Friday, January 6, 2012

Contemporary Shaker Style Table -- Completed and Delivered

After an intense bout of machine time on the Hammer Beam Tables, I was looking forward to completing this Shaker table with a bit more handwork.  I keep a foot in both the machine and hand tool camps -- and I believe that they each require a different but complementary skill set.  The bottom line is that I'll use the technique that best serves the piece.  All that being said, I'd rather be planing than sanding, listening to Bach than listening to Delta.

I rough joint the edges on the jointer and then plane them, side-by-side, with my #8 Bailey to achieve perfect edges for the glue up.

Once the dark wood glue was dry, I scraped the surface and tuned my 4 1/2 hand plane.  My initial idea was to add butterfly keys to the joint between dark and light woods. But after further inspection, I felt that the curl in the maple had enough panache to carry the design on its own.

I also finished this soft-ish wood right off the blade to avoid any sanding that would spread dark walnut dust into the maple pores.  The wood planed quite well, and the high angle frog was up to the task of taming the maple curl.  I do, however, encounter the tell-tale lines of a smoother doing its work without a cambered blade -- or do I?  A quick check with a square tells me that a camber does exist, so what gives?  I take a couple of passes without the blade and find that the pesky still line exists -aha! the fault lies on the body of the plane, and sure enough, I find an almost indiscernible little ding at the back edge.  I guess the recent trip from the benchtop to the hardwood floor left its mark.  Some 600 grit paper does the trick, and the top is ready to finish in very short order.

A good example of a mixed approach is creation of the circular top from the glued-up walnut and curly maple stock.  For me, the idea of cutting this by hand never enters the picture -- I use either the bandsaw or plunge router.  And it is a case of "choose your poison."  The bandsaw, with the appropriate jig, will give you a uniformly rough surface, irrespective of grain.  The plunge router gives a better overall surface, but can be quite rough around the end grain areas.  I go with the plunge router, in its circle-cutting jig, and take light passes in different directions to approach the end grain in the most effective manner.

The top, straight from the router . . .
Now that the circle is free, I smooth the edge with a spokeshave.  The mouth is quite closed and I take a very thin shavings of chocolate and vanilla wood.  The best surface comes when you find ways to work "downhill" with the grain and skew the tool as needed.  I take a few passes with some 400 grit paper and break the edge ever so slightly.

. . . And after the spokeshave
The top is secured to the base with the usual brass bolts into a threaded insert.  I start by routing a 1/4" wide groove about 1/2" through the support (so the bolt can slide with wood movement), and drill a 7/8" hole about 1/2" deep to recess the head.  I invert the table base and mark the underside of the top to accept the hardware.  And just like that, the table is complete.

I used the spokeshave to create an almost propeller-like profile to the base support
I use my go-to finish on pieces like this -- two coats of boiled linseed oil followed by two thin coats of paste wax.  And I'm pretty happy with the result.

The base support runs perpendicular to the grain
I stayed consistent with my idea to keep the table "chunky."  There is no taper to the thickness of the legs and the edge of the table top retains its plain, thick profile.

These tables are always a little mini-woodworking class in one project -- turning, surfacing, multiple board glue-up, sliding dovetails, and finishing all in one go-- very satisfying!

Next up, a three part series of posts about the construction of a massive Lutyens Bench.  Cheers!


  1. Love the contrasting colours. Nice work!

  2. What an interesting table. I too like the contrasting colors. Cool.

    I'd rather be planing than sanding, listening to Bach than listening to Delta.

    Well said.