Incident Light

End table view This end table was made to accommodate a piece of marble which the client had rescued, hung on to and hoped someday to use for a table top. When someday arrived and she approached me to make it into a table, she had no preconceptions of her own and asked me to use my own imagination. How nice!

A great deal of good humor, bad physics and wonky philosophy has appeared in books -- both novels and those claiming to be non-fiction -- exploiting the incomprehnsibilities of quantum physics. Here I only ask for a little Slack and some artistic license.

Cone panel detail The study of light leads to conclusive evidence that it is wave- or ray-like in nature and to equally conclusive evidence that it is particulate or quantized. Here, this duality is embodied in iron. The vertical bars represent light rays and the ball-swaged pockets are meant to suggest photons. The particulate quality is reiterated in the somewhat random pattern of texturing on the surface of the bars.

The repoussé panels are forms drawn from the microstructure of the retina, that delicate and highly ordered layer of cells at the back of the eye where mere optics ends and the neural process of vision begins. The cells of the retina which respond to incident light and which initiate the complex process in the central nervous system that we call vision, are of two kinds, called rods and cones. The rods are responsive to relatively faint light and effect the shades-of-grey vision we have in twilight.

detail The cones are differently responsive to colors and effect our color vision in well-lit venues. Here, the panels raised in 16 ga. steel represent a pair of rod cells on one side of the table and a cone cell on the other.

The piece of marble, in its previous life as the top of a commode or lady's dressing table, had had a piece sawn out of one corner. Rather than leave an unsightly jaggy, I made a iron piece to match the moulded edge of the marble and glued it in place.

As the "rays" are made from 1/2" x 1" steel, it may appear that this is an awkwardly heavy piece of furniture but it is so intentionally, resistant to the eager expressions of conviviality on the part of a large dog.

Possibly of interest to other blacksmiths

Detail To create the surface texture, I made a special tool. (Don't we always?) First, I drilled three holes, arranged in a triangle, just barely through a thin bar, so that the tip of the twist drill penetrated but left a cup-like depression the shape of the tip of the drill. Into each hole I placed a small bearing ball and welded them in place from the back.

Then I heated an old farrier's "turning hammer" head to an orange heat, clamped it in the vise and hammered the bearing-ball tool into the more convex face, moving the tool a couple or three times to get several sharp-edged depressions on the crown of the hammer face. Hardened the hammer, helved it and used it as a texturing hammer for the iron "light rays".

The "photons" were made by starting a slot, carefully centered in the bar, with a chisel and then hammering in a bearing ball welded to a handle.

Created: Mike Spencer -- Fri 26 Dec 2008