Deal table

Discussion in 'English Only' started by TraductoraPobleSec, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. TraductoraPobleSec

    TraductoraPobleSec Senior Member

    Catalan & Spanish
    Could anyone confirm whether a "deal table" is a desk?

    Here is the context: "The furniture was of the simplest description: rows of high backed rush seated chairs and two large deal tables"

    Mary Eyre "Over the Pyrenees into Spain" (late 19th cent.)

    Many thanks in advance.
  2. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    "Deal" refers to the material the table is made of: soft wood (fir or pine). The WordReference dictionary has so many definitions I wouldn't have found the right one if I didn't already know it. It's defintion A8. :)
  3. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    deal - soft wood that is easy to saw, often pine or fir.
  4. TraductoraPobleSec

    TraductoraPobleSec Senior Member

    Catalan & Spanish
    Goodness! I would have never thought of that.

    Thanks for your answers.

    Do you mind if I ask you whether to call pine or fir wood as "deal" is widely used? I have lived in both the US and the UK and this is the very first time I hear this.

    Happy holidays.
  5. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I had never heard it before, TPS. I don't have much interest in, or experience with, furniture or furniture-making, though, so that might explain why I haven't run into it. It was a surprise and an education to me, too, but that's what I love about reading threads here.
  6. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I only knew the expression "deal table" because I ran across it once when reading a novel set in the late 1800s or early 1900s and I looked it up. I wouldn't say it's in common use, at least not in AE.
  7. baldpate

    baldpate Senior Member

    UK, English
    I think it is little used nowadays.

    I associated it with cheap 'utilitarian' furniture of the 50's and 60's, or with sturdy, rustic-style tables from an earlier era (kitchen furniture, for example, made of softwood) .
  8. Redshade Banned

    It is a pinewood table , not a desk.

    A very archaic word. I read it once in a novel in the 60s as a young boy and assumed that it meant a card table .It was not until the 80s that I found out the true meaning.
    So not really a word in current usage.
  9. TraductoraPobleSec

    TraductoraPobleSec Senior Member

    Catalan & Spanish
    Thank you guys for your answers. I thought it was me not knowing enough English (or English enough!)

    Best wishes from Barcelona and happy holidays.
  10. WillyMoon New Member

    New York
    Perhaps no one will read this 5 years later, but I, a US-English speaker, came upon this thread today looking for the meaning of "deal table," which I ran across in a 1930 translation (into British English) of a German writing by Carl J. Jung. Despite doing a fair amount of woodworking over the years (in the US, not Britain), I'd never heard the word "deal" relating to soft wood, but what I've researched now confirms what is said here. This is the quote from Jung, as translated by Carey F. Baynes: "We must keep as close as possible to the dream-images themselves. When a person has dreamed of a deal table, little is accomplished by his associating it with his writing-desk, which is not made of deal. The dream refers expressly to a deal table. If at this point nothing occurs to the dreamer his hesitation signifies that a particular darkness surrounds the dream-image, and this is suspicious. We would expect him to have dozens of associations to a deal table, and when he cannot find a single one, this must have a meaning." (Ironic illustration, isn't it, when none of us know what a deal table is! I wonder if I'll dream of one tonight now! I don't know what they look like!) From: Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, tr. W.S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes, NY: HBJ 1933, "Dream Analysis in its Practical Application," April 1930, p.13.
  11. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I've heard or read the expression "deal table" at least ten (maybe even twenty!) times in my life and have always known it referred to the kind of wood, but I've never known whether it was high or low-quality wood or what such a table looked like.
    It's not common but I wouldn't consider it totally abstruse.

    A Google image search doesn't help much!
  12. WillyMoon New Member

    New York
    Given "deal" refers to soft, relatively low-quality wood, a translation of "deal table" as "picnic table" would allow one to follow Jung's train of thought without distraction, at least in the US. (I get the impression "deal" is used more in Britain than the US to describe a kind of wood.) On the other hand, this distraction has been fun. Still, the first time I read the article two or three years ago my own ignorance of what "deal table" could mean distracted me from Jung's idea in this sentence altogether.
  13. George French Senior Member

    English - UK
    Oh for the good old days of woodwork at school in the UK. My carpentry was honed working deal. Deal is easy to work and one can produce useful wooden furniture/objects quickly.


