Today is for all the woodworking math nerds. You know who you are. In 9th grade you cried when you found out Geometry and Shop Class were scheduled at the same time and you had to choose one or the other. You chose Geometry. Stashed somewhere in the back of your closet or in your underwear drawer is the dovetailed box you made to hold your first slide rule, your Texas Instrument SR-50 and your Casio C-80.
Let’s look at some pies from the woodworking world.
A nice example of a pie-crust tripod table. It is from the Georgian period and dated 1780-1789. The wood is mahogany. The foliate carving above the “knees” does not overwhelm the legs. The feet are hand-carved claw and ball, although the ball looks more like an egg.
The table top is one piece of wood with a hand-carved pie-crust edge that has aged very well. This particular design is considered a classic. If you encounter one of these tables in an antique shop or elsewhere in the wild check to see if the pie-crust is applied molding.
Many of these small tripod tables have a sliding flip top to make these tables easier to store. You can see in Roubo’s example (on the right), that the bird cage sits between two rails. There is also a stop that limits how far the top can slide between the rails.
This Regency-period pie-crust table is dated circa 1820 and is made of mahogany. The top is smaller than the Georgian example, does not flip and it has a tripartite shelf.
The pie crust is much plainer than the Georgian table, but is very much in harmony with the table’s overall shape and design.
The description of the table indicates these are saber legs with hoofed feet that sit on brass casters. I disagree with the description of these feet as being hoofed. That is an even-toed ungulate if there ever was. However, ungulate might be off-putting to a prospective buyer.
This is described as a pie-crust table. Pies are not square, this is clearly a tart. It does have a nice book-matched top which brings us to the next pie piece.
Warren Snow has a good description of the pie-matched table: ”Sequential wood cuts, from the same board, are then paired and arranged to create the table top surface.” For this table the pie ”slices” are made of American cherry and the edge is Macassar ebony. Pie-matching can reveal stunning grain patterns. On many examples, and as can be seen in this table, the center portion has an inlay that adds interest to the table top.
This is a Jupe’s Patent Extending Dining Table with two sets of pie-shaped leaves. Robert Jupe patented the design in 1835 and it is made of mahogany. It is the Big Daddy of pie tables. The table diameter is 65 inches, with the intermediate leaves the diameter is 83.5 inches, with the large set of leaves the diameter is 95.5 inches. As it is Pi Day you can figure out the circumferences.
The table top is turned to open it up into a Sarlacc-like maul and the leaves inserted (May 4th might be a better day for this table).
According to the Bonham’s description these Jupe tables have sold for £120,000-£130,000, but those with more ornate bases have sold for much more.
Lastly, a good old American classic that probably originated in Europe. It the only piece of furniture that was routinely in the company of pies: the pie safe.
Pie safes (garde-manger in parts of Louisiana) kept pies and other foodstuffs safe from insects and vermin. This one is made of pine and is a very typical design with two doors and three shelves inside. The doors and sides have metal ventilation panels that have a pierced or punched designs. Fine metal screening or cloth might be used instead of metal panels.
I was planning a Pi Day post two years ago which happened to fall within a few days of the official announcement that we were in a pandemic. I had to make a quick trip out of town before hunkering down and consequently forgot about it. Last year I was deep into a research project. So, today have some pie and wear your old calculator watch, because tomorrow…tomorrow is March 15, the Ides of March and you should hide under your bed.
39 thoughts on “It’s Pi Day!”
The Capstan Table!
It does look one and is about as big.
Just how old are you? The box for storing a slide rule or a SR-50 calculator took me back to my Engineering classes in 1970!
Age is, as they say, just a number. My age is both a prime number and irrational. Some would say there should be an emphasis on irrational.
I still have a sliding rule with its user manual and a HP35 (reverse polish notation). Always forgetting parenthesis with the other calculator brands. No shop class in my school.
If you still have the user manual for your slide rule then Pi Day is certainly for you.
Now I’m pie-eyed.
Always acceptable state on Mondays.
