Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Shaker Side Tables: Sublime Shavings and Bonehead Blunders

I was eager to get beyond the machining phase and get back to some real hand tool action.  With all three sets of legs removed from their templates I needed to take care of any machine marks, remove any nubs left at the end of the legs from the templates, and taper the legs to their final profile.

I started by inserting the legs in their dovetails and marking where each leg contacted the supporting ridge on the pedestal.

With the use of a spokeshave (steady on, there's lots of short grain around these parts) and an inflatable doohickey that goes on my lathe and holds sanding sleeves, I brought the profile down to the correct arc.  I also made sure that the curve was still "fair" up to the top profile.  In addition, I made sure that the length of the shoulder along the dovetails was equal, as this (and the overall length of the legs) would determine whether the table would be level.  I held off on radiusing (if that's a word) the topline as still thinking about the final look.

I wanted the leg width to taper from 3/4" at the top, to 1/2" at the bottom.  By scribing a line 1/8" at the end of each leg, I had a reference point for hand planing.

I also made a handy jig for holding these odd-shaped pieces in place for planing.  I just drew an outline, predrilled the holes, applied some hot glue, lined it with scrap leather, and assembled.

I had been careful to make sure that the grain ran from the dovetail-to-foot direction to accommodate the planing.  I started with my old Stanley #3 (set for a medium cut) and did my normal routine for tapering.  Starting about 1 inch from the end I take three passes, then three passes two inches from the end (all the way to the end), then three inches from the end, etc.  I do this all the way until I'm planing the entire piece and repeat until I have some thing that looks like the right angle and I've reached my scribe marks.  I then switch to my Stanley 5 1/2 for a couple of swipes to make it an even slope.

Setting this aside I moved on to some drawer construction.  The Single Drawer Sewing Stand has a drawer that is housed below the top.  Taunton's In the Shaker Style has a good diagram.

Right, just a quick through dovetail job to make the U-shaped support that will hold the runners and call it a day.  I cut the parts, trued them on shooting board and marked everything for dovetailing.  After taking the summer off, I really felt rusty as I pushed on with the tails and pins.  A few minutes turned into an hour and still I worked -- marking and cutting.  OK, almost done let's just assemble, and . . .

Arrgh.  I failed to notice that I'd marked out the second tail piece upside down.  Instead of a U-shaped support, I had a Z-shape hunk of firewood!

But, like the proverbial fox who couldn't reach the grapes, I concluded that the dovetails were not great anyway.  I think I'll spend a few hours bringing my hand-dovetailing skills back to their former mediocre state.

Next, I do a bit of work on the Round Stand and see if I can get my spatial relationship issues worked out on that support.


  1. Yea, spatial relationship stuff is my downfall. That is why most of my projects are case pieces. I also don't do well with curves like cabriole legs, which I hope to change in time.

  2. I can be very impatient -- one of my (many) shortcomings is an almost pathological failure to ensure that stock is absolutely flat and square. So many issues I deal with at step 237 could have been avoided if I'd done step 2 correctly -- But step 2 is so boring!

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