Michael McDunn created this conference table for the Greenville Arts Center.

Photo by JS PhotoArt

Studio of Michael P. McDunn Inc.

Greenville, SC


Project: Conference Table

Year Established: 1981

# of Employees: 3

Shop Size: 4,200 square feet

Specialty: Custom furniture

This year’s Commercial/Institutional category winner is a “work of art” created by Michael McDunn.

This conference table for the Greenville Fine Arts Center is constructed of curly maple veneer, ebony veneer, Tricel Honeycomb and 8/4 maple with a lacquer finish.

The room where the table is located is narrow, says McDunn. “So we needed a table that would seat six to eight people that was fairly narrow and would somehow tie in with the fine arts center itself. That’s when I came up with the idea of trying to put parquetry pictures in the table that related to the disciplines that they taught at the fine arts center — music, dance, pottery, jewelry making, metalworking, photography.”

McDunn says that his original idea was to make the table in the shape of a shadow that came through the window and was cast on the floor. A different discipline would have been placed in each of the window panes. But there was not enough space in the room for a rectangular table.

Photo by JS PhotoArt

“So that’s when I came up with the idea of making it elliptical,” McDunn explains. “Since the room is pretty narrow, no one could really fit at the widest point of the table because there was a credenza that I made that hung on the wall as well. So that is what prompted me to put the legs [of the table] in the positions that I did — a leg at each end and at the widest point of the ellipse.”

The center of the table features inlaid maple burl, which McDunn says is supposed to represent the human brain. The design of the table also features “rays” that spread out from the center inlay in a sunburst pattern to the inlay around the edge of the table.

“This is supposed to be the explosion of thought coming from the brain out into all of the disciplines that they teach at the fine arts center. So as your mind is getting creative at the center, it starts to expand and radiate out and you come up with all of the different forms of expression in art,” McDunn adds.

The pattern for the ellipses was laid out using a string and two nails. McDunn says that first he made one-quarter of the ellipsis and then he made the complete pattern, using the quarter pattern and a flush trim bit in his router. A 1/4-inch router bit was used to cut the inlay recess and the outside edge profile of the table was cut with a router. The center inlay was also laid using the string and nail method.

Honeycomb from Tricel Honeycomb Corp. was used as the substrate for the table because it is lightweight but rigid, McDunn says.

“It is more rigid than a piece of plywood and I needed something more flat to glue the veneer down to,” he says. MDF would have been “so heavy that the table would begin to sag because of its weight,” he adds. Two layers of 3/4-inch honeycomb was used. The edge was cut out and maple solid wood was placed around it.

McDunn says that he went through four serious concepts before he settled on this idea. “The director of the fine arts center told me I could come up with whatever I wanted. He gave me total freedom. He told me to go for it; make whatever I wanted to make to put in there, and everything else would be designed with what I came up with.”

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