|The Completed Table|
In 2009, I restored an expanding dining room table that was fitted with a mechanism called a screw expander. The mechanism consists of a long threaded screw that turns in a long tube nut. Both pieces are fitted to either end of a dining room table and when turned by a removable crank or winder from one side, the screw and the nut work against each other and the table is opened. The beauty of this hardware is that it allows one person to open the table so that leaves can be put in, versus the traditional methods using one person at either end pulling the table open. A deeper look at the history of the screw expander and one of its principal manufacturers, Joseph Fitter, can be found here:
The following link shows the second half of the post I wrote and has some completed photos:
One of the books I used to research the screw expander was The Cabinet Maker's Assistant published by Blackie and Sons in the 1850's. The author was anonymous. It has great drawings of the mechanism and construction details for building a table that would utilize a screw expander. I bought a reprint by Dover Press, but there is also a scanned copy of the original available here to view online:
Of all of the pieces I have written about on my blog over the years, I have received the most comments, emails, and calls about the original post I wrote on Joseph Fitter and the screw expander. I have gotten emails for as far away as Australia and Norway and even once got a call from someone in Trinidad concerning these tables. Most questions regarded where a person might replace a missing table crank or even the entire mechanism. Others inquire as to what the value of their table might be.
Recently I received a call from a woman who had one of these tables and was not only relatively close, but also wanted me to restore the piece. I was delighted at the prospect of working on another of these tables and we made plans for me to pick the table up. While on the phone, the customer informed me that the previous owners of this table were Rear Admiral George Stephen Morrison and his wife Clara. Rear Admiral Morrison was the commander of the U.S. Naval forces in the Gulf of Tonkin during the incident there in 1964. In addition to this, they were also the parents of the singer Jim Morrison, Front man for the band "The Doors".
The Morrisons had owned the table while living in London in the 1960's. When they moved back to the United States they sold the table to the current owners, who later shipped it here. The owner told me that at the time, Jim Morrison was already living in California and probably never took a meal at this table.
Even without all of this historical interest, this table is a fine example. The table is made of good mahogany and uses oak as a secondary wood. The screw expander was comprised of a long screw, a second larger hollow screw which also functioned as a tube nut for the first, and finally an even larger outer tube nut. This telescoping design allowed for the expander to open wider allowing for more leaves to be inserted in the table. This example accommodated two wide leaves, while the first one I worked on only one. In addition to all of this, the detail of the craftsmanship in this table was superb and the ornamental elements, like the turnings and the carvings, were well executed.
Over time the table had developed a few problems. The biggest was that the table's wooden slides that keep the table flat when open had worn and stopped functioning correctly so that one set of table slides would jump the track once the table was opened up. To remedy this, the table was lifted while being opened by the top on one side to attempt to keep the slides on track. This led to the top becoming partially detached from the base on one end. Besides those mechanical issues, the finish was damaged but restorable, and the slides and screw mechanism were in need of cleaning.
Below are photos of the table and the work that we did to restore it to a functional and beautiful state. At the bottom of the post are several photos of the restored table.
This first photo shows the table as it came into the shop. The leaves are not inserted in the table in this photo.
The Forstener Bit holes.
The remaining photos show the restored table from various angles and with the leaves in and out. It was a pleasure to have such a fine table (and one with such an interesting history) come through the shop.