Parisian Architects Table


I have a keen interest in the Parisian Architects Table as found at the state department...has anyone attempted that particular Piece? IF not that one, perhaps the one at Winterthur??

By The Way: New memeber, one chisel, and enthusiasm....but am pursueing in -depth knowledge to create accurate dimensions to work from.

Welcome to the forum.

Is the table that you are curious about the one found here: ?

Ronald Young, in his post lower on the forum, references a similar table at Monticello. There appears to be conflicting information about architect/tall tables from the Monticello and State Dept web sites. Monticello says that "Jefferson ordered [a similar table] from the Williamsburg cabinetmaker George Donald" while the State Dept says that "No American made architect's tables are recorded."

Maybe you can compare notes with Ronald to see how he plans to make his. I am unaware of any plans for purchase that will help you with this table.
I might be able to add a little to this. Sheraton's Classical Revival Furniture Designs (Dover reprint) includes a plate and text on a "drawing table" Plate 30, page 193. It's evident from the plate that the table is meant for drafting by the compass on one wing of the table and small draftsman's kit on the other side. These draftman's kits (looks like an eyeglass case) were often covered in sharkskin and contained a number of drafting instraments tucked into fitted pockets. Sheraton illustrates several tables with mechanical adjustments that all work on the same scheme. He also shows a robed figure in the frontispiece working at a similar table aided by a cherub in an idealized classical setting. For some other historical background you might read "The Arts in America - The Colonial Period" Scribners 1966. Some good background on the early architects in the colonies. Architecture was considered an important part of being truly educated which resulted in many citizen architects designed some of our early important buildings. Jefferson wasn't alone, many other learned men, doctors, lawers, etc put their names to buildings they designed.
Owen Biddles "Young Carpenters Assistant" (Dover) also sheds some light on period drafting practices. He explains preparing a drawing by wetting down the paper and stretching it on a backer board and placing a frame around it. He then dries the paper in front of a fire to shrink it tight like a drum head. A lot to go through to make a drawing!!
You may have to resort to whatever photos you can take or purchase from the museum archives. Workable drawings can be put together from these. I'd also encourage you to take a sketch pad with you and attempt to draw as much detail of the piece as possible. Even if your drawing skills are lacking,  the exercise will help you pick out detail that you may not even notice in a photo. Good luck.
George Walker
Isn't there a similar table to this at the Peabody Es in Salem?  Seems like we saw one there that looked like this.  It particularly appealed to my wife, who is an artist.  It may have been a Seymour piece?  Can't recall.


The wifey just told me it was a McIntire piece and she thought  they called it an architect's table.  Phil Lowe may be able to supply details if you can get in touch with him (he has worked on it).  Freddy Roman at Phil's school may also be a good source.  I know Freddy frequents the forum here. 


Ok, one last thing.  I found what I was talking about in the recent McIntire exhibit book on page 176.  the piece is credited to a fellow named Needham and the carving to McIntire.  Anyway, worth a look.  I'd like to build something similar someday.  It would be quite the challenge...for me anyway.

Reading George's post reminded me of a plate from Chippendale's Director which shows a plan detail of the front leg. I have attached the plate and corresponding description. There is also a similar pull-out mechanism shown on a Library Table (plate 82).


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Thank You for the images, very useful....I also did a witch hunt (tongue in cheek) at the Salem Peabody Es web site and found zero, so I will contact them directly.....Also included is an original  piece I saw on-line somewhere....antique store...dont know which or where..


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Besides style, strength. If you will notice the leg pieces are in fact flat sawn dimensioned wood, with tenon joints. The tenons would tend to be too small for stability on the floor and rigidity to the architect.
The columns I'm referring to are the turned ones on the inside of the leg. Which would give no support to the front legs when extended, but would be visible when the front is extended. I can understand this as a style element on the front legs, but not for the rear legs. I thought the back legs were not usually given to the extra labor required, especially for something not particularly noticeable. I'm just trying to understand the justification for these elements. Or understand the thought process for this seemingly decorative element that is hidden most of the time.

