Introduction: Caldera Table

Picture of Caldera Table

The undisturbed planar surface of the table top provides a starting point for intervention with the Caldera Table. Typically of a constant depth, the extruded top literally offers little room for play. By introducing a grouping of volumetric aberrations which deform not only the top surface, but also bloat the 'interior' space, Caldera exposes a deep interior dimension.Amplifying these distortions further is a set of unfamiliar inserts which sit within the craters nearly perfectly. At first the paired formations may seem functionally ambiguous, but by simply removing and flipping the lids to rest on their stubby protrusions one reveals a smooth convex underside and potential for any number of uses.

In terms of fabrication, the Caldera Table was used to explore precise double-sided milling, a variety of toolpathing / operations, and interface or joints between complex parts.

Step 1: Overview

Picture of Overview

Tools/Materials:

8/4 Walnut 6061

Aluminum

Mild steel

Various hardware

DMS Mill (for wood)

HAAS VF2 (for metal)

Scotchman cold saw

TIG welder

Various sanding and finishing tools and supplies

I wanted to pursue several projects when I began my residency at Pier 9 with one of them being an exploration into the interface between multiple materials, while maintaining formal continuity (ideas I began exploring in some previous projects - the VICE Table and STALASSO Table) While the options for exploring this idea are varied and many, I wanted to give myself a few constraints - I wanted to keep it small-ish so I could get more into the details/finish instead of spending a lot of time on dealing with moving/storing a large piece while I worked and I really wanted to do what I could in-house at Pier 9 rather than outsourcing certain aspects (i.e. - the insert/bowl on the STALASSO table was printed through Shapeways). I had done a few projects on the HAAS VF2 and I wanted to incorporate it’s capabilities as well as the DMS 5-Axis router - a machine I hadn’t yet used at the time I began this project.

Step 2: Pre-design / Testing

Picture of Pre-design / Testing

I had some loose ideas of what I wanted to explore formally - so I began sketching ideas and testing techniques in Rhino and diagramming and writing in my sketchbook. I began to develop a workflow that began parametric design aspects, but then used ‘manual’ 3D modeling to get the forms perform the way I wanted. Initially ideas centered around a ‘nesting’ of parts/functions - a matryoshka concept under the ‘surface’ and within the volume of the table. For numerous reasons this ‘nesting’ idea evolved into a series of more refined ‘craters’.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/73KMPUm0b5E" width="560"></iframe><br>

Once I was headed in a satisfactory direction, I ran some milling tests in foam on the DMS to get a feel for the particulars of this beast of a machine. It’s notoriously finicky and if I was to run into any issues I wanted it to be in foam rather than in an expensive hardwood! I also wanted to test a few different machining roughing and finishing operations - i.e. parallel passes for the top surface vs. contouring within the ‘craters’. I also wanted to try out some 3+2 milling to potentially get at deeper and more complex geometries (it was a good test since the 3+2 portion wasn’t able to be machined since the new dust collection hood on the DMS head was too bulky and would have been damaged with the way I had the stock setup on the bed - the collector would have been damaged on the bed of the machine! That’s why you run tests though and why you always need to keep a close watch on your job!)

Step 3: Stock Prep

Picture of Stock Prep

Before getting to any sort of final design, I wanted to get my material/stock so I knew what thickness, length, width, etc. I had to work with. After a trip to MacBeath Hardwood, I had a beautiful 8/4 16” wide plank of American Walnut. After a fellow resident took a share of the board and I had measured the remaining piece (there were a few blemishes in the wood I needed to work around) I now knew what i had to work with. I then modeled a blank stock volume to work within. There was some back and forth between 3D modeling and machining (joining, planing, and sawing) before I was at a point where I was ready to glue up the final parts. I won't go into the biscuit joining, planing, gluing and clamping here as it was pretty straightforward and standard practice. What wasn’t standard was the overall configuration of the stock assembly - I wanted to limit the amount of milling time and material waste, so I glued extra pieces of stock only at the areas of the design where extra depth was needed. This made the milling process more effienct, but setup of both the toolpathing and the physical clamping of the workpiece much more difficult.

