Early trestle table design was practical in construction and desirable because it was easy to disassemble and transport. It was and still is the perfect occasional table. With it’s simple design, those seated do not have the inconvenience of four fixed legs at each corner of the table getting in one’s way much like the design of a pedestal table.
During the day the common room or the great hall as they were known was again cleared and used as the Lords deemed fit. As time went on castles became a symbol of power and less as a place of defense and population centers grew also known as cities. Castles and manors were functioning more like homes which needed furniture and craftsmen started to build more ornate pieces. Around the 1500′s the trestle table became an important piece of furniture.
In ancient Rome this style was made of stone or marble and was basically a pedestal-style table. By the Middle Ages the trestle table was often a few boards set on top of trestle legs making it collapsible and easily moved or stored.
They were often made of maple, oak or pine. A modern style of the refectory table is know as the extension top or a draw table with leaves that are stored under the top and can be pulled out to extend the ends.
Today the trestle table can be seen in designs of outdoor furniture like picnic tables to handcrafted Amish dining tables. Americana is a well-known and loved traditional Amish style as are Shaker and Arts and Crafts Mission style. Like the table of the Middle Ages, the Mission style is braced together using a stretcher beam and keyed tenon through the center of every trestle.
The Amish create their tables out of native woods like the early Mediterranean and Europeans. They like to use red oak, hickory, quarter-sawn white oak, walnut, cherry and maple. The modern Amish table is very versatile and is well-suited for seating a wide range of styles like formal dining chairs such as a Windsor or Mission slatted back to solid wood benches as were used in the Middle Ages.
Diners from the middle Ages looking for a place to set out the roasted boar and pheasant just laid out a couple of boards across two stands and called it a feast. Today we place a piece of plywood across a couple of sawhorses and call it a picnic. Though this design has taken many forms, some plain, some ornate but it is basically the same design from ancient time.
Trestle designs were used by the military in the field, placed in wagons or used on ships. They were mentioned in writings by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has a portrait of one in their collection showing it as one of the earliest examples as an art piece, an important piece of American history.