Cadfael: Blacker Tables

(With apologies to Derek Jacobi and his TV series about a Crusader-turned-monk that investigates murders)

I’m ready to start on the Arts & Crafts bookcase, although I’m not ready to buy the expensive, wide quartered white oak sight unseen and have it shipped here.  So I’m still noodling on how to get the materials I need for that.

While I’m doing that, I had a couple of ideas I wanted to play with.  One is this side table from the Blacker house.  I believe there are two different versions of this table, in different sizes, made for the blacker house, one that is scaled to be roughly the size of a side table, and another that was a serving table in the dining room.  I need to read through my books to get a petter handle on this.  Here is the side table version from the Ari Institute of Chicago.  They list the dimensions as 29 7/8 x 36 x 22 1/8 in.

Original Blacker table at the Art Institute of Chicago

Original Blacker table at the Art Institute of Chicago

Working form this photograph and dimensions I started building parts in CAD.  I’ve been through a couple of revisions, tweaking things to get the scale right.  I still don’t have the scale quite right, although I’m getting close.

First draft of the design for the Blacker table

First draft of the design for the Blacker table

I think the skirts are too tall still.  The legs, currently at 1 5/8″, seemed too big compared to the Thorsen table I recently made.  I think they are actually too small in reality.  I found a furniture maker in Texas who made a version of this table, and emailed him to get his take on the dimensions.  In his version the legs are actually 55mm or 2.165″.  The top on his looks out of scale, but the proportions on the base look pretty good to me.  His version uses the blacker leg indent detail, I don’t believe the originals had that, but I’m not positive.

Blacker table by Leon Nolte

Blacker table by Leon Nolte

I just doodled in some inlay to get a sense of how this might look as a finished piece, the inlay design is still somewhat crude.  I’m going to play with this design a little more — I have enough Sapele left for the legs I think…

Another view of the table mock up

Another view of the table mock up

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4 thoughts on “Cadfael: Blacker Tables

  1. You are right that there are two versions of the table. There are two identical serving tables, the one in Chicago and the other (I think) in the Oakland Museum (you should pop over and take a look). There is also a breakfast table which is larger, and scaled so that it can butt up to the main dining table and act as an extension. I think that one is in private hands but I’ll get back to you if I find out differently.

    • John, I was thinking of this one and the larger version — not two of the same scale table. Do you know what the story on that is? Were two of the same table originally made, which ended up in different museum collections?

  2. Link to the Oakland Museum table (with very slightly differing dimensions):

  3. The two identical smaller tables were both originally in the Blacker dining room. Jim Ipekjian’s copies are there now, against one long wall, opposite the sideboard. I think they have silver tea service displayed on them, and they really are just auxiliary serving tables. The breakfast table was in a separate room which is connected to the main dining room by a set of double-fold french doors, so that the space can be opened up into one large room, and the breakfast table scooted up to the main dining table. The dining table also has extension leaves which mount on each end, so the resulting table would be extremely long, just the thing for 32 person dinners. On the whole it really is the largest and most elaborate dining set the Greenes designed.

    When Nellie Blacker died in 1947, the people who bought the house sold off the furniture in basically one big yard sale. One of the neighboring families bought most of it, and kept it for many years. When interest in Greene and Greene began to pick up, they realized the importance of their collection and sold it off slowly over a couple of decades (I don’t know if this is still going on, a lot came to market in the 70s and 80s). Many different museums have bought a piece or two as representative examples of G&G work, so it is dispersed all over the place.

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