The Not-IKEA Gateleg Table (Sold)

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Recently on Facebook I was mocked for this gateleg table with the quip: “But in the picture, do not you see a Ikea style table?”

This table design pre-dates IKEA by about 150 years. Gateleg tables with clean lines and simple but robust construction begin to show up in the furniture record in the 18th century (the form might actually be earlier, but that’s as far back as I’ve found).

It’s a useful furniture form for the 18th-century home where a room would need to be converted for several tasks during the day – working, cooking, eating, relaxing. When folded up, this table is only 21” x 38” – it’s but a sofa table, really. Unfolded, it offers a tabletop that is 38” by almost 75” long.

It’s also useful for the modern home – it’s easy to move for an apartment dweller or student. With one leaf up it’s a great breakfast table for a married couple. With both leafs up, there’s room for friends and family.

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This version is built using poplar for the base. All the joints are drawbored mortise-and-tenon joints. The base is painted with General Finishes Milk Paint’s buttermilk color (note, this is a water-based acrylic, not a casein paint).

The top is made from 30-year-old air-dried walnut that has been finished with three coats of garnet shellac (Tiger Flakes from Tools for Working Wood) and two coats of organic beeswax.

The plans for the table will appear in a future issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine so you can make your own. Of you can buy this one if you like. When I write an article on a piece, I cut my hourly rate – this allows me to sell the furniture a bit faster and gives you a deal. The table is $750 plus shipping (free pick-up at our shop, of course). If you are interested, send us a message at help@lostartpress.com. Note, this table is now sold.

Or you can buy one at IKEA. While I’m certain my table will last at least a couple hundred years, there are no guarantees like that on the IKEA version.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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33 Responses to The Not-IKEA Gateleg Table (Sold)

  1. Ryan Cheney says:

    My, albeit limited, experience with Ikea stuff is that it’s guaranteed to last until the first time you move. It seems not to handle being handled very well. I guess that’s reason #64 to either buy quality furniture or build it yourself.

  2. bloksav says:

    Beautiful looking table.
    A couple of years back (while you were at the helm of Popular woodworking), there was a table theme issue, and I remember that the gateleg table was not mentioned. I am glad to see that it will now be featured.
    Brgds Jonas

  3. Simon Stucki says:

    that price is insane! If ikea would sell a similar table (same wood, size, obviously not construction) I bet it wouldn’t be much cheaper (I actually went to the ikea website to compare prices).
    so I hope sincerely hope, that however buys it is someone who can’t pay more for a handmade table and not somebody who won’t…
    I mean no offense, but that insanely low price just got me thinking if that isn’t a bit unfair to all those who are actually trying to make a living building furniture, I know it is only one table but still it is a statement, I don’t know just got me thinking but I’m not done thinking, so I honestly don’t know 🙂

    I hope this didn’t come across to negative, I really value all you do, Lost Art Press, your book, crucible and obviously this blog.

    • kaunfried says:

      Ikea sells disposable furniture. I bet this table will out last anything ikea produces’. You get what you pay for.

    • “that insanely low price just got me thinking if that isn’t a bit unfair to all those who are actually trying to make a living building furniture”…

      So, you think Chris is going to flood the market with his $700 tables and put other furniture makers out of business? Tell us again how one piece sold on one website, which is viewed primarily by woodworkers who, as a general rule, don’t buy a lot of wooden furniture, is going to affect your bottom line?

      Or was that a joke and I’m the buffoon who didn’t get it? (It’s happened before.)

      • Simon Stucki says:

        yes I wrote, “I know it is only one table but still it is a statement” and I was hoping that it would be clear, that I’m aware, that this single table won’t change the market for wooden tables but that I thought that it still was a statement about how much such a table is worth and should cost (to make it possible for the maker to make a living). I also din’t write that it is wrong to sell this table at this price (I’d probably even do the same if I was in that situation), I just wrote “it got me thinking”.