In between the glue-up of the stock pieces, I was finalizing the geometry of the table top to fit within the stock bounds but still maximize the features I was interested in foregrounding. Once that was done, I was ready to setup my toolpathing. I won’t go into the specifics of this either as I made an instructable on the general use/overview of HSM for Inventor. One point worth making now is that I didn’t yet have a base/frame fully designed, but I wanted to accommodate a way to mount to the table top. I modeled 4 dowel holes that I could just mill out for future frame mounting potential.

Step 4: Milling the Top

Picture of Milling the Top

Milling the wood on the DMS was relatively straightforward and there were no major setbacks. There was probably a total of around 4 - 5 hours of actual machine time with another 4-5 hours of total setup, fixturing, cleanup, etc. This made for one long day of milling, but it was worth it in the end!

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/RHWYmzW_qlQ" width="420"></iframe><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/X3mdH7caANs" width="420"></iframe><br>

Step 5: Sanding

Picture of Sanding

I used a pretty fine stepover (.015”) on my surface finishing passes so sanding was pretty easy - a combination of random orbit (on the flat parts) and hand sanding (on the organic forms) with grits ranging from 180 to 320 did a nice job. 2 applications of tung oil achieved a nice satin finish. While the CNC mill took the wood to a pretty good level of finish, there were parts at the edge where there was some tear-out. This was due to the design of some pretty fine corners/edges. I could have done more to alleviate this by building a more complete workpiece holding fixture, but I didn’t have much time, so I dealt with the tear-out as best I could. One area in particular took more hand work , which wasn’t an issue in itself, it did mean that I needed to add in material to the 3D model of the ‘lids’ I was also designing to make up for the lost amount of wood. I’d have to reconcile the difference by hand when I was finishing the lids.

Step 6: Base Fabrication

Picture of Base Fabrication

Other than the angles/geometry, the base for this table is really standard/straightforward. It was easy enough to just get dimensions and angles from the digital model, make a cutlist, and cut the parts (on a cold saw) in a matter of an hour or two. Probably the most difficult aspect of the base fabrication was end drilling 17/64” holes into the ½” x ½” stock. It made for an interesting setup on the drill press, still it was not that hard to do. I added some tapped holes for set screws (for fine adjustment to the stainless dowels which plug into the table top). After that, basic TIG welding and grinding of the joints made for some clean joints. Lastly I gave the steel a black (birchwood Casey) patina and a clear lacquer coat for finish.

Step 7: Lid Design and Fabrication

Picture of Lid Design and Fabrication

While designing this table, I was working with two ideas for inserts or ‘lids’ which would fit/cover the openings in the table. One was a fairly simple ‘smooth’ design and the other slightly more complex with three protrusions each which would allow the lids to be used as concave trays or dishes when flipped. The nubby and slightly more functional design won out. In either design, fit was of utmost importance and the edge geometry that governed the interface between the tabletop and the inserts was quite irregular/complex. A substantial amount of time went into precise modeling of these edges and parts.

I tried to mill the design out of maple quickly one day, but the design and tolerance I needed proved a little too thin and fine for wood and the DMS. I ended up taking them to the HAAS and making them out of aluminum which was the original plan all along. The HAAS is incredibly rigid and precise. Aluminum is also better for milling a thin shell part from. However, this was still quite an endeavor as the parts I need to get were completely organic and had no parallel edges to clamp to. Without making any custom workholding tools I needed to design in tabs which would hold the parts in the stock as I machined material from around them. I would later cut and remove the tabs by hand.

The stock I used was a solid 2”x6”x24” solid 6061 aluminum. There still wasn’t too much clearance for the pieces though and this created a few issues where the tools I used were a bit large for removing all the material I wanted at the edges. Consequently, I had some material remaining that I had to remove manually. If I had extra time, or I was to mill similar parts in the future, I’d run a preliminary finishing pass with the larger tool and a final finishing pass with a smaller one to get into the smaller pockets. All those issues aside, the lids parted out of the stock fairly easily with a pneumatic reciprocating saw and cleaned up really nicely with a combination of pneumatic tools, files, and scotchbrite. It was with these manual processes that I was able to get the edges to match the area on the walnut where I had issues with tear-out.

