October 1, 2005
The Design Can’s Parcel Table
Designers Jeannie Choe and Steven Tomlinson set out to create a stacking table that was as sturdy as it was elegant. They first experimented with aluminum, steel, and glass—which proved costly and required screw-in reinforcements that sullied the simplicity of the form. But then they tried Baltic birch plywood, which is lightweight, inexpensive, and durable. “These tables weigh only three pounds each but can hold up to three hundred pounds of pressure—and they stack infinitely,” Choe says. “We want to create affordable designs that people keep for a long time,” she adds. In that vein the two have recently started experimenting with green materials, such as a bamboo plywood from Plyboo and Dakota Burl, which is made from compressed sunflower seed husks. Here Choe and Tomlinson take us through the finer points of Parcel.
The darker edges are a result of the laser-cutting process. As the lasers cut the wood, it singes, creating contrast. It’s really nice because it highlights the joints, illustrating how the table’s components fit together. It’s a very exposed piece—none of the structure is hidden.
The table can be assembled without any hardware. Each component is cut on a laser machine that reads from an AutoCAD file.
The tabletop comes in the same birch as the legs and in acrylic. It stays in place due to what is called a friction fit: it’s one one-thousandth of an inch smaller than the space it must rest in.
The cutout shape that results when the identical leg pieces are slotted together was both a functional and an aesthetic choice. Our original goal was to lighten the look of the table without sacrificing strength, but when a later adjustment required that the legs lock at the bottom as well as the top, the cutout became necessary to allow the tables to stack.