Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shaker Side Tables: Two Down, One To Go!

The second in this series of three Shaker side tables is a Single Drawer Sewing Stand.  Historical accounts from people like John Kassay, Christian Becksvoort, and Robert Treanor would place this piece somewhere in the middle of the 19th century.  If you are keeping score (and I am), a table like this may have been made in the Hancock community in western Massachusetts.

Having turned the simple post, and shaping the cabriole snake-foot leg, the main work at hand was to complete the drawer and affix the top.  As this is a two-fronted "push-me-pull-you drawer" it requires two drawer fronts fitted with half blind dovetails.  I had stumbled across some stock marked "common curly cherry"  (the only thing that made it common were its dimensions, as it is completely clear) and I was happy to pay the $2.50/bf for this fairly tasty bit of figure.

Fitting the drawer into the yoke exposed a bad habit.  Like adding one more jalapeno to the pot, or having one more glass of wine before I go, I tend to add about 1/16" extra to a cut "just in case."  It doesn't sound like a lot, but it caused me more time than I care to mention when it came to fitting the drawer.  That being completed (with the requisite self-loathing), the next step was to turn the pulls for the drawers.

I suspect that if you came into my shop while I was turning, it would be like some anthropologist stumbling upon a lost tribe along the Amazon, completely untouched by civilization.  I'm self taught, and there is no doubt a better way to do this, but here goes:

I use 3/8" holes in the drawer fronts because I know that my 25mm jaws can grip this dimension.  I also know that, in cherry, I can turn  a couple of inches of this dimension without the work flexing and causing chatter.

Once I'm down to this dimension, I pop it out of the lathe and cut it in two.

Now I chuck it back into the 25mm jaws, and turn it to the final profile.

There are endless number of mushroom profiles that are accurate, and as I'm not trying to reproduce an exact piece, I just turned them to what suited my fancy.  I made them a little chunkier than usual, this being a fairly squat little table.  It was a nice tight fit, and wedges and glue followed.

The drawer rides on two runners that slide in a dado cut into the yoke.  I affix these runners with glue (as it is long-grain to long-grain), reinforced with small 1/8" dowels.  The secret to my dowels is that they are actually bamboo skewers -- tough as nails and pre-cut.

Affixing the top is straight-forward with the compulsory accommodation for wood movement across the top.  The drawer hangers are morticed onto the yoke arms, and each has four elongated holes to accept screws.  When using mechanical fixtures I often use brass insert nuts and brass screws, but as this top is only 5/8" thick, that method would risk ghosting through to the final surface.  I've also used rounded wooden pegs, glued into the top but allowed to slide freely in the elongated holes, but I'm suspicious that this might fail.  In this case I used drywall screws (I vowed I'd never do this!) Function before form in this case, and they are hidden from view.

Nothing left to do but slide the legs into their dovetails and make sure that the drawer moves freely.  Now it can take its place next to its sister the round stand, and its brother, the final stand in this series.  My original plan was to make a double drawer sewing stand, but I think I have another idea . . .

As always, just jump in with a comment if you think I'm all wet, or want to share a better method.  Oh, and questions are welcome too. 

Next up, I finally found my Stanley Miter box.  Spoiler alert --it needs work!


  1. Beautiful workmanship. I envy your patience.

  2. Thanks, I wasn't showing much patience while I was planing that silly drawer. Go figure, it's a situation where I don't need to worry about tolerances, and I force myself to sweat it out with the low angle jack. I guess that's why we build them and not just draw them out on paper!

  3. Picturing you now as a member of the Yanomamo tribe, only armed with a saw and a mitre box instead of a blowgun. The Shakers made such practical things...the drawer opening from both sides. Would have liked to have seen the cabriole leg but I think I can visualise it. Another lovely piece, Chris.

  4. Tiffin, you actually have me pegged -- right down to wearing a loincloth while I work. I'll do a montage of shots that highlight the features (including the legs) of each piece at the conclusion. Thanks for the kind words.

  5. Very nice work. I was especially looking at the dovetails on the nice big photos you take. They look great. Beautiful wood; I used to have a lathe, but didn't use it that often, so I sold it.

  6. It's funny Jeff -- I absolutely love my lathe. It seems to be a power tool that is actually a hand tool since the working end are the gouges and skews. It is my favorite place to be in the shop. It has really helped me get out of rectilinear thinking.

    Thanks for the dovetail comment. I cut the pins wider than usual (like how I turned the knobs thcker than usual) and I'm afraid the geometry is less elegant than I would like. It will be back to thin pins from now on!

  7. your work very nice , thanks for your sharing