Step 8: Lid Finishing

Picture of Lid Finishing

With the lids cleaned up and fitting well in their counterpart craters, they only needed a finish. I decided to have them clear anodized. The only issue was that anodizing requires clamps to hold the parts when they’re submerged and because of their freeform geometry, there were no good places to clamp to. A small pin point sized mark was left on each piece. Not a huge deal, but definitely a consideration.

Step 9: Conclusions

Picture of Conclusions

For the most part, this project turned out how I had hoped. It was an exciting and educational process. If I were to do it again, there would be several changes or modifications I could do to make it go a little smoother and require less finish work. This is the case however with most one-off or custom pieces where the prototype is the final piece! One can only really get better at surmising all the necessary steps or predicting hiccups in the process. I can’t wait to build on this project!

Comments

deluges (author)2017-07-25

This table is beautiful

PATHfab (author)deluges2017-07-25

Thank you!

Exocetid (author)2015-01-11

My thought exactly. These sorts of designs, which are artificial, take away from what nature produced and distract the mind of the viewer from it. As such, they become tedious in short order. Natural designs are timeless.

One could argue that FLW disturbed nature with his architecture, but those houses were designed to exist harmoniously with nature and add function. The only thing that will save this table is to fill the holes with M&M's or other snacks.

ElliottM2 (author)Exocetid2016-01-07

By not being a perfect rectangular prism (of small depth) as most tables, it's actually MORE nature-like.

citizen251 (author)Exocetid2015-01-14

Oh please. Nature never built a table. This style is not your cup of tea, obviously.

PATHfab (author)citizen2512015-01-15

I was hoping someone would make that point for me. thanks!

dart70ca (author)Exocetid2015-01-11

Well , in case you missed it, I believe that was the intention: The bumps on the lids are legs so that they will serve as containers for snacks, as wll the hollows in the table (to a certain extent).

I like it. Good job, keep at it.

PATHfab (author)dart70ca2015-01-12

Thank you!

terrefirma (author)Exocetid2015-01-11

Did you even read? ( or just look at the pictures??) And every house built takes away from natures natural form unless it is a cave.

tankrium (author)2015-08-18

This is beautiful and inspiring work of art! Thanks for sharing.

wemakeyoustandout (author)2015-03-11

Amazing design and very good explanation of your design process and fabrication process.
I was truly awestruck and you might say that you have a new fan :)

Thank you very much! I appreciate it!

Hardwired22 (author)2015-01-20

dude you could patent this to CB2!!

klindner (author)2015-01-13

This is pretty badass.
A piece I'd actually consider hemhoraging money on.

PATHfab (author)klindner2015-01-15

Haha -thanks!

suzz353 (author)2015-01-12

Don't have the first clue how you did this....don't comprehend the instructions... not my area of expertise, but, I know this....IT IS BEAUTIFUL!

Eh Lie Us! (author)suzz3532015-01-13

Ha! That's exactly what I was thinking. Hell, I don't even have a smart phone! I'm sure that I could hammer out the table part with hand tools and lots of bandages. It doesn't matter where you get your inspiration, as long as you get it!

PATHfab (author)Eh Lie Us!2015-01-15

You definitely could do something like this by hand! It would be a different process, but it's certainly do-able and could be beautiful!

PATHfab (author)suzz3532015-01-15

Thank you - I'm glad you appreciate it even though the process may be foreign! I think a lot of people dislike what they might not understand!

gkapriel (author)2015-01-14

Pure awesomeness! I was happy to see all the stages of production and still can't believe how amazing the final result looks.

PATHfab (author)gkapriel2015-01-15

Thanks Gabe!

madvic (author)2015-01-11

congratulations !!! YOU ARE A BLEND OF SCIENCE ART AND CRAFTMANSHIP...!!!

excells 100%.

