Exploring the versatile trestle desk


Synopsis: Whereas strong and confirmed, the trestle desk design lends itself to countless variations. The peak will be modified and the stretchers, high, and legs will be made in an infinite number of shapes and sizes. Thomas Throop has explored this furnishings type in designs that vary from conventional to fully up to date.

The trestle desk has at all times intrigued me, from its humble origins throughout medieval occasions, when plain planks have been laid on sawhorse-like trestles, to more moderen varieties with a hard and fast high supported by a pair of pedestals with a connecting stretcher. I’ve been most impressed by early English refectory tables and by Shaker and Arts and Crafts-era trestles. The trestle desk’s basic design is just elegant, structurally sound, and really environment friendly to make, requiring solely straight-ahead joinery and a minimal of fabric. There’s nice economic system to the construction: The stretcher retains the legs sq., and the highest is integral, appearing primarily as a second stretcher to maintain the bottom from racking and from twisting. And in comparison with most eating and low tables, with their legs on the corners and aprons throughout, trestles supply far superior leg area.

But the trestle desk is endlessly versatile. The shape can be utilized at a wide range of heights, for something from a eating desk to a bench, a corridor desk to a espresso desk, and anyplace in between. Past that, the structural components will be designed in an infinite number of shapes, sizes, and proportions, all detailed to the specified impact.

My forays into the trestle type vary from the deeply conventional to the fully up to date. In between I’ve performed with all method of trestles, and I’ve chosen numerous completely different ones to debate right here. My first have been eating tables whose legs have been made in a well-known submit, foot, and high rail configuration. Later, designing low trestle tables, I used a modified three-part leg, broadening the submit into extra of a plank. Then I began to consider lobby tables and commenced designing items through which the three-part leg misplaced its foot and its high rail, and have become a full-height slab.

Alongside the way in which, I additionally started shifting the stretcher larger on some tables, permitting extra unfavourable area under it and creating extra visible stress with the narrower area above. Pushing the shape even additional, I began designing consoles and benches with waterfall legs and with the rail pressed tight to the highest—a very completely different look from earlier ones I made, however nonetheless sustaining the easy structural class of the trestle desk type. What’s subsequent for my trestle desk design, I’m unsure, however I’m trying ahead to exploring its continued evolution.

Up to date twist

Contemporary trestle table made of cherry

A up to date twist on the normal trestle is what I had in thoughts for this cherry eating desk. I wished to convey the sensation that the desk was blooming—springing out of the bottom. That led me to taper the leg posts and provides the stretcher an upward arch. The foot, a modernized model of a Shaker trestle foot, blends the curve of the stretcher with the flat planes of the posts. Inlaid walnut beads on the posts additional intensify verticality, and an underbevel lightens the highest by making it seem thinner than it’s.

Designed within the vein of an English Arts and Crafts trestle

English Arts and Crafts trestle

Designed within the vein of an English Arts and Crafts trestle, this couch desk in walnut provides a number of elaborations to the unique. The problem was to make the piece look sturdy and durable however not overly heavy. The posts, at 2-1/4 in. thick and tapering from 5 in. vast on the base to 3-1⁄2 in. on the high, have particular heft. However I minimize tapered chamfers on the corners—vast on the high to slender on the backside; they intensify the submit’s taper and lighten its high. Heavy chamfers on the stretcher visually lighten it as properly, and in addition tie its look to the legs. I finished these chamfers with lamb’s tongues to provide the attention a resting place on the middle of the stretcher.

Slab-like legs

trestle table with slab-like legs

Slab-like legs right here exchange the posts extra typical of trestle tables. This espresso desk in walnut with a cherry high was the primary trestle desk I made with slab legs, however many extra variations have adopted. The slabs have been initially one vast plank, however I minimize them in half and created a niche between them to interrupt up the vast floor and create a shadowline. The slabs are notched to simply accept the stretcher’s through-tenon. I carried the identical concept to the highest, which additionally has a niche down the center, this one bridged by a collection of inlaid squares of bastogne walnut—a hybrid of claro and English walnut.

Trestle corridor desk

trestle table with stretcher moved up

Transferring the stretcher upward remodeled the trestle on this corridor desk in walnut and bubinga, giving the piece a far lighter feeling whereas retaining its structural perform. I additionally distributed with a separate foot and high rail, aiming for a extra elemental and up to date feeling. I did embrace a small cutout on the backside of the leg, which produces the looks of toes. The design of the slabs was impressed by the structure of the Yucatan—particularly, the grand pyramid Chichen Itza, with its vast stairway rising between bigger clean blocks of stone. I carved the central part of the leg slabs to echo that association of a fine-textured band framed by clean ones.

“Are you able to add a drawer to that desk?”

trestle table with a drawer

“Are you able to add a drawer to that desk?” a shopper requested, and this was my reply. To make room, I dropped the stretcher a bit and prolonged the inset part on the tops of the legs. I made the drawer entrance curved on the underside to replicate the curve of the stretcher. I included the chip carving on the legs however skipped the cutout on the backside, giving these legs a extra rooted feeling.

Claro walnut with Oregon myrtle

trestle table with claro walnut with Oregon myrtle

Generally supplies drive the design. In all my earlier iterations of one of these trestle desk I had used the legs and stretcher to outline unfavourable area on the middle of the piece. However on this one, with its claro walnut legs and high, I wished to characteristic two tapered panels of lovely Oregon myrtle on the middle. To assist draw your eye to the panels, I curved the highest and backside stretchers and made them wider as they strategy the panels. I wished to have legs that tapered, thicker on the flooring, however I didn’t have thick sufficient planks of claro to handle it. So as an alternative I utilized tapered edging to both facet of a parallel panel.

Reimagining the trestle

trestle table reimagined

Reimagining the trestle desk, I used the identical key structural components—legs, stretcher, and high, to construct this bench. I used to be on the lookout for easy, elemental shapes and attempting to make one thing new from the historic trestle type. All of the components transfer in sympathy, so there are not any wooden motion points, and the design is extraordinarily sound structurally, because the stretcher shares a long-grain glue joint with the highest, making a inflexible T-shaped ingredient, and the mitered waterfall legs are screwed and glued into notches within the stretcher.

Thomas Throop builds furnishings in New Canaan, Conn.

Images: Thomas Throop

From Fantastic Woodworking #298

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