Oblique view of a stunning refurbished architect's table with reflective glass top in the family room

Refinished Architect’s Table from The General Fireproofing Co.

The Newest Piece Comes Home

It’s been far too long since I’ve done a furniture refurbish project, so it’s extra nice to finally have this fantastic piece move into the family room today.

I’ll probably post something more detailed at a later date with some “before” pictures, but these few “after” photos will have to suffice for now.

History

I acquired this 20 gauge steel, stick leg, architect’s table originally manufactured by The General Fireproofing Co. of Youngstown, Ohio eight or so years back as part of a scrap sale. It was once owned by the National Bureau of Standards and had some markings and scrap paper hiding underneath the drawer which made me think that it was previously owned by a college, university, or similar institution in the Southern California region. It’s been hiding patiently in the garage as a general work table in service to my Little Free Library. I’ll have to dig into some paperwork to find it, but I recall this being circa 1959 from my research. It wasn’t in as bad a condition as some of my past projects. The original linoleum top was almost in good enough condition that I seriously considered keeping it.

Refinishing and Specifications

I started cleaning it up in November 2021 and have finally moved it into the house today with a 1/4″ clear annealed 29 3/4″ x 49 3/4″ polished glass top with 1 1/2″ radius corners.

The table itself is refinished in an electric sort of robin’s egg-color called “Waterfall” (SW 6750, loc #162-C1; DE 5722 RL#267, LRV 68, Munsell: Hue=7.36BG, Value=8.5, Chroma=2.6; BM 2050-50, LRV 55.75). The original linoleum top, which actually wasn’t in horrible condition, was completely stripped off, and I did the same sort of brushed steel process as my last tanker desk. There is a bit of blemish on the table top surface in the form of black flecking with a few small manufacturing blemishes that were left untouched for show before throwing down eight layers of clear coat. I also left a few incredibly minor dings to the body and legs for character instead of doing any bondo work.

It’s still got the original General Fireproofing Co. badging. I’ve also left all the original drawer pulls and metal leg caps, though I’ve cleaned them up quite a bit. It has presently got all the original screws, nuts and bolts as well, though many are rusted and in poor though functional condition. Perhaps I’ll replace those with new fittings in the near future, but I’ll have to hunt down the specs and find something that will stand up a bit better for the next century.

I’ve added some 1/2″ thick heavy felt pads on the feet to prevent scratching on the floor as the table is quite heavy. I’ve also got some temporary cork pads between the tabletop and the glass which I’ll probably replace with some decorative felt sometime soon.

You never know what you’ll find when you strip the tops of these types of pieces, but all-in it came out far better than I expected. It truly is stunning.

What’s next?

Still in the queue for future projects, two stick leg chairs, a panel leg architect’s table, and a 1930’s double pedestal tanker desk all of which I have on hand. I’m also due to reupholster a few chairs. If anyone comes across any, I’m on the look out for a 4×6″ index card filing cabinet, a multi-drawer flat file I can convert into a coffee table, and a credenza. 

Commissions

I’ve done this enough times now, I’m contemplating taking commissions from folks who have ideas for pieces. I’ve seen some of the tanker desks go for between $3,000 and $5,000 on Melrose or at HD Buttercup in Los Angeles, but by comparison, I’ve got a far better finishing process for these with better results than I’ve seen in any of the high end showrooms. With the right price on a scrapped or distressed piece, I think I can significantly beat the high end shops and provide a better look and value.

I suspect that when I refinish my next tanker desk for my office, I might be willing to sell the one I’ve been using for the past 13 years

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

9 thoughts on “Refinished Architect’s Table from The General Fireproofing Co.”

    1. Table is definitely apropos if you like. I wish I had some more concrete references for you, but all my knowledge of them is broadly anecdotal, albeit with several engineers and architects in the family. These date roughly from the 1940’s and after. They were frequently used by architects and draftspersons who enjoyed their broad flat and smooth surfaces and may have often put larger angled drafting platforms on top of them. They comfortably fit the most common ARCH D (24″ x 26″) and ARCH E (36″ x 48″) blueprint sizes in the United States. Most manufacturers who made them supplied them primarily for offices, schools, and industrial applications. Most of these same manufacturers also sold large, industrial multi-drawer flat files also used by designers, artists, draftspersons, and architects.

      When searching for them originally I recall having more luck with dealers, collectors, and others by describing them as mid-century “architect’s tables”.

      Here’s a link to an example of a roughly similar early/mid-century table with an attached drafting board and arm: https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/vintage-metal-drafting-desk-drawing-1824781508

      This particular table also had a linoleum top which would have been useful/ideal as a drafting surface and would have been similar to modern multi-ply vinyl (VYCO/Borco) board covers drafters use which are “self-healing” (for compass points or X ACTO knives), “give” nicely to a variety of writing instruments, and are easy to clean.

      Not all necessarily have them, but this particular one has a relatively large flat drawer for storing one’s drafting tools.

      It does make an excellent little art table of sorts. I do have a large felt 下敷き (shitajiki or mat) that I put on it for 習字 (shūji or Japanese calligraphy) with a 100 meter rice sumi paper roll.

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