PATHfab (author)madvic2015-01-12

Thanks for the comment - very much appreciated!

goldie1471 (author)2015-01-11

Nice table but i would have preferred if the lids were of the same wood or even a different wood if you needed a contrast.

PATHfab (author)goldie14712015-01-12

Great ideas! I definitely considered that and even did some prototypes out of maple (failed - tolerances were too tight/thin in wood). Ultimately I would have liked to try a number of options, but as my time was extremely limited, I only had a chance to really produce one option! In the future perhaps!

cthompson21 (author)2015-01-11

Maybe not for the ones on the edges (although you could if you were careful) but one thing that comes to mind with these 'holes' is decorative resin 'floats', like knick-knacks or such suspended in a resin fill.

I play AD&D with buddies and am thinking of doing this very idea on a custom-built gaming table I have in mind, not only for dice and chip/candy 'bowls', but also decorative spots with some random dice suspended in resin...maybe drilled into from underneath to allow the addition of a small LED to light the resin from below... The ideas are limitless, imho. :)

PATHfab (author)cthompson212015-01-12

I like the idea of resin 'floats' and I feel like I've seen some projects in corporating something like that. Have you seen the 'glow table' with glow in the dark resin?

https://www.instructables.com/id/Glow-table/

pretty cool!

napoleondominguez (author)2015-01-11

Amazing piece of work! It must be harder to do for those of us who don't have access to all these beast machines so I guess I won't be trying to make this one, would love to tough! I'm guessing you're not selling this but I'm curious how much would one have to pay for something like this. If you were to sell it, how much you think you would ask for it?

Thank you very much! If you have access to a shopbot or small CNC you'd be surprised how creative/productive you could be! I only had access to pier 9 for a few months, now I would like to try to build my own CNC possibly so I can keep this line of work going! I honestly have no idea how much I'd sell it for because i could never get as much as I put in since it's such a complete 1-off! Not sure I'd want to let it go anyway - haha!

amandaghassaei (author)2015-01-11

beautiful, this gives me lots of ideas for working with our shopbot.

PATHfab (author)amandaghassaei2015-01-12

Great - would love to see what you come up with. Would like to get a shopbot or similar of my own at some point! Great machines!

m2grzegorczyk (author)2015-01-11

Amazing piece. It could look even better if the tabletop would be made from a single piece of wood. I wish I had a workshop like yours. Great work.

PATHfab (author)m2grzegorczyk2015-01-12

Thanks! I wish I had that workshop too haha - it was only for a couple month residency!

terrefirma (author)2015-01-11

They are just jealous that you are an artisan and they are not.

Zetainex (author)2015-01-11

I like it from an artistic point of view, but WHY should anybody do that to a table?! hahaha.

syedrezaali (author)2015-01-08

sooooooo beautiful! I love the walnut & aluminum combo! Those curves are super too

PATHfab (author)syedrezaali2015-01-08

Thanks Reza!! Looking forward to seeing you at the show!

ferdiveo (author)2014-12-31

I love it good instructable !

simpsonizer (author)2014-12-29

One of a kind! 100% unique in my opinion! The table looks like a "ghost" face hehe :-P

PATHfab (author)simpsonizer2014-12-30

Haha - nice one! Thanks!

samuelhj (author)2014-12-29

Nice. Interesting.

matthieutje65 (author)2014-12-29

looks great, love the design! keep up the good work

PATHfab (author)matthieutje652014-12-29

Thank you!

WoodPlay (author)2014-12-28

We've just renovated and can't find the right coffee table for our living room. Thanks for the inspiration. I think this is the answer.

PATHfab (author)WoodPlay2014-12-29

Glad to provide some inspiration!

oattal (author)2014-12-28

Wow this is art

PATHfab (author)oattal2014-12-29

Thanks oattal!

taffwilliams (author)2014-12-26

Beautiful work.

PATHfab (author)taffwilliams2014-12-28

Thank you!

dopel1 (author)2014-12-26

Wow!!! Amazing work!!!! How long does it takes completely with all hours on pc??? Very nice design and good instructions!!! Thank you a lot