2009 Residential Furniture, Freestanding Winner: An End Table to End All End Tables

This ornate “Griffin” end table is the centerpiece in this design from Zongkers Custom Woods.

Zongkers Custom Woods Inc.
Omaha, NE

Project: Griffin End Table

Year Established: 1989

# of Employees: 12

Shop Size: 10,000 square feet

Specialty: Custom wood furniture for the office and home with specialties in carving, marquetry, parquetry and inlay.

When a customer wanted a one-of-a-kind end table to be used in two different rooms, Dennis Zongker was enlisted to create something unique, yet practical. Rising to the occasion, Zongker designed a triangular end table that fits between two leather chairs at 30 degree angles as a centerpiece. The table also can be considered as a work of art, combining several elements that can be viewed differently, depending on which of the two rooms, the living room and dining area, it is viewed from. When seen from the dining room, two winged lions (or griffins) face the viewer, while the living room features one griffin facing the room.

Where did Zongker come up with the idea for his design? “The customer has a rose decor throughout both rooms,” he explains, “so that is where the marquetry of roses came into the design. The customer also wanted to add sculpture. They liked the look of the lion, but they also like eagles. I came up with a design to mix both the lion and the eagle on the end table legs: a lion with eagle wings.

“The table design is like what you would see in Europe around 1800 to 1900, French style, with a mix of Jean-Henri Riesenerer and the Herter Brothers, although a little cleaner and not as busy,” he adds.

For the top substrate, Zongker says he used 3/4-inch veneer core natural birch plywood. The top marquetry veneers are purpleheart, beech, fruitwood, myrtle burl and white oak. The base is solid basswood.

Zongker says to join the three corners on the base and apron, he cut out large dovetail triangle joints on a Delta 36-790 RT tilting arbor saw. For each griffin carving, he cut six different angled blocks of wood, then glued the blocks together. All the hand carving was done with Pfeil carving knives.

The marquetry was done in the traditional manner of cutting six different layers at the same time on a DeWalt DW788 scroll saw with an Olsen double-tooth super fine blade, and glued with hot animal hide glue.

While continuing to design custom furniture, Zongker is also currently working on a book about box-making. The multi-talented designer says he has learned that, “no matter what you do in life, if you have a passion for something, you work hard at it and if you are consistent, you will get better, and over a period of time you can reach a high level of craftsmanship.” He also says that he wants to continue learning and trying to improve his knowledge and techniques to become more experienced in his life’s passion: woodworking.

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