Last winter I had a commission for a coffee table from a student in one of our Practical Woodworking classes. He just wanted a really special piece of wood for his new home in the form of a coffee table. We have one dwindling flitch of ghost maple and I had one piece that was right around the size we needed. In it's raw state, the board looks pretty gnarly, so I thank Jerry for trusting me. If you're looking for character, this stuff will fit the bill.
Jerry's point of inspiration was a photo from a Fine Woodworking magazine. An Arts & Crafts piece by Kevin Rodel: http://www.finewoodworking.com/issue/2015/12/february-2016
That is a beautiful piece, but I felt a natural edge just didn't quite go with that look, so I lept off the angular vibe of the base and tried to come up with something that would.
I'm not an excellent draftsman, nor do I excel at free hand drawings. That's a bit of a predicament when I have to present a proposal to a client. In this case, a full scale mock up was the ticket.
With bits of scrap wood and cardboard, I could build a base, destroy it, and rebuild it in a matter of an hour or so. In the end, you get a three dimensional look at things and actually get to experience the piece in the flesh before it's built.
I'm still not crazy about sending a client a picture of slapped together bits of wood and cardboard, so I photograph the piece, print and trace it. This way I get a good pencil sketch and I can trick the customer into thinking that I'm a talented artist! I've been down the road of trying sketch up and I'm sure many people could put something like this in a 3-D design program in a matter of a few minutes. That person is not me.
The base was all put together with lap joints. A very clean and easy way to join pieces of wood. I marked the intersections with a knife and cut to my lines. This is the only piece I've made that comes to mind with no mortise and tenon joints.
The table top came together with a few butterflies, installed beautifully by Larissa. She's used to inlaying our bones, but this was her first go at the butterfly. The angular nature of the base just called out for those sleek bowties. Since the grain is so busy in this piece, we went with quartersawn maple butterflies. A contrasting wood like walnut would be way over the top and call out for attention a little too much. We do want these to pop, but not at the expense of the piece as a whole.
In the end, this piece came out very nicely. The ghost maple used is one of the most colorful and figured examples we've ever come across. We had retrieved this material as a log when a big mini-mall was going up. Glad it didn't go to the firewood pile. I've made a lot of pieces with the material from this log and there's still a few pieces tucked away.