Residential Furniture


Name: Levin Studio

San Jose, NM

Year Established: 1975

No. of Employees: 1

Shop Size: 2,500 sq ft

Specialty: High-end residential and custom furniture.

32 wedge-shaped pieces were glued together to form the award-winning Leaf table. Levin used an array of routers, sanders and hand tools to achieve the rippled pattern.

Conceptual Furniture at One with Nature

Judges 'fall' for a leaf hall table in the residential furniture category.

By Lisa Whitcomb

The alder leaf-shaped hall table, commissioned by a Washington, DC, couple, is not the first such table for artisan Mark Levin. It is in fact the 20th table that he has designed and constructed for his Leaf Series, which won first place in the Design Portfolio Awards residential furniture category. The idea for the leaf table evolved over time, Levin says. He began the series in 1984, but says it did not really come into fruition until the last several years. This was because one year after he began the series, Levin decided to take what turned into a 10-year hiatus from woodworking.

In 1995, he decided it was time to get back to woodworking. He left the corporate loop, re-opened his shop and has been designing and fabricating works of furniture, some of it very sculptural, ever since.

Levin says his intent with the tables was to take Georgia O'Keefe's two-dimensional paintings of leaves and flowers and interpret them in a 3-D mode. The departure point for Levin's furniture pieces and his sculptures is a delineation of the silhouette.

"I visualize a piece not in wood, but rather in black, monolith material. I feel that if the form has a visual impact in this black dress, it will be that much more potent when endowed in wood or cast bronze," he says.

Levin fabricates furniture like his Leaf hall table out of solid wood because it lends itself to the sculptural process, while reinforcing his design approach, he says. "Solid wood has more virility, sexiness and intrinsic value than veneer. I feel the most unusual aspect of the alder leaf table #20 is the fact that it is so delicate, but yet it carries a visual impact."

To create the soft, curvaceous leaf patterned table, which stands 28 inches high by 50 inches wide and 24 inches deep, Levin glued together 32 wedge-shaped pieces. This task was the most challenging aspect of the table, he says.

Franklin Titebond II glue was the adhesive used for the project. "I used a glue-up table made by Veritas of Lee Valley Tools and numerous Jergensen wood screw clamps for the gluing up of the wedge-shaped pieces. The top was then laminated together to a thickness of 5-1/2 inches and was roughed out with an old Stanley heavy-duty router, a Milwaukee electric chain saw and a Black & Decker automobile disc grinder."

The initial detailing of the table was done with a Metabo die grinder utilizing grinding ball mills from Severance Tool Co. After this was done, Levin used hand gouges, files and rifflers for the more intricate detailing. Numerous sanders were used to smooth the surface, but Levin finished the process off by hand.

A JDS multi-router mill equipped with a Bosch router was used by Levin to make the leg tenons. Watco polyurethane was applied to finish the piece.

The result of Levin's fine craftsmanship is a table that is so beautiful, it transcends the boundaries between a man-made piece of furniture and nature. "The design foundation for my work is very instinctual and based on both natural and man-made forms that I find pleasing," he says. "These nuances of forms range from leaves, flowers, butterflies and women to automobiles, machinery, architecture and music."

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