The majority of original 16th and 17th century dining tables, whether oak, walnut or fruitwood, we're made with all round, or 'box' stretchers (see first diagram below). During this period (particularly the earlier part), stools were far more common place than side chairs and, unsurprisingly, sitting on a stool feels perfectly at home with this configuration. Knowing there is no back, the sitter is naturally projected forwards, without actually having to be partly under the table. Furthermore, whilst seated on a stool, your feet instinctively rest on the actual stool stretchers, or on the table stretcher immediately in front. So, several centuries ago, this layout was considered absolutely fine and there was no reason to modify it.
Curiously, the situation changes as soon as we sit on a chair. We feel compelled to shuffle under the table, even by a small amount, but are constrained by the stretcher. Moreover, stools could be rotated and stacked away underneath the table, on top of the peripheral stretchers. Chairs cannot, and would therefore be at odds with our natural desire to tuck them neatly away, when not in use. (Note that there are a few styles of chairs, with high placed side stretchers, that can be stored halfway over the peripheral table stretchers; traditional ladder-backs, for example).
So nowadays, we tend to make our tables with a default single centre stretcher, thus eliminating any of the aforementioned hindrances. Apart from the slight deviation from authenticity, the downside, if you can call it such, is that there is a slight loss of visual strength to the table (compare the top two diagrams). To a degree, this can be retrieved by employing paired centre stretchers (Twin 'H' Layout below). However, in reality this is not of any real issue, for as soon as you place a set of chairs around the table, they pretty well obscure what's going on at the base of the table anyway.
There are various ways of modifying the standard centre stretcher layout, if desired. So I have drawn, and briefly described the options below, including applied capping to original box stretchers which can, of course, be used on any of the other layouts:
Drawings by Nicholas Berry.
All our table prices include the standard 'H' layout stretcher configuration, shown top right. We will gladly quote for any other option, if required.
As always, we are here to help and will be only too pleased to assist on any aspect of table design, if need be.
From a small boy at infant school, I've had a passion for early furniture and architecture, embracing the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. I've spent almost three decades designing and making replica early oak furniture (and architectural woodwork)...with my own hands!
Nowadays, together with a team of highly skilled and equally passionate craftspeople, I use that valuable experience helping clients commission, from our company, the very best in bespoke oak reproduction furniture, with a particular emphasis on personal service.
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