Monday, January 3, 2011

Shaker Side Tables: Finally Finished

My two favorite ways to finish cherry always come under fire for being both finicky and not very durable. -- but I've never had any problems.  I use Tried and True oil, with its honey like consistency and non-toxic pedigree, when I want very little sheen.  When I want to dial in the desired amount of gloss, I go with boiled linseed oil and paste wax.  On my three Shaker tables I went with the latter.  All received just one coat of boiled linseed oil. On the two round-topped stands I applied two coats of wax, on the drawered stand I applied just one.  Some final thoughts:

Shaker Round Table

It is no surprise that this simple, elegant form is the most recognizable piece of Shaker furniture.  In my eyes, its success relies upon the profile of the pedestal and the graceful curves of the legs.  The top is secured with a support that travels across the grain to reduce cupping.  I've secured it with brass inserts and brass screws, leaving ample room in the support for wood movement.

Shaker Single Drawer Stand

I really like the utility of this little table.  the pedestal is the shortest of the three, and there is no apology for its straight-forward design.  The subtle snake-legs are a focal point and, for better or worse, the center board on the top displays some quarter-sawn figure.  The double-sided drawer rides on guides that affix to its side.  I used a bit of curly cherry for the drawer fronts, and the oil really makes them pop.

Imperfection #1

This is the only one of the three tables where I made radical alterations to the traditional Shaker design.  The maple butterfly keys span two largish checks, and the top is thicker than normal.  The tilt-top mechanism is of my own design, in the hope of reducing the bulk of a traditional "bird-cage" tilter.  When horizontal, the top rests on a turned button affixed to the pedestal.


I must say that I love working with cherry.  It is easily worked with hand tools, it is economical to buy, and the figure never disappoints.  Living here in Pennsylvania, it is quite plentiful, and my local hardwood suppliers always have interesting shorts and flitches that make great table tops and seats.

During the past couple of weeks I've been doing a good bit of research about Shaker chairs -- their design, manufacture, and evolution over the years and across the various communities.  As I start the new year, I will be making a pair of New Lebanon side chairs in maple.  The project will include lots of turning, steam-bending, and seat weaving. . .  and I'll begin making the jigs that will speed production in my next post.

Thanks for reading!


  1. It would be a shame to separate them, Chris...they look like they belong together. Question about the butterflies: made out of wood? Used to keep a "character" piece of wood from further splitting?

    Still love the one with the drawer...perfect for an embroiderer.

  2. Really, really impressive. The low tech finish is perfect for these beauties. Looking forward to your chair making adventures.

  3. Tiffin- Yes, the butterflies are made of maple, and hopfully they will deter any further splitting. The wood has reached a point of stability w/regards to moisture content so it should stay pu. Thanks1

  4. Pablo - Thanks so much. I've been enjoying the research on the chairs -- though I have a week or so of tedious jig-making ahead.

  5. Beautiful work. I was going to tell you that I like the single drawer stand best (love the legs), but I like different things about all three.

    I have never worked with cherry, but really like the look. It may be the next wood for me to try out.

  6. they look warm and fuzzy- in a good way.
    nice work.

  7. Great work Chris, the photographer in me loves the idea of making a series.


  8. Jeff- Absolutely give cherry a try! I love the way it develops such a chocolatey patina --and it doesn't make me itch like walnut and oak.

    Tom - Thanks, I hope you can get a good block of shop time in soon!

    Tyler - Thanks. I hoped that doing three tables at a time would speed my pace -- and it did through the pedestals and legs -- but then I was back to a snail's pace.

    BTW, the photography is driving me nuts right now. The halogen shop lights are too hot and my shop windows face North. I need to spend some time on this.

  9. Well done indeed! The one with the drawer is a real little cutie!

  10. Bob- I was just using the miter saw on a shoji lamp I'm finishing up -- it worked superbly! Thanks.

  11. Here are the FURNITURE known for their simplistics lifestyles... ‘ Shaker furniture .

  12. your furniture very nice , thanks for your article