Some might say that Pi Day is irrational. I think it’s transcendental.
Thank you Mr. Johann Cashman-Lambert!
Speaking of sliding rule, it doesn’t give many digits. But that is OK most of the time. I have seen today a web page with the number Pi calculated with 1 million digits. But if you know that 95.5″ table diameter with a precision of +/- 1/32″ , there is no point in using a very precise value of pi.
Exactly what we learned in lab class, except they used a bike wheel as the example. The instructor told us “these are cm, these are mm, this is micrometres, this the wavelength of light, this the crystal lattice, this the size of an atom, and that of the nucleus…”
And I have two slide rules, one complete with manual, the other unfortunately not.
What fond memories of my metal pocket slide rule carried in my pocket protector to complement my full size encased model sometimes attached to my belt; both later replaced by my TI SR51. I could not afford the $399 price of the HP 35 in 1971. Engineering heaven, we would spend hours at work marveling at one of the guys HP35 calculators.
Don’t remember exactly the price paid but a few month after my purchase, there was the HP21 at half the price (sigh) which was easier for calculating polar coordinates.
Fond memories of pocket protectors and the belt clips are signs of a born engineer.
For me, with changing interests, it was slide rule to HP 12C, much easier on the brain. To celebrate “Beware the Ides of March”, I suggest all search PBS channels or Amazon prime, for the Shakespeare parody “Upstart Crow”. Just the show to watch on your laptop while hiding under the bed (or on top of the bed, under the covers).
Not one mention of David Pye? I’m shocked this was missed.
Not one mention of David Pye? I’m shocked this was missed.
The spelling options for today are Pi or Pie; on this day in particular “sometimes Y” does not apply.
I would say let raise a glass of your favorite adult beverage to celebrate Pi Day and math, but its not a good idea to drink and derive.
I like the rectangular tarte table. Everybody knows pie are round, cornbread are square.
So you’re a “woodworking math nerd” and a Star Wars geek. God Bless You!
I am a sometimes researcher of woodworking and a science major who took much more math than required. My favorite part of Star Wars are the droids.
The pie is wrong. The next digit is 6, so that 4 should be rounded up to 5. No, I’m not one of those who memorized it to a thousand digits… but I did memorize enough digits to exceed the precision of the calculators and computers I expected to be using at the time. Geeks R us. Chanting the digits is actually sometimes a useful alternative to swearing…
Re sliderules: At one point, in a typography shop, I saw an 18″-long metal slide rule with vernier controls and magnifying cursor to squeeze an additional digit of precision out of the device. It may even have been temperature-stabilized… I’d love to have one as a display piece. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me that these might be available at reasonable prices as the industry switched to digital typesetting, so I missed my window.
A pie π error….bakers, geesh!
For additional digit, we could use logarithm table.
Making a long wood slide rule would be a fun project.
I tried to build a pie crust table top once. It wasn’t pretty even after using a router to hog out the inside. Made me want to stay with making 4 sided sticks.
At least I can enjoy regular pie. 🙂
Regular pie is always standing by to soothe us.
I am a math sufferer. the use of the compass, the square and the ruler bring me pleasure, the slide rule and the Casio Fx82b give me nightmares. The cabinetmakers who crafted these tables are great masters !
I agree, math can be unkind.
Nice post! Informative and a few laughs.
making a kitchen slide rule to convert US customary volume or mass to metric and vice versa:
just for the fun
An excellent idea!
Oh, and this date is the only advantage of using the weird US way of writing dates… Almost worth switching 😉
(could not resist, I’ll buy a beer when we meet)
Speaking of pies and pie safes, one of the best-ever online video woodworking tutorials was the 26-episode series produced by the late Charles Neil on the detailed process of building not just one, but THREE, separate pie safes. We already have plenty enough chairs in the world, but nobody can claim we have too many pie safes. That fact alone probably explains the terrible world-wide shortage of pies as well. It’s because nobody can keep pies safe anymore.
Thanks for sharing this beautiful post with us. .
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