Tag Archives: Vintage Industrial

Saw Change: Repurposed Table Saw, ca. Early 20th Century

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One of the challenges in creating a new piece of furniture from antique machinery — in this case, a dining table/kitchen island from a table saw — is marrying inspiration with the limitations of working with an existing utilitarian product. Certain aspects can be altered, others can be removed, but ultimately the character and history of the item need to be respected and highlighted.

When acquired, the early-20th-century table saw that became the platform from which to create a new, home-friendly furniture piece had immediate appeal. Not only was its hefty frame solid and well constructed, it contained all of its original details, including iron hardware and a start/stop switch. The hand-painted number adorning it, “48,” suggested that it was one of many machines operating within its native wood-mill habitat.

After we removed the saw-blade mechanism and belt, then unbolted the hardwood top, the opportunity arose to utilize some of these residual parts to create a lower shelf. Sections of usable material were cut and carefully pieced together to produce a sturdy storage space, perfect for pots and pans. A thorough cleaning of the original base revealed rich grain tones that, once clear-coated, intensified in color. A salvaged workbench butcher block proved aesthetically complementary while also adding a much larger surface area for additional seating. The finished table not only serves as a practical decor item but also becomes a gathering place conducive to conversation and shared experiences.

 

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Down To The Wire: Custom Industrial Dining Table

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Debate has been sparked over the last couple of years among insiders as to the longevity of “industrial” as a decorative genre. Like any stylistic movement, this one will make way for the next, whatever that may be. Inexpensively produced cookie-cutter furniture pieces — generally manufactured in India or China — have entered the market, sometimes giving design enthusiasts pause before they invest in an original item with historical provenance.

Artificially distressing steel and wood to give the look of decades-old, utilitarian factory items is not uncommon. Even fabricating gear-shaped patterns in steel to embellish stools and tables is not unheard of. It’s a way to loosely capture a factory look without, perhaps, going through the time, effort and expense of seeking out an original.

The idea of reproduction furniture is hardly a new concept, but does it kill a design movement when copies or non-authentic items enter the market? I say no. From what I can see, Herman Miller, Knoll, Emeco and many other furniture brands have done very nicely, thank you, simply by providing well-made originals, manufactured to a high standard. The debate over the integrity of materials used in new originals versus vintage ones we’ll leave for another day, but so long as there’s an interest in authentic design, quality and durability, industrial pieces will remain relevant. I’ve long used the example of the Toledo stool, which is now an icon of 20th century design and will hold both its aesthetic appeal and collectibility long after the movement that thrust it into the limelight has passed. The key is to focus on what you like and buy quality.

When this old cast-iron base — removed from a decommissioned wire-spinning machine — was first spotted, the pressing question was: How can this fixture be transformed into a functional dining table? Through some trial and error (and a good deal of grease removal), the custom table was completed via its pairing with a large section of refinished antique bowling alley.