These workshop tables, are in a school for metalworkers in Saint-Denis, just north of Paris,and are called “des établis” or “des marbres”. Here they teach you how to bring sheets and bars of steel to life, transforming them into sinuous stair rails or art deco tables.
We were watching a demonstration given by Tomas Affland. He is originally from Toulouse and is on his way to becoming a Compagnon du Devoir. Les Compagnons are a brotherhood of french master-craftsmen recognised by UNESCO as intangible heritage, for their unique method of transmitting knowledge. The apprentices are required to do a “tour de France”, travelling to different regions, living and learning with other craftsmen. Tomas went through a few of the many skilled gestures that are executed at these tables, creating new scars of heavy work over the table surface and deepening their history and charm.
When I asked him about the tools wearing down he explained that they were of a tougher steel, which were in turn fashioned by other tougher tools. So I imagine that somewhere at the pinnacle of the whole chain there must be very fine tools made of diamond.