Design Challenge: Craft a Table That “We Can Divide & Leave To Our Four Daughters”

One evening, a couple from Texas drove by our workshop in Bridgewater, Vermont, and stopped in with an assignment: Make us a piece of furniture that is one whole piece whilst we are alive, but that, when we move along, we can divide it and leave to our four daughters.

What is more, they wanted it to be made from mesquite from their ranch. They called the manager on their ranch right there and had a piece overnighted to us. They said they would be back tomorrow to see what ideas we had.

Us being who we are — hungry (and thirsty) furniture makers — we wracked our brains, had a few beers, and worked our way through several sketch pads (and brain cells).

We came up with this piece, made by then employee and now Guild member, Pete Michelinie.

mesquite hall table

A photo of a mesquite hall table designed and crafted by the furniture makers at ShackletonThomas.

About the Table

The whole log of mesquite was shipped to Wrights’ sawmill in White River Junction, Vermont. Richard Wright called me at that point and told me that he had just received a load of what he deemed to be “firewood.” We went to look, and with our untainted professional eye and a deposit check in hand for a large sum of money, deemed it to be superb, and had Richard saw it up into the most suitable thicknesses.

Pete outdid himself hiding the blemishes and creating this masterwork out of a pile of semi-rotten wood. To add to the excitement, each “quarter-lune” had a lockable drawer, and in that drawer was a message, laser carved into the bottom of the drawer, from the parents to each daughter, only to be opened after the parents’ departure from this world (as we know it). What is more, each pair of legs had the initials of each daughter.

mesquite hall table 2

Detail photo of each “quarter-lune” of this unique hall table.









We out-did ourselves, I think, except for one glitch. We discovered, on the day prior to shipping, a tiny, barely noticeable spelling error in one of the messages in the drawer. The messages were about 50 words each. This is after four sets of people, including the customer, had inspected the proofs. Would we let it go, or remove the drawer bottom, and have it completely re-engraved?

With a determined set to my jaw, and staring sadly into the long distance, I decided that our reputation, at least in the long term future, and for my son’s future, rested on our ability to “get it right.”

Now the world knows.

Contributed by Charles Shackleton, master furniture maker with the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers. Charles is CEO and Furniture Designer at ShackletonThomas.


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