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Construction of an 18th-century French mechanical table

Video transcript

This table's ornate exterior hides an elaborate mechanized system. At its core is an oak frame. A complex brass and steel mechanism, including rails, gears, and a release lever controls a movable writing desk. A desk's assembly incorporates lidded compartments, a concealed latch, a spring-activated drawer, and a writing surface that also serves as a book stand. A bolt prevents the desk from moving too far. A tabletop has metal fittings that engage gears and bolts. Long rods prevent the tabletop from sliding too far. A large key is used to wind the mechanism's coil springs. A small key unlocks and opens the desk. As the desk is closed, the spring mechanism rewinds. The marquetry tabletop surface has a ground of purple heartwood into which thin pieces of other colorful wood are assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. The rest of the table's exterior is covered in a geometric trellis pattern. Ornamental gilt bronze mounts frame and protect vulnerable wood edges. Today, the table is still functional and its innovative mechanics and artistry continue to amaze.