Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Hammer Beam Low Table . . . Building the Base

There are many reasons to avoid designing and building simultaneously.  Materials and time may be wasted, and there's no guarantee that the whole thing will hang together -- visually.  But it does give you the maximum degree of flexibility for the greatest amount of time.  After fiddling with the design on paper, I decided to flip the entire piece and and place greater visual weight along the floor.  I wasn't exactly sure, as I started to saw the white oak, how the joinery would come together -- but once underway, it became pretty straight forward.

Given that I'm looking to give the appearance of post and beam construction, I knew that each piece would be fairly thick, and given that I didn't want to invest in 12/4" timber, I knew that I'd be gluing up for thickness.  This gave me the chance to "build" more complex joinery in pieces, simulating large mortise and tenon joints without all the chiseling.

I start by gluing up three pieces to make the vertical post.  Because I want to create a shadow line against the bottom support rail, I sandwich a 3/4" thick piece between two 7/8" pieces.  I take care to keep the grain running in the same direction to facilitate the hand planing that blends them into one visual post.

This support rail is an odd-looking little construction (3/4" thick), that will slide into the post's bottom. creating a bridle joint of sorts.

I then attach a series of 3"x7"x 3/4" "cheeks" that make the rail look to be one solid piece.  As long as every cut is square, you create a perfect 90 degree angle.  As all glue surfaces are long grain-to-long grain, I'm not worried about the strength -- but they will be reinforced later.  Once dry, I'm ready to move on to the curved "supports."

I drew the curves using the method outlined in the contemporary chair project -- attaching flexible bending sticks to a block the width of the leg, and moving it until I had the curve I liked.  It's then into pattern-making mode to cut and refine a template that reproduces that pattern.  I remember to make the template longer on both ends to facilitate the entry of the router bit without encountering end grain.

As I want the final thickness of each support to be approx. 2", I select some chunky 8/4" white oak stock. I Surface, bandsaw, and template each piece, arranging the stock in such a way to avoid routing against the grain.  I do not cut the straight sides with the router, rather I plane to the line on the long straight side, and cut the bottom of the support with a newly-sharpened saw.

A quick pass with a my 4 1/2 plane over this very straight-grained oak results in a glass-like finish.  I've found that adding a high-angle frog to the mix improves almost all of my smoothing jobs,

The support is joined to the post and rail by a joint (that must have a name), that slides along a loose tenon on the post, and is fixed to the rail by means of a dowel.  There will be a corbel that attaches in a very robust fashion that will also secure this piece.

The support on the right will slide along the tenon, cut to provide a long grain-to-long grain strength . . .  

. . . and the dowel pops into place
The next step is to create the corbels that will act as feet on the table, provide visual interest, and secure the supports.



  1. Beautiful wood and work. You take really nice photos too. Can't wait to work with some nice wood like that. :)

  2. Thanks Jeff- What I like about white oak is that here in PA it is very inexpensive, so I feel comfortable messing about with the design. Plus, it smells nice in the shop!

  3. Thank you already want to share a great article.