    • Full retail for this table would be about $1,200. I buy materials at wholesale, I don’t pay sales tax, and I have about 10-12 hours of labor in this project. Plus I live in the Midwest, where things are cheap – a custom stepback cupboard in curly maple with dovetailed drawers runs about $2,500.

      By request of the magazine, this was a machine-based project with almost no handwork. One mortiser setup, one table saw setup, one drill press setup. Very quick.

      • Simon Stucki says:

        thanks for the additional info, this puts everything a bit more into perspective. also I guess black walnut is much cheaper where you live than here in Germany (the material for the top alone would probably be more than 200€).

  4. Ikea stuff is just made to send you around the twist. My DIY skills aren’t great, but 3 hours to build a small desk for my son! I ‘m sure they do it on purpose so you pay for their assembly. Quality is terrible too.

  5. toolnut says:

    It would be a perfect table for a college kid moving out of the dorms, into a small apartment and needing a table with that much seating flexibility. Know any young person who might soon be fitting that description? Hmmm?
    PS. The price is unbelievable. You sure you didn’t leave out a digit?

  6. Salko Safic says:

    When I read it took 10-12 hours I knew it was machine made, I think the price is reasonable and within most peoples reach. It’s also within the modern design taste of what’s currently on the market, this should sell.

  7. Anthony Wilson says:

    This piece is nice and useful and well built. But it’s not Chris Schwarz.

    After following your evolution as a chair maker and experiencing the ADB it’s jarring to now see this piece from you Chris.

    In my opinion, your development as a furniture designer and maker has evolved away from PW.

    I hope LAP and Crucible thrive to the point where you can cut ties to the magazine (and possibly poach their best talent).

    • Normally I don’t respond to comments in this vein because I want everyone to be able to take a shot at me and feel like they aren’t going to suffer blowback (from me, at least).

      I love PWM. I spent 16 years of my life employed there and worked like hell to make it a good magazine. It’s like a child to me, and I will try to help the magazine grow as long as they will have me.

      As an independent writer and furniture maker, I have to take all sorts of jobs to feed my family and keep my oldest daughter in college – including many things that aren’t detailed here on the blog. I use machines when I have to, but the foundation of my work is in hand tools.

      While I work using many different sets of tools (all handwork, a combination, all machines), what I won’t give up is the quality of the final object. This table, though machine-made, is bomb-proof. And that’s the ethos that runs through both of my Anarchist books (at least, that’s what I tried to put there).

      I hope this helps clear up a bit who I am and what I do.

      • Anthony Wilson says:

        Thank you for responding. I also don’t usually respond after my initial comment.

        I own most of the LAP catalogue and I support many of the independent toolmakers you recommend. For the most part, I get it.

        PWM is a great magazine. Obviously you need to support your family. This is not about hand tools or machines.

        My point was that in my opinion this table does not move your evolution as a furniture designer and maker forward.

        I’m one customer with one opinion. I shared it not to hurt you or cause outrage, but to open a frank discussion.

        Take it for what it’s worth, which may be substantially less than your table.

        • > My point was that in my opinion this table does not move your evolution as a furniture designer and maker forward.

          “My point was that, in my opinion, this table does not move forward what *I* want your evolution as a furniture designer and maker to be.”

          We don’t get to decide the path of others nor the value of the paths taken. We especially don’t get to second guess a craftsman providing for his family through the application of their hard earned talent and time.

          • Anthony Wilson says:

            You’re right – I selfishly want Chris to continue his evolution as presented in the ADB.

            Perhaps you don’t believe in a free and open discussion of opinions?

            • I do but I don’t believe in castigating craftsmen for not doing specific work unless I’ve contracted with the craftsman to pay for their time. Nor do I find value in trying to define the path Chris is taking when it’s his name on the book and not mine. You went so far as to try to say something was “not Chris Schwarz” to “Chris Schwarz” on a blogpost detailing a table made by “Chris Schwarz”.

