This maple side table has three chief features: a single, wide drawer, an open base with a large three-piece shelf, and subtle detailing to tie everything together. I stole the overall form and proportions from a functional but somewhat poorly constructed table that sat in my kitchen for some time. (For more on stealing inspiration, see page 64.) I like the single drawer, which accommodates large items that don’t fit in typical, smaller drawers, and the open base serves as a display for things too attractive to hide inside a cabinet. Although my table is intended for the kitchen, it would also sit nicely in nearly any room in the house.
As for aesthetics, I incorporated simple curves for a bit of flair. I like the way the gentle curves of the top and splash play off the uplifting arcs of the stretchers, and the subtle rail-to-leg transition that the simple brackets provide. The bullnose splash cap accentuates the upper profile while echoing the other gently radiused edges. To accentuate the piece’s lines, I routed a bead into the lower edges of the aprons and rail and cut a small rabbet into the exterior corners of the legs. Dividing the shelf into three pieces lightens it visually, and setting the corners back from the legs implies an airy feeling while avoiding seasonal wood movement problems. And, after all that, I couldn’t resist making custom walnut pulls for the piece. It really was a lot of fun to build!
A solid stance with simple curves
The mortise-and-tenon joinery connecting the aprons, bottom rail, and stretchers to the legs gives this table great strength, as does the dovetailed top rail. The 3-piece shelf, with its notches set back from the legs, allows for seasonal wood expansion. The curves on the top, splash, and stretchers are sawn, then faired with a block plane or spokeshave.
Order of Work
• Make and mortise legs
• Cut tenons on aprons, stretchers, and rails
• Fit top rail
• Cut curves and route profiles
• Assemble frame
• Make top and shelf
• Build drawer
• Make pulls and brackets
• Apply finish and do final assembly
Legs first for a good foundation
Mill the legs to their final size. Use riftsawn stock (with diagonally oriented annular rings) to ensure relatively straight grain on all leg faces. Then layout and cut all the mortises as shown.
Cut the apron and stretcher mortises. A hollow-chisel mortiser is a great machine for cutting these mortises. For accuracy and efficiency, first, plunge each end of a mortise. Then cut a series of closely-spaced holes before removing the waste between them with subsequent plunges.
Cut the bottom rail mortises. Making a twin mortise-and-tenon joint can be tricky. To ensure success, I employ spacers when cutting the twin mortises (shown here) and their mating tenons. See page 42 for a complete demonstration of the process.
Apron, stretcher, and rail tenons complete the M&T joinery
Complete the mortise-and-tenon joinery. Start by milling the aprons, stretchers, and rails to the sizes shown in the drawing on page 33, and mark them for attractive orientation. Then cut the tenons on the aprons and stretchers as shown. Miter the ends of all of the single tenons except for those on the front ends of the side aprons. Next, saw the twin tenons on the ends of the bottom rail.
Saw fat. I cut my single tenons a bit fat using a dado head, feeding the stock with a miter gauge, and using the fence as a length stop. Saw the first cheek in two passes, then flip the stock over and saw the opposite cheek as shown here. After sawing all the tenon cheeks, raise the dado head as necessary, and stand the stock on edge to saw the tenons to width (inset).
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