Thanks, Tony Joyce


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Yes I understood your question the first time, while it is true the front legs may or may not have the turned column detail, most do not, it is also supported the full length across the back edge, thus very rigid. The columns on the four corners provide the overall rigidity and looks better than just a four sided tapered column, making it a differentiator when trying to sell the patter to establish trend.. Take a look at the top view of the previous drawing in the blog from Chippendale's"Director" book and you will see the tenons that support the corners for the column. What I don't know yet is if that is the same for the bottom and I expect it is, it would be super stiff, with relative minimal build time, no large bits to decoratively carve, and out of place for a mechanical table to be used for serious "thought use" by the user of the table.

Or of course I could be completely wrong, for without written "intent" to go by one does not know the designers mind unless approached from a technical  mechanical engineering viewpoint.
If you can find any info on the table at the PEM, I will be going there the last week of the month. I'd be happy to take any pictures, pick up any info, etc. for you.

Last time I was there I found the PEM to be very accomadating, no flash but otherwise snap away. The guards even let me crawl under the some of the furniture and take pictures of the bottoms of the pieces, as long as I didn't touch. I couldn't convince them to open drawers, etc, for me though.

Although after that I seemed to have my own slightly distant escort the rest of the day.

I filled a 1 gig card with photos, and lost them about a month later when my hard drive had the "click of death" problem. So I hope to get all those pictures again.

And I'll try to get them to open drawers, etc. again.
Clay- Look at this link, it shows several detailed views of an English architects desk. This is the best source I've seen on actual construction details short of seeing a desk in person. I can easly produce a set of plans now using these pictures.

Yes Please do I have found zero on line from Peabody so far, I need to give them a call, if you could ask them where they have one and get really good photos of the builders marks and joints that would be marvelous....Was it English or French would be my burning question,I am sure they will say American, but it was from either a derived English and by extension a French design....

I gave Peabody a call but the curators were out and the photo center archives needed an object number, so I struck out.....will try again.

Re: Ronald Young:

Thanks for this...yes they are good photos and excellent for a drawing, 2 Q's

Q1: Did you actually create a drawing or are you offering too?

Q2: I am not familiar at all with the joints, especially the racks for the stays, how was it accomplished..
Q1:I am planning to make a Architects desk early next year. I make full size drawings before I build any piece of furniture and will be making a drawing of the architect desk this winter. I have not considered selling of sharing the drawing just yet. It might be a good article to submitt to American Period Furniture for consideration.
Q2: See Fine Woodworking Issue 144, " Thomas Jefferson Writing Desk":  it has a similar support rack for the writing surface.

Seeing the potential interest in the topic, I thought you might be interested in seeing this piece of work for an architects table of the 19th century. Possibly a little too late for the forums preference for "period" but I found it quite interesting...I dont know what the "bounds of the Calandar year"  is for furniture, but it would be quite a project to reproduce..

Sliding top which can be unfolded in different ways using several rack rails. England , 19th Century.

Height : 33.46 in
Depth : 28.15 in
Breadth : 44.68 in

Stamped : Lever
: England , 19th Century.



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you read my mind!  excellent and I hope you go through with the article for sure, to the Jefferson writing desk I do have that article and will re-read it I was not confident the design approach was accurate however....
For Ron, here is what I know of the architect table history....


A bit of history for your potential article:

American Architects Table:

Generally spread through Mass and Philadelphia from a relationship with Thomas Jefferson and the govenor Dickenson..may have been constructed by Thomas Jeffersons Monticello carpenters or williamsburg cabinet makers...the jury is still out...and details are based on family history and Monticello histroy as you probably well know.

Now: Jefferson was in Paris as a diplomat.....where he probably saw his first example...Jefferson was in the courts of France...David Roentgen was appointed the Cabinet Maker to Marie Antoinette and ultimatelly King Louis XVI.

David had a more famous father Named Abraham Roentgen and had contacts that David used no doubt.

David was a German Cabinet Maker from Germany with three offices in Paris, Vienna and Weisbadn (sp?). One of the first international offices for furniture.

You should also know that David Roentgen created mechanical tables of many designs and was extrordianry and well known for his time to include a short time in England viewing Thomas Chippendale Ideas and being included in his pattern books without direct reference to Roentgen.....

In addition David received a commission from Russia through th Czar and shipped 50 pieces of furniture to the Hermitage for the Family there.....quite a guy quite a legacy for a wood worker......