What is this antique table?
December 30, 2012 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Any idea what this mechanical antique table would have been used for? Photo of the side. Photo of the top.
posted by Bunny Ultramod to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My totally uninformed guess is maybe newspaper typesetting? The two inset panels suggest columns, and it looks broadsheet-sized.
posted by usonian at 8:12 AM on December 30, 2012

I second setting type.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:14 AM on December 30, 2012

Response by poster: It's possible, but, if so, it's really odd. It's not a letterpress machine -- there's no press -- and it's unlike any setting table I have ever seen, in that it doesn't have drawers for the moveable type. It seems to be portable for some reason, like it would be wheeled around a room, and that's not a great idea if you're plugging in type.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:20 AM on December 30, 2012

It reminds me of a modern ergonomic reading desk, with adjustable height and tilt. It's on wheels so you can bring it to the shelf in the library rather than carrying the heavy and fragile book to the desk.
posted by moonmilk at 8:28 AM on December 30, 2012

Do you have the dimensions? It looks like a drafting table, but the top should be flat for drafting and usually wider than it is tall.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:51 AM on December 30, 2012

Response by poster: It's about kitchen counter height.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:53 AM on December 30, 2012

That is a drafting table for sure. I've seen old ones that are just like it.
posted by Sara C. at 9:12 AM on December 30, 2012

Actually, I have not seen one that had those two door-like depressions in the top. So I have not seen one "just like it". (I stupidly only looked at the side view before making such a self-assured answer.)

My guess is that the top of the drafting table is missing. It would probably have been attached at that hole near the bottom in your top view photo.
posted by Sara C. at 9:15 AM on December 30, 2012

It really looks like someone replaced the table section of a standard drafting table with the top half of a wooden door for some odd reason.
posted by elizardbits at 9:19 AM on December 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

It's hard to tell from the photo if there's a flat bit under the tilted bit. If so then it's like to be a printing press for relief printing. The ones I used many years ago were pretty ad hoc machines where you increased the pressure with blankets, odd bits of paper etc as well as turning the wheel.

If not, then I'd say it's a variable height desk. You don't mention how tall it is. AFAIK ever since Wesley there's been essays about how standing at a desk is better for you.
posted by glasseyes at 9:20 AM on December 30, 2012

I agree with Sara C. If it's a drafting table, the actual drawing board is missing. But in the side view, the slot at the bottom left, the hook on the left, and the drop down part on the angle adjuster all indicate that there was something intended to be dismounted and stored alongside the frame.
posted by Bruce H. at 9:21 AM on December 30, 2012

One other question: are the wheels lockable? It's hard to imagine drafting on a table that could scoot away from you.
posted by Bruce H. at 9:23 AM on December 30, 2012

Yeah looking at the left side, the bracket ( or hook) with the fence on the edge and the nook cut out of the adjustable moving top point to storing or putting something there.

It doesn't look like the top has enough vertical height adjustment for a drafting table though.

Bruce H If ya look at the hardware on the left bottom, that lever could well lock it in place.
posted by Max Power at 9:26 AM on December 30, 2012

Response by poster: Weirdly, there are three rubber casters and then a fourth that is just a wooden leg. This might have been an easy way to make a rolling table -- you just tilt it so the wooden leg is lifted and roll it, and the lower the wooden leg to make it stop rolling, but it sounds pretty unstable to me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:27 AM on December 30, 2012

It doesn't appear to be a drafting table to me, because the tilt adjustment doesn't go high enough. I also don't think it's a door because the bottom edge would be the lock rail - which is usually larger than the top rail.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:30 AM on December 30, 2012

I keep looking at the "bracket" on the bottom right of the top. Could it have been flipped over?
posted by Max Power at 9:32 AM on December 30, 2012

Does the outside moulding on the top go all the way aroud? (Is it on the vertical sides, also?) If so, that wouldn't work very well with a t-square - another strike against drafting table.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:38 AM on December 30, 2012

Re the casters - very possible that someone mounted it on casters at a later point. Then again, I have no idea why someone would do that, or why they'd remove the top or replace it with a door or whatever we're speculating about.

It's not a printing press -- that wheel on the side isn't big enough (compared to presses I've seen, I now feel like I need to qualify everything I say here), and there'd be no reason for the big slanting top.

Where did you find this thing? What's the provenance? Is it architectural salvage? Old factory equipment? Office furniture closeout? Did it come out of an old farmhouse? Who had it before, and did they make any alterations to it or is this its true form?
posted by Sara C. at 10:03 AM on December 30, 2012

Can you take a picture of the innards? Might help with identification.
posted by windykites at 10:05 AM on December 30, 2012

I'm guessing: modified hand-crank sewing machine.
posted by windykites at 10:08 AM on December 30, 2012

It looks drafting-table-ish, but I'm going to vote against it being that. The construction looks way too heavy-duty by an order of magnitude for that purpose, there's really no reason to put a drafting table on casters, and the base that the casters are attached to would get in the way of actually using the desk to draft on. If it were a drafting table, it would require an additional board to be placed over the existing surface, and with the wear on the top it doesn't really look like that's happened. Also, why would you go through all of the trouble to build a desk like that and then require another piece to make it usable? Just looking at the top of the base, it's obvious that the manufacturer could turn out a decently sized piece of flat panel, so why make the top like a door? Benny's point about the molding is accurate as well.

It looks like the main wheel in the front of the side photo adjusts the overall height of the desk and the wheel on the left adjusts the tilt. If that's true, the table top could go up in height (overall, not tilt height) at least anther foot.
posted by LionIndex at 10:39 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

The rail at the bottom of the tabletop is making reconsider - it seems like it's there to keep some sort of flat object on the table when it's tilted, which could suggest a supplemental drafting board, but the table looks like its top surface saw a lot of use, which argues against having a cover on it as part of its normal function.
posted by LionIndex at 10:44 AM on December 30, 2012

It's not a drafting table. The table you have is made to tilt with something very heavy on it. I'm thinking it's a dissecting table that no longer has its metal top.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:20 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Looks to me like an adjustable (both height and angle) lectern. Comfortable for priests of all sizes.
posted by Scienxe at 12:07 PM on December 30, 2012

Best answer: I'm guessing it's a stand for a studio camera.
posted by bill the tinman at 1:02 PM on December 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: bill the tin man has it. Here's a slightly different style from the same era, with enormous camera perched atop.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:06 PM on December 30, 2012

Response by poster: You nailed it, Bill. Thanks!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:33 PM on December 30, 2012

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