A Demi-Lune Table ca. 1810

A few years back, this table was brought to my shop for repair. The condition was just what you might expect from a table of this type and age; loose leg joints and hinge joint damage on the folding top. It had a number of secondary issues as well, loosened and cracked veneer, a damaged finish with numerous dents and missing sections of cross-grain banding. It was barely standing upright.

This form of table is often referred to as demi-lune. Here is a basic nomenclature of the type, a photo of the table as it arrived at the shop:

Card table description of parts

A demi-lune four leg mahogany table with a two-piece folding top that opens to a circular surface. The top leaf when opened, is supported by the Proper Right rear leg which is attached to a hinged rail and swings outward.

Ht:  73.4 cm  width: 91.4 cm depth: 45cm.

The Frame

Crd table base frame knuckle joint of fly leg
With the top off and from the rear you can get a good idea of the how the fly-leg operates.

Leg Joinery

view of bridle joint holding leg to apron
A good view of the Bridle Joint: A gap is sawed into the top of the leg leaving two cheeks, front and back. Corresponding notches are cut into the apron allowing the joint to slide together. You can observe two screws and these appear to have been added to hold the two stacked apron laminates together.

Old Trauma

Damage and wood losses to card table apron
Once the left replacement leg was removed, broken and loose pieces easily fell off. You can still see adhesive clumps and evidence of fasteners that were banged into the breaks to keep them attached….which worked. You can see two screw holes in the bridle joint, one added with the replacement leg. Note the double cut screw pockets on the left.

Rear Leg Split

Picture of Hinge joint damage and fly leg splitting
There is a split that travels the whole length of the Fly Leg mortise and tenon joint, and a shorter adjacent split that reaches below the apron. As a result the leg is quite loose. Above, the fixed portion of the top has suffered significant damage at the hinge joint.

Fly Leg Tenons

picture of ply rail tenons and adhesive
In this view the table is turned upside-down on the bench. Observe how thick, crusty and uneven the old adhesive has become. The joinery here did not fit very well or there would not be room in the mortise for the glue to build up so thickly. You will notice that the lower tenon in this photo is more narrow in depth than the upper. This is known as a “haunched” tenon and is used to add strength to a joint that is placed near the top of a leg. If you look between the tenons you will see a small piece from the leg mortise wood has been captured between them.

Hinge Joint Damage

Photo of knife hinge and mortise damage old repairs
The fixed top was removed from the frame allowing better access to the break for repairs. Note the variety of screw sizes. It appeared that a few attempts had been made to repair this break.
Photo pf knife hinge joint damage from rear of table
The repair attempts left the break open, so the screws acted as levers exacerbating the problem.

Then Things Got Screwy…

Comparison of screws extracted from table
Machine made versus hand made wood screws.

I Fall To Pieces…

Photo of cracked and delaminating veneer on table apron
Fractures in the veneer on the center section of the front apron. These were quite deep and the veneer around these fissures had de-laminated from the pine wood substrate. In the Large breaks at the top you could easily slide a pallet knife between the veneer and the apron lamination.

Brother From Another Mother…

comparison of original and relacement front table legs
These legs are in the reverse of their orientation on the assembled table. You can see the difference in grain quality between the dense porosity of the original on the right, and the much more open grain upon the left. The right leg was substantially heavier as well, feeling like the density of an ash baseball bat in your hand. The replacement was quite light in comparison, like a large kitchen spoon. Though there are obvious differences between the inlays, someone must have found enough value in this table to go through the time and effort of reproducing the paterae.

Has Anyone Seen My Cuff-links?…

Photo of missing inlay at bottom of front table leg
Banding set horizontally at the foot is called a “cuff”. The banding here has been lost, very common for this cross-grain element.

As Below So Above…

Loose banding at top of table leg
The quote at the end about glue properties is from Bob Flexner, an expert in finishing products for woodworking.

Ready To Step Out…

replaced inlaid banding on table leg
New banding of Holly and Ebony was made to replace losses.
refinished card table with top open
More than a few coats of finish…and rubbed out.
refinished card table apron crotch mahogany
The crotch-mahogany veneer, restored to a proper appearance.

Research is part of my restoration process, in an effort to place the object in a timeline of furniture history. For a form of this sort there is one good source of information, which had a very limited printing, so borrowed it through inter-library loan. It is from this book that most of the terms identifying parts of the table were sourced. Using this book I also hoped to determine the origin of this table, but no luck.   This excellent book is:

The Work of Many Hands: Card Tables in Federal America, 1790-1820 Benjamin A. Hewett, Patricia E. Kane and Gerald W.R. Ward, 1982, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut:  ISBN 10: 9111833165 ISBN 13: 9789111833165

An Apology: I took these photos when I was first learning to use an older digital camera, and edited them when I was learning to use the Paint software. Not my forte.

© 2018 Joseph Hoover. Sticks and Glue. All Rights Reserved.





Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: