Jon Siegel – Elliptori

Elliptori by Jon Siegel

Artist Name:  Jon Siegel
Title:  Elliptori
Details:  circa 2001 – mahogany, glass 56″ wide x 26″ deep x 16″tall

Why It’s Notable:

I like the design, but to me, what is most notable is the process used to make the base.  Instead of laminating the rough shape, then refining it with carving tools, planes, and sanders, Jon Siegel took another approach.

“When I make the turning, which is 4′ in diameter, I am only making 1/2 of the profile, and the back is flat.  Then the ring is cut in half along the diameter and “folded” and glued together to make one table.  This method has two advantages:  it is easy to mount the work on a face plate because the back is flat, and it assures that the form is symmetrical.”

How did Jon develop the process of making the base?

“I never had a drawing of this table – the idea went from my brain directly to a scale model made on the lathe.  My first experiments were in doll-house scale (1:12).  Then when I thought I had the proportions right, I jumped up to 1/4 size scale.  From that model, I measured how I was going to glue up the blank in three layers – three band sawn rings were stacked and glued up.  About a year after I made it I realized that somewhere in the back of my mind I was probably inspired by the work of Stephen Hogbin that I had seen 25 years earlier!”

The glass top makes the table functional without hindering the view of the unique cross-section of the base.  Very interesting!

For the curious, this is the lathe Jon used to turn the table’s base.

Jon Siegel's Putnam Lathe

“Restoring 100 year old machinery (both woodworking and metal working) is a passion of mine – especially lathes.  The lathe was made in Fitchburg, Massachusetts by Putnam who made mostly metal lathes, but they also made some of these pattern maker’s lathes.  These are woodworking lathes that have a carriage.  This type of bed was used on their metal lathes too, which is why they are so heavy.  But the headstock and carriage are greatly simplified from their metal working cousins.  This type of bed is called ‘extension bed’, and by turning the large handwheel that you can see below the bed, the upper half of the bed slides away revealing the large ‘gap’ which is thus adjustable in width for the particular job at hand.  Of course this also extends the length of the bed when needed, hence the name.  It extends to allow 12′ workpiece length.  It swings 24″ over the bed and 50″ in the gap.  I used this lathe to make ‘Elliptori’.  The rough blank weighed over 100 pounds, and the finished turning about 70 pounds.  Work of this size is turned at about 120 rpm (2 revolutions per second).  The largest piece I have turned on this lathe weighed 500 pounds, and it handled it easily because that is only 10% of the weight of the machine.”

I’d like to extend a “thank you” to Jon Siegel for his help writing this article.  Jon has been turning for over 45 years.  He co-founded Big Tree Turnings, LLC., and is a member of the Guild of New Hampshire WoodworkersNew Hampshire Furniture Masters Association, and president of Granite State Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners).

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