Pembroke Table

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Modern methods make the “period” details easy.

It’s easy to see why interest in period furniture spans centuries. Good proportions and carefully-crafted details never go out of style. This little table is a case in point. The original Pembroke table, built for the Countess of Pembroke in the 17th century, was designed for light uses such as serving tea, dining, or writing. The small, graceful design gained popularity in the 18th century. The classic compact table is well suited for modern living, especially apartments or smaller homes.

In the old days, woodworkers didn’t rely much on plans. This resulted in many variations on the basic design. Most Pembroke tables are fairly small for easy storage and portability. Their folding leaves provide ample space for serving or working. From there the similarities end. I’ve seen tables with rectangular and oval tops, with and without drawers, ranging from simple to ornate. My table’s design was inspired by one belonging to the Wilton House Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The original, built in the early 19th Century, is thought to have been the prototype for a table built for George Washington (a similar copy sits in Mt. Vernon).

While of museum-quality, this is not an exact reproduction. Like the woodworker who built the original, I make furniture in order to make a living. There’s no point in replicating period details by hand when I own a shop full of power tools. I reworked a few of the fussiest details to simplify the building process and ensure success. As you’ll discover, the trickiest parts can be finished quickly with help from a few power tool “apprentices.”

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