Cherry Coffee Table #2: The Cranky Sailor Workshop - Ep 2

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Blog entry by DynaBlue posted 10-23-2009 10:42 PM 3993 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Cranky Sailor Workshop - Ep 1 Part 2 of Cherry Coffee Table series Part 3: The Cranky Sailor Workshop - Ep 3 »

Since a few of you made the mistake of actually reading the blog and some even commenting, well, just like a major TV network, I’ll keep this dog going.

Disclaimer- The term “exactly” when encountered in this blog should be interpreted loosely, roughly translated to “as close as my old eyes can get it” or “somewhere between gnat’s ass and half-assed close”.

Today I wanted to get the half lap joints cut so I could actually fit the table base together and see if I’d made any major boogers yet.

I started out with my trusty Combination square (not pictured), my marking knife, the stringers and two pieces of scrap to help me along.

The stringers are 29” between shoulders and I milled all the stringers to 1” width which means that each side of the crossing stringer needs to be 14” from the tenon shoulder in order to be dead centered. I cut a scrap of ash (I seem to have lots of ash scraps lounging about for some reason) to exactly 14” long and then ripped that in half so I’d be able to verify both distances simultaneously.

I then removed the top stringer and far strip, butted my square up against the remaining stringer (which I was holding securely in place), removed that stringer and struck a line with my marking knife, thus defining one shoulder of the half lap. I then placed the stretcher back on top, butted it up against the square, grew a third hand and held all that in place while striking the far side of the half lap with a marking knife.

There aren’t any pictures of this since my hands were pretty much fully occupied at the time. It brought back memories of when I was a mechanic for Sears (was it really 23 years ago?!) and always wished I had another elbow about halfway down my forearm to reach bolts in those places that automotive engineers think are ‘ideal’..especially since they aren’t ever going to have to access them! Rat bast…nevermind..

Where was I? Oh yeah, well, once I’d struck the two side lines I ended up with something like this, accurately defining the width of my stringer:

Normally I’d have just used a mechanical pencil to mark the lines as they seem to be pretty constant due to the lead being a set size but when I really get myself into a lather thinking I need real accuracy I reach for that marking knife. First few times I used the marking knife didn’t come out so well. The knife wandered all over the wood surface while failing to follow the reference surface. I kept flashing back to the scene in Jaws where Sheriff Brody is trying to tie a bowline and Quint is sitting back chuckling at him while saying, “heh heh, it’s not too good is it, Chief?” Finally I read an article on marking knives and found out that they aren’t used like you’re cutting the cheese wheel…light strokes are all that’s needed. And the article was right. Light strokes tend to follow your reference very well, you just have to make a couple of passes for good visibility. I have to admit..there might be some value in listening to what people with experience have to say.

I then used my combination square and transferred those lines around the sides of the stretcher, marked the depth for 3/4” because my stretchers are all milled to exactly 1 1/2”, and then went to the table saw. Since table saws, much like plants and women, respond best when showered in compliments, I praised my sawstop repeatedly concerning its accuracy and cut repeatability while I was dialing in my mitre stops and setting the dado stack height. With both of us satisfied, cutting commenced. Say what you will about my methods, it worked out:

Slight hand pressure was all that was required to seat that joint. Without boring anyone (too much..) suffice to say, I did the wash-rinse-repeat thing three more times. Not too shabby and I’m reasonably happy with the results if you discount the underexposed photography. My PhD camera failed me! PhD = Push Here, Dummy, sometimes referred to as ‘auto-focus’.

And once I had the stringers together it just seemed natural to shove the legs into place. Like this:

I’ll be dipped if it doesn’t bear passing similarity to the plans. So.. parts are straight, MT are tight, half laps are tight and square, the legs are square to the stretchers, stretchers are flush to the top of the legs..this must be my lucky day! ~speculatively eyes the wife and considers asking for a new tool~ Nah, probably not THAT lucky….

Maybe I’ll work on the tops now…or maybe I won’t. Either way, thanks for looking!


