A little over a year ago some good friends of mine got married. I promised them a wedding present, but seeing as how we had just moved, I told them it was going to be a bit late. A bit late turns out to be a year and a few months. I did finally deliver though!
It is a cherry entry table that sits in their foyer. I made it somewhat tall because you would be standing next to it when you put things down, and narrow so it didn’t obstruct their entrance. I spent a lot of time at the drawing book coming up with ratios and ideas. I mostly stuck with them as well, only adjusting the width of the frame slightly.
It all started with a large 8/4 piece of cherry. I wanted this thickness for a bookmatched table top, thicker legs, and wrap around apron that all matched. I had some sapwood to deal with, but was able to mill most of it away and hide what was left on the inside of the aprons. Below are the three hunks that made up the entire table.
I cut the legs out first and milled them all square. I put down painter’s tape and marked out the location of the mortises. The tape is a copy of Mike Pekovich’s blue tape trick for dovetails. I still haven’t cut dovetails that way, but it sure does make mortises obvious. I mark everything with knives, then peel away the center section that will get cut.
Next I went around with a paring chisel and undercut the edges to help the chisel register on the sides and not cut any wider than is needed. Then it is just a matter if slowly chopping from one side to the other and back until you start to reach the proper depth.
The mortises all went pretty well. I made the legs extra long so I could cut some test ones and chop off the excess. After I had all the mortises cut I did the tenons. I used a similar tape technique to help visually guide the cuts. I cut a number of test ones and was happy with my progress. When I finally got to the last round I was going to shoot pictures of the process. Everything fell apart. Despite all the practice I couldn’t cut straight to save my life. I ended up cutting the whole frame down a little from the original plans because of the screwed up tenons. These two pics are all that remain of the process.
Once I finally decided they were good enough, or just gave up on trying to cut more, I dry fit everything together. Some of the fits are looser than I wanted, but It ought to hold together. Baby baby hold together.
With the legs cut to length I could go about tapering them. Probably a quick job on the bandsaw, but I went for the scrub plane. It made a huge mess, but was a good workout.
The outside two faces of the legs are straight, the inside two faces taper in almost up to the mortise at a ratio of 2:1. This gives the tape a really slim light appearance and guides the eye to the top.
Speaking of the top, I glued it together early in the project. The top side is bookmatched and has a lovely pattern that looks like angel wings. To further lighten the design I did an underside chamfer. The ratio was 2:3 with the thickness of the table top being subdivided into 3. Two units were removed from the edge leaving a thinner profile, and the slope went back 3 units. The layout is done with dividers and a marking gauge, so I don’t know the actual dimensions, just the ratios.
This chamfering was tested with the table top left extra long so I could get the hang of it with a few extra practice cuts. With a bevel up plane it was really easy. I made super thin (around 0.01″ or just a few sheets of paper) edge grain shavings. I have focused a lot on learning to sharpen in the past, and it is paying off now.
With the lines drawn I was able to accurately plane away the material and hit both marks just by eye. No special jigs needed! I did the end grain sections and proceeded to the long grain portions.
The last thing I had to do before finishing and assembling was put in some hardware to hold the table top down. A big flat sawn piece like the table top will want to move with the seasons. Trying to stop it is folly. Using the figure 8 brackets with oversized holes, I can attach the top to the apron and allow it to shift slightly with moisture movement. I started by drilling the first one on the outside face… DOH! Probably my only permanent mistake of the project aside from some slight dimension changes.
With everything setup I could glue the parts together now, then apply finish as I have often done in the past. Instead I finished everything in pieces. It made finishing easier because the small parts are all simple and don’t have hidden corners. As long as you keep it off the glue surfaces, everything will be fine. As a bonus, if you get glue squeeze out it comes off the finish easily. Waterlox’s wipe on varnish is a joy to work with.
After that all that was left was to screw the top on, buff with some wax, and deliver to the still happily married couple.