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While I was into the T A Heinz book I should have copied this photo, of the Mossberg end table and hassock. It also shows an example of
the Usonian brickwork, and that Wrightian rarity, brick flooring.
I also neglected to show this early example, the dining table at the Oak Park residence. I'll leave it to readers to determine if this is a veneered or blocked table end. I don't believe I see end grain -- though there appears to be a joint aligned with a seam in the top surface. Think how heavy this square (?) table would be if the timber top were solid ! Remember, too, that Wright was always looking for ways to trim the budget, especially on his own property ?
Photo: Ron Blunt (detail)
DRN sends along photos of the Sweeton house and its furniture, now strewn to the four winds. He writes:
An example of late career Wright minimalism...the Sweeton drawings indicate the furniture as constructed from 3/4" plywood, presumably off cuts from the partitions, closets, and cabinets. There are no notes relative to capping of end grain of the plywood sheets, but the linework does seem to illustrate mitering joints where sheets meet at outside corners. The remaining chair in the house has a mitered detail at its seat leading edge, with exposed plywood endgrain elsewhere. All plywood at partition corners is mitered, as is the top of the built in speaker cabinet in the living room....this is significant as this cabinet and the adjacent pier mated with a 4' square coffee table surrounded by hassocks. The auction photos of the coffee table indicate the plywood table top and its plywood edge skirt (similar to seat edge) were mitered to hide endgrain at the top, but end grain was left visible at the legs and underside. Photos of Nancy Sweeton's desk show similar detailing.
48" x 48" x 24" table
This odd trick to cover up end grain on the Prairie furniture seems like a trip out of Pinter's "Zoo Story," a long way to go for very little progress. I have an A&C desk with solid oak planks on the top with no treatment of the end grain, which looks just fine. It's a different pattern, but no less interesting. I find it odd that FLW would go to such extremes to end up with something fake.
I can only guess that the makers of those pieces (Hanks mentions more than one Chicago or Milwaukee maker) convinced Wright that they had the answer -- to problems he may not have appreciated. After all, some of those tops are three inches thick, more or less -- and it's surprisingly difficult to find half a dozen 12/4 boards which match each other sufficiently to make an architectural-grade table top, to say nothing of the weight involved. And, stain takes to end grain much more readily than to face grain, so we could expect the ends of those tops to be very dark -- much darker than they appear in the photos. For whichever reason, several of these tables, at least, seem to have been made in the way described here -- which I must say took me aback. Thanks to Roderick for raising this interesting issue.
R, you were intimately involved in the recreation of the Hollyhock living-room mega-furniture, I believe. I see from photos that there is a lot of mitered material in those. Can you tell us what was involved ? Were there original drawings available, or did the piece(s) have to be reverse-engineered from photos ?
The black-and-white photo of the smaller Dana table has a couple of end pieces with the appearance of diagonal/arc-shaped grain checks, which seems to go beyond the simple waterfalling of the top board -- as if the maker sought out curvy/cross-grain pieces to further the illusion of true end grain ?
(If that photo was taken in 1965, at the time of the UI exhibition, then the table would be only half as old as it is today. In the photo, there is no indication of the kind of warping and separation seen in Heinz's photo of the larger table, taken some 30 years later. Perhaps the two tables don't share the same history as to housing and care ?)
Even if the young drafter of that as-built drawing was in error as to the top planks -- which he indicates with the convention denoting plywood -- he may still have other details right. His plan view shows a c. 3/4" border all the way around the table, which would be the bottom edge of the mitered-on pieces he shows in the elevation/section.
(His legs are shown in section as solid trunks. I wonder about that . . .)
So far, the evidence we have, including a single drawing made after the fact, comments by outside in and others, and the photos gathered so far -- of only a few tables, granted -- all seems to point to a construction of 1x boards, supported from beneath and edged with mitered-on pieces of solid material, to achieve the desired effect. None of the photos presented so far is in clear contradiction to this description -- as I see them. I will be looking for further examples; reliable drawings and descriptions would be valuable. The matter would be easy to verify by simply looking "below the skirts" of any available original pieces . . .