Blacker Table Design

I want to thank John Vernier for his comments.  John always has valuable input and has shared some great insights on both history and techniques.  Yesterday I mentioned that there were two versions of the table — I was alluding to two different sizes that were produced, but John clarified that there were also two of the smaller version of this table produced for the Blacker house originally:

You are right that there are two versions of the table. There are two identical serving tables, the one in Chicago and the other 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.

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.

Thanks John!  I would go see the one in the Oakland museum, but it’s not on display.  I wonder if they’d let me see it anyway?  I may actually have an “in” there…I’ll investigate that.

For comparison, here are the two different sizes of the Blacker table.  First off, here is the version that I’m thinking of building.  The chair in the picture puts the scale of the “smaller” table into perspective, it’s still a fairly large table at about 36″ wide by  22 1/8″ deep by 29 7/8″ tall  .  The chair would be an interesting project too, although that scares me.  Chairs in general, but G&G chairs with tapered trapezoidal curved legs and angled mortises and so forth. If you look closely you can see some subtle “stepping” on the lower stretchers of the chair too.  Wow.  Something to file away for another day…

"small" blacker serving table

“small” blacker serving table

The larger version clocks in at 59 9/16″ wide by 51 5/8″ deep by 30 3/8″ tall, with a base that is 23 1/2″ square.  You can see that the style is identical, although the larger version appears to have supports under the table top.

Larger Blacker table

Larger Blacker table

So here is my updated CAD model.  I am not trying to get it to be a complete clone of the original, but I want it to be visually very close.  I spent time making the legs thicker up to 2 3/16″ to try to match the original, then backed them down to 1 7/8″ with the thought that I could make them out of the 8/4 stock I already have.  I think they look large enough visually at this dimension.  I spent a lot of time playing with the details on the bottom of the leg, eventually adding some subtle shaping to taper the leg in the last inch and a half, and then adding the “Blacker leg indent” on the two outer faces.  The indent is not on the original version of this table, but it was on a number of furniture legs in the Blacker house.

Close up of leg ends

Close up of leg ends – the wood texture is getting in my way here…

I changed the height of the skirts and stretchers, making both slightly smaller, and reduced the round over on the edge of these parts too.  I moved the stretcher a little closer to the skirt.  I played with different widths for the start and end of the cloud lift design — this is the most obvious different between mine and the original.  The “lift” on the original is more abrupt, the transition from one horizontal surface to the other is vertical, where on mine it’s angled.  I may change mine to match the original in this aspect.  The hight of the lift on mine is taller than the original too, I’m on the fence about whether to change that.

I added the ebony pegs on the legs, although as I look at them I may want to increase the sizes one step.  I have 1/4″, 5/16″ and 3/8″ — I will probably increase them all a step.

I removed the inlay on the legs, only because it was just a quick mockup and was getting in the way of the other changes I was making to the leg shapes.

Version 2 of my Blacker table design

Version 2 of my Blacker table design

So, I want to experiment a bit more with the skirt and stretcher profiles, and work out the joinery for those parts (I just have a single wide stub tenon right now).  Then model the actual inlay that will be on the legs.  The top needs some attention too — joinery details, ebony plugs and ebony spline and changes to the inlay layout.  Another couple of hours and I’ll have a workable CAD model that I could build.

I measured a space where I think this could go in the house — right under where I want to put the Thorsen cabinet.  It’s narrower but deeper than the sofa table that is there now, which might leave enough room for a pair of chairs to flank it…

Categories: Design | Tags: | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Blacker Table Design

  1. Gosh, thanks Joe. After several years working wood in the craziness of L.A., and docenting at the Gamble house, I am living very quietly in the midwest, close to the hardwoods but far from my favorite architecture, and so I’m glad to have the chance to talk some Greene and Greene.

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