Scott Schmidt

Wenge Trestle Table

Scott Schmidt FurnitureScott Schmidt Trestle

The rough surfaces that give this table its character came right out of working the wood. Wenge can be brittle, it splinters easily, and with its alternating hard and soft grain, it works something like aluminum laminated to balsa wood. It often tears when it's cut, and I did the rough-cutting on an ailing handsaw that vibrated to the point of roaming around the shop. I hated the handsaw, but I loved the sheared, torn surface the herky-jerky cutting produced. And I found that by holding the workpiece off the table a bit, I could obtain an even more sculptural surface. A similar effect could be achieved on a stable band-saw by putting a very slight kink in a blade with a pair of pliers and by backing off the blade guides a bit, if necessary.

The rough edge looked particularly good when the adjacent surfaces were smooth and burnished. Here was a detail diat expressed the wenge paradox: This wood looks placid and feels wonderfully smooth when its finished, but it's a rascal to work.

I knew the table would need to live well in a room where there was a large, dark marble fireplace, wood floors and a wonderfully eclectic collection of artwork. There were also children and parties and any number of informal gatherings to be considered, so the table would have to be unafraid of use and expandable to accommodate 10 or 12 diners.

I sought something of the strong lines and architectural quality of the Craftsman style in my design. After the sturdy, straightforward tresde shape was set, the biggest question was material. My customers and I decided to find a dark wood with pronounced grain. I had been doing quite a bit of work in wenge at the time and was painfully aware of its working characteristics. We chose it, nevertheless, for its beautiful color, for the graphic effects of its grain, for its durability and for its gleaming smoothness in use.

I wanted to take advantage of flat-sawn wenge's attractive steely brown and black figure, so I ran the tabletop's grain lengthwise and cut the leaves at each end from the same boards as the top. To support the

ROUGH ME UP. Wenge is smooth when finished but tough to work. The table expresses that contrast, pairing smooth surfaces with rough-cut ones,

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