-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

11 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#1 posted 10-23-2009 10:45 PM

Well done

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 3821 days

#2 posted 10-23-2009 11:33 PM

A square dealer you are, this is going to be a very attractive piece of furniture. Your bench need to be complimented as well. You just can’t under estimate the importance of a solid work surface. Very nice craftsmanship Dyna-Blue enjoy the build looking forward in see the end result…Blkcherry

View HeirloomWoodworking's profile


238 posts in 3738 days

#3 posted 10-23-2009 11:57 PM

phd…your killing me…lol

I know I am getting ahead of you…but the lower circular shelf…will it be small enough to fit between the assembled legs? or is it going to have to be placing into the center upon assebly?

With such a nice fit, you could make this a knock-down table, that could be easily dis-assembled for storage..wait who is designing this project you or me?

ah well…just ignore me and continue on with your fantastic work


-- Trevor Premer Head Termite and Servant to the Queen - Heirloom Woodworking

View JEP's profile


3 posts in 3164 days

#4 posted 10-24-2009 12:25 AM

Looking great so far, Dyna-Blue. I told you that you were a fine woodworker! :)

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3820 days

#5 posted 10-24-2009 01:03 AM

This is looking really good so far and I do enjoy your blog. The reality shows on television do not even come close to being as informative and entertaining. :)

Keep ‘em coming.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3188 days

#6 posted 10-24-2009 02:40 AM

The lower shelf will be 29” in diameter and will have to be installed at the same time the frame is being assembled. In retrospect I should have come up with a different way of attaching the upper stretchers, perhaps a half lapped dovetail, so I could have glued up the bottom, slipped the shelf into place and then glued the top stretchers into place.

Since this furniture is for someone else I’m considering drawboring the tenons, that way the joint will hold even if the glue joint fails. Provided I do it correctly, of course. I’d have to do some experimenting with the hole offset to see how tolerant cherry will be against splitting.

It’s odd..I was just in the shop looking over the base and I tapped one leg which caused the whole thing to strum..makes me think something is under tension from being out of square but so far every joint checks out. Might be the nature of the crossed stretchers. Dunno.

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View CaptainSkully's profile


1598 posts in 3556 days

#7 posted 10-24-2009 04:09 AM

Wow, I thought I was sarcastic… Great blog entry. I’m glad your attention to detail paid off. Sometimes I drive myself crazy over details and something still goes wrong. Good question Trev. Also, besides gravity, what method are you using to attach the top/shelf to the stretchers?

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3188 days

#8 posted 10-24-2009 04:29 AM

Sarcastic? Hmm..I think that was even mentioned on one of my evaluations once. And not in a particularly constructive way.

I am intending on holding the top down thusly:

1. Arrange the top/shelf so that the grain runs along one og the respective stretchers which will make it cross grain along the other stretcher. Probably 2-3 screws on each side of center along the grain and expansion slotted screw holes from the stretcher into the middle of each board across the grain. If that made sense to anyone else it’ll be a first.

2. Wood buttons are an elegant way to accomplish the same thing.

3. Bubblegum. But only the strawberry-kiwi kind.

My first inclination was #1 but a1Jim mentioned buttons and I’ve used them with success on another project.

On another note:
The legs are tapered on three sides, an obvious taper front to back and a more subtle taper on the sides. Anyone have suggestions for success? In all my vast range of experience, both days of it, I’ve not cut tapers before. I was thinking either bandsaw/hand plane or some kind of sexy tablesaw rig. I’ve seen many of them but not having used one before all I get is confused. Which can be regrettably easy to accomplish.

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View JEP's profile


3 posts in 3164 days

#9 posted 10-24-2009 11:01 AM

Using the table saw/hand plane should give you the best consistency. Check the web, tapering jig ideas are plentiful and pretty easy to make.

View CaptainSkully's profile


1598 posts in 3556 days

#10 posted 10-25-2009 06:57 PM

I would use a shop-made tapering sled with hold-downs for your table saw. The aluminum ones you buy at the store are dangerous. Once you’ve made a jig, you can use it on all sorts of projects.

Tapering Jig

Tapering Jig

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3188 days

#11 posted 10-26-2009 03:21 AM

Hey, Captain! I made something along those lines but it uses the mitre slots. I did check to make sure my aluminum hold downs wouldn’t be able to contact the blade. I got a free metal taper jig from somewhere but I have never used it and popular opinion is, as you say, against them for safety reasons.

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

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