August 2012 issue:(, although I think the article talked more about using it for marquetry etc. Maybe this will help you?

  • awoodbutcher

    If I remember my high school geometry class, plotting any ellipse is as simple as a piece of string (I would substitute braided wire or fine chain to reduce streatching)and a couple of nails (underside of future table top, or double stick taped scrap wood to table top). Nail at the focus points (along long axis of ellipse). Distance between nails and string length determines the ellipse size. String length equals distance between nails plus distance from one nail to edge of table at long axis. Secure each end of string to each nail. Streatch string with a pencil, then move pencil along the entire perimeter keeping string taut.

    This will create a true elipse. The closer the nail points are to each other along the main axis, the fatter the short axis.

    If you want only an elipse end, use same process, but you will need to duplicate process at each end of table and ignore the inner portion of the two elipses.

    It will take some time adjusting distance between nails and length of string to get a shape you want, but worth considering.

    Of course you could just look at the article in August 2012 #198 of Popular woodworking magazine under “The elusive Ellipse”

  • David Keller

    Steve – Something to consider, and will depend on your personal taste. Factory-built, cheap furniture has a certain “look” based on common design criteria. Unfortunately for us woodworkers, some of these design cues are certainly legitimate design decisions on craft-built furniture.

    But it still looks cheap because it so often repeated on “termite barf” (thanks for that characterization, Chris!) furniture.

    One example is red oak face grain. A solid-wood piece of furniture built with red oak plain-sawn boards may be very nice, but looks “wrong” because it so resembles the cheap ‘n crappy plastic-veneer fiberboard offerings by the big-box stores.

    To my eye, the “super ellipse” shape for a dining table SCREAMS “cheap ‘n crappy”, even if the actual piece of furniture isn’t. Particularly if that shape is put on a “modern design” base.

    Something to consider.

  • Clay Dowling

    Steve, you should be able to find some kind of maker space near you. If you can’t, there are several in the Detroit area with CNC mills, including one around the corner from my office. Usually for a fairly small fee to cover expenses and some training you can use their equipment.

    Contact me privately (theoretically you have access to the email I registered with this account) if you’d like more information on the maker spaces around Detroit.

  • oldfox

    Hi Steve,
    Glad to hear that you arrived at a decision that sets well with you. (I voted to spare the table)
    As far as a pattern to cut the new top…
    I would think that a router with trammel could handle just about any shape you want. (except a true ellipse 😉
    Make circular corners to set the size, (width, length and dia.) and then curves of a pleasing depth, tangential to the corners. Set the trammel for the loci and you’re just about home free. Make a template first and then use a pattern bit.
    Just my thoughts.
    Good Luck
    Old Fox.

  • Bill

    For drawing an ellipse you can use a larger ‘do nothing machine’ also sometimes called a ‘smoke grinder’
    It’s a great way ton consistently draw an ellipse. Make the arm end that holds your pencil adjustable so you can re-use the machine and fiddle with the sizes.

    Take care,

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