              • Anthony Wilson says:

                If you believe I was scolding Chris you should read my original comment more closely.

                As for the table, Chris explained in his post that it is not an IKEA design but one from at least the 18th century and that he was contracted by PWM to build it following their guidelines.

                Did Chris Schwarz build it? Yes.

                Is this blog written by Chris Schwarz? Obviously.

                Is this table an original Chris Schwarz design? Not in my opinion, and I prefer seeing his original designs on his blog and no he doesn’t need to care what I think.

                It’s fair to say Chris is open to different opinions and even criticism and has the required thick skin.

                Thank you for the discussion Scott.

  8. Erik Ekman says:

    I’ve been thinking about building a similar size table with shelves in the middle portion to store six folding chairs laying flat and maybe a drawer on either side on top. It’s a great table.

  9. stradlad68 says:

    Thank you for an adult response to social media mockery. Refreshing. You didn’t call the person mocking you an ignorant twit, but I will.

  10. David Lyell says:

    Chris, now that you have a few days between you and the build, is there any particular way you would change the design? I have nothing to suggest, just curious how you feel about it a few days out. I tend to have a-ha moments as I am still ruminating on my last build.

  11. Mark says:

    I saw a gate-leg, games table in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich. The details were different of course, but it was there. I even have a few crappy pictures of it.

  12. Is it just the camera lens that makes the top look as though it slopes from the centre to the ends? Also are the leaves sufficiently supported to act as an occasional dining table? We often host our extended family and the folding table we use to extend our current dining table leaves much to be desire.

  13. rwyoung says:

    Why bother going to Facebook and Instagram and other exotic places for your mockery needs. One can be mocked from locally sourced wizenheimers, supporting the local economy. And for very reasonable rates too!

  14. baruchgeva says:

    Several questions that this post brings:
    1. Photography – what equipment do you use (especially lightning). I like the simple and unpretentious way you shoot, but doing it on my own brings mixed results. Would you write a post about the process?

    2. Materials – using poplar for the legs surprised me. Yes, with right joinery it will hold many years, but it is very soft and will be easily nicked, especially in moving student case. It is cheap, but so are some other harder woods.

    3. Price, or rather marketing at this price – I would like to hear your (and others) thoughts on marketing the handcrafted custom made furniture at $750-1200 for such table. What are the better ways to start without a trade name established, like in your case?

    Thanks

  15. Hey Chris (or anyone else still following this thread) I have a quick question:

    What does the tabletop feel like after applying and buffing the wax? I just used the shellac/wax for the first time on a solid cherry dresser top. The sheen and color are perfect. But, it feels a little “waxy” to the touch even after a few days. I normally use Arm-R-Seal and then touch it up with a 2000 grit rub down with a 50/50 mix of mineral oil and mineral spirits; this produces a glass smooth finish. Can the glass smooth finish be achieved with a wax top coat?

    Thanks for the help.

    The table looks cool, and Schwarzian, to my eye. It would also make for a good gift to my niece when she graduates from college next year.

    • Shawn,

      The tabletop is as soft as a baby’s butt.

      For shellac and wax, here’s my ritual. Apply a coat of shellac (2 lb. cut or less) and sand between each coat with a #300-grit sanding sponge. Remove the loose grit with a tack rag. Repeat for each coat of shellac. On the final coat, apply the shellac and let it cure for at least a couple hours.

      Apply the wax (I use soft wax) with a 3M grey pad. Use circular strokes to drive the wax and slurry into the pores (if there are any pores). Finish with strokes with the grain. Let the wax set up for 30 minutes and buff with a lint-free cloth. It might still be a little sticky. Let it sit overnight and buff again. Done.

      Hope this helps.

  16. skilledno says:

    Hmm.. the man builds something for a paying job (magazine article I assume) and everybody starts questioning the poor blokes political views and life choices. Seriously folks WTF….

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