I got the legs all milled up, 1 3/4” square, and cut the bevels on the bottom. I screwed a fence to my mitre gauge, which had a block of wood glued to it which allowed me to keep the bevels somewhat consistent. I say somewhat, because I think my mitre gauge didn’t lock down when tightened, as there is a very slight variation in the bevels so they don’t meet up in the back on all the legs. Obviously nothing to care about – the only way you’d be able to see the variation was if you flipped the table over and locked at the inner-most corner of each leg.
Just as a refresher, here’s what the finished project is supposed to look like:
I used my circular marking gauge to mark out the mortises, since I don’t have a fancy mortise gauge this took a while. I set the gauge for the top, and marked that out for all 8 mortises, followed by the bottom, middle, and sides. I didn’t adjust the marking gauge until the same line had been marked for each mortise. I also indexed the mark off the same corner each time, so that the offsets would be the same.
I then took each leg to my drill press and aligned the fence so my forstner bit hit smack middle on the center line of the mortise at the top and bottom and started drilling. All told, it took me about an hour to mark and drill out each of the 8 mortises – not bad in my opinion, considering these are my first non-practice mortises :)
I took the rough drilled mortises to my bench and clamped them down, and started to clean them out with a 1” and a 1/4” chisel. This is a really fast process, as my forstner bit is 1/4” as well, so there’s not too much waste to clean up. The latest edition of (I think) Woodsmith magazine has a really good article on doing mortises with a drill press this way. The marking lines are used to line up your chisels, so be sure when you’re drilling you don’t get too close to them. As the article says, it’s best to use a bit that’s a little undersized, but 1/4” is my smallest forstner bit so I make do with what I have. For the first cuts with the chisel, just make tiny cuts around the perimeter of the mortise to establish the mouth. Then, with the 1/4” chisel, work from the middle to each end to clean out the waste. Once the mouth is established, you can pretty much chisel all the way to the bottom of the mortise (at least that’s what I do). A little bit of cleanup is all that’s required usually, and I can do each mortise in about 5-10 minutes.
I’ve got two legs done so far, the two on the right in this picture. You can see the rough drilled mortises I’ve got left to do:
And here’s the view showing all eight:
Once these mortises are done, I’ll probably start working on the top stretchers, followed by the bottom stretchers and the center shelf. I’m really liking poplar, it works really easy, even if it does produce a really fine dust when cutting/planning it – only marginally better than the dust MDF makes (but at least the poplar doesn’t hang in the air, requiring extensive lung protection).
-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"