    Even I will still tackle a woodworking job if the wood is deal... or something similar.. Many online dictionaries have entries for "deal wood".
  14. KennethDanis New Member

    I've noticed before that the term "deal table" seems to have been in rather common use in the 19th century, and I puzzled over the meaning of this term. However, I just noticed the following sentence in Elizabeth Gaskell's 1848 novel "Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life" which seems to corroborate Nunty's statement that deal is a reference to the wood used to make the table.

    Gaskell wrote "Opposite the fire-place was a table, which I should call a Pembroke, only that it was made of deal, and I cannot tell how far such a name may be applied to such humble material."
  15. George French Senior Member

    English - UK

    • a plank of softwood timber, such as fir or pine, or such planks collectively
    • the sawn wood of various coniferous trees, such as that from the Scots pine (red deal) or from the Norway Spruce (white deal)
    • of fir or pine
    Etymology: 14th Century: from Middle Low German dele plank;

    That's what the WR dictionary (still) gives.


    As I posted previously, deal is easy to work. And it is a relatively cheap wood.. Also you can easily knock a table up using deal. I still have a small one that I made more than 50 years back and it is still in use.. :tick:
  16. CatXX New Member

    Thanks for the help. My online search for the term "deal table" brought me here. I've been involved in carpentry in the U.S. for most of my adult life but, never encountered the word "deal" to describe wood until today. While reading the second page of the novel, "Birdsong" by Sebastian Faulks, (published in the U.S. in 1993), the following piqued my interest: "...found himself looking into a steam-filled kitchen in the middle of which a maid was loading plates on to a tray on a large deal table." In the novel the year is 1910 and a young Englishman has just arrived at a home in France.
  17. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I'd never encountered this meaning of "deal" before, so I've been checking a variety of dictionaries. It is in contemporary dictionaries, both AE and BE, including the American Heritage Dictionary 4 and the Chambers 21st Century Dictionary—both dead-tree and online versions of both dictionaries. And it's not labeled "archaic" or even "rare" in any of those references.

    I guess it helps to know a little about carpentry.
  18. Ellie1 Junior Member

    Isle of Skye, Scotland
    British English

    I've come across a reference to a "deal table" in a book published in 2001. Actually the book is Rebecca's Tale, & it's the back story of Rebecca from the Daphne du Maurier book, so the language harks back a lot to the original story. Nevertheless the original "Rebecca" was written in 1938 so the term "deal table" was still in use then. I've come across the term quite a few times, but always in old-fashioned books. From the contexts, I've always taken it to mean a plain, cheap table. Interesting discussion.
  19. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    Unfortunately my copy of Cassell's Carpentry and Joinery is undated, but is certainly from before the Russian revolution. Deal is not cheap, poor-quality timber. The word 'deal' refers to the way the softwood log is converted to sawn timber.

    Planks - sawn timber 2 to 6 inches thick, 11 to 18 inches wide, from 8 feet upwards in length.
    Deals - 2 to 4 inches thick, 9 inches wide.
    Battens - 4.5 to 7 inches wide, 2 to 4 inches thick.
    Boards - any length and breadth, but no more than 2 inches thick.
    Scantlings - timber sawn to 4x4, 4x3, 4x2, 3x3, 3x2, etc

    The deals shipped from Scandinavia, Finland and Russia were re-sawn before being sold as red or white deal to schools, table-makers, my father, etc. The quality was determined by the origin of the wood and where in the log it came from.

    Decent deal no longer seems to exist. The timber Victorian carpenters used for carcassing was better quality than the tat at B&Q, Wickes and the local builders merchant.

    A deal table is a poor man's table simply because deals were all cheaper than the hardwoods used for the rich man's table.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2014

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