A small table that took a whole lot of work

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Blog entry by John Fry posted 04-10-2008 06:20 AM 15318 reads 31 times favorited 40 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my first blog entry ever. :-)

So I hope I do it right. This is a photo essay of the construction of a couple of “Drum Tables”.

A drum table made of Indonesian rosewood and wenge.

A second table of Asian ebony and wenge was made at the same time.

They have a 21” diameter at the top, and stand 23” tall. The main cylinder has an 18” outside diameter. The curved side panels are all bent laminations, and veneered with the final wood choice.

The curved door is mounted with three barrel hinges and the drawer is “piston fit” into the upper carcass compartment.

The tops are a veneered, sixteen segment starburst pattern with a solid wood wenge border and profile.

All the veneers for these tables are shop sawn at 3/32” thick and drum sanded to 1/16” inch final thickness.

The veneers where laid out for the most attractive “slip” match appearance and then were edge jointed and glued into panels. There are five panels, three for the outsides of the three permanent side panels, and one for the door and drawer front, and one smaller one for the inside of the door.

The structural design is plywood disks that are trimmed in either solid wenge, or in the case of the base, veneered wenge. The main lower carcass is made up of a round torsion box, that is wrapped with bending ply and then veneered with wenge.

This is the bottom the carcass. I formed a recessed base that is veneered with wenge and cut the inlay hole for my signature medallion. These clamps are holding the edge trim wenge, the outer bending ply was laminated using three band clamps.

Four layers of wenge are veneered over the bending ply to create the base. I went this thick because the top of this wenge will be routed into part of the base’s profile.

Next, it was time to start making the disks that complete the complicated curved profiles. Each disk will have eight solid wenge edge segments. The inner radius MUST be absolutely perfect to match the outer curve of the disks. I used a router trammel to make the cut.

There are five disks in each table, counting the top, and they are of three different thicknesses.

Once again the router trammel is my friend when trimming the outer diameter.

A cove bit and the trammel created this profile which becomes a part of the overall profile on the base.

Two different profile disks are vacuum pressed onto the base carcass to ensure a flat and good glue up. The secret to keeping everything aligned is the center holes in each component.

It’s time to move on to the curved panels. I built a form with a radius that will result in the outside dimension of the panels equaling an 18” diameter. This form will be covered with bending ply to provide a good solid surface for the panels.

Using four layers of 1/8” bending ply and one layer of 1/16” veneer, my panels will be 9/16” thick. I cut the plywood sheets to be 2” oversized, and trimmed the veneer panels to match. This allowed me to use centerlines and screws to hold the stack to the form with no shifting.

Here you see one of the Asian ebony panels sucked down to the form. The short pieces of blue tape are to protect the bag from the round head screws, and the long piece you see crossing the lay-up, is the line where the panel will be cut to separate the upper and lower panels and yet maintain grain continuity.

While the eight curved panels for the two tables were being pressed, I moved on to the veneered starburst table tops. I have a sled that is adjustable to tweak perfect 12 or 16 segment pie shapes. After carefully selecting the book-matched pairs, I started cutting the wedges for both table tops.

The matched wedges are taped on the back and edge glued together. Clamping pressure is attained by forcing them in between the edges of this simple fixture. And then weight is applied from the top to insure flatness.

The eighths are then carefully fitted and glued into quarters, and then into halves, and then into one complete top.

The top is veneered and trimmed to the round substrate. I used a maple backer veneer.

Just like the thinner disks, the 1” thick top is surrounded by an eight segment frame. Each piece is carefully and individually mitered to match the starburst seams in the top’s veneer. In my opinion, anything less than perfection here looks terrible!

I made a beveling sled to trim the edges of the curved panels.

The tops and bottoms were trimmed square on my table saw sled. The blue tape still marks the upper cut line to separate the upper and lower panels. I had to trim to “perfectly square” before cutting the panel in two. This was all a bit nerve wracking. One mistake and it would be very difficult to go back.

This is a jig to cut the mortises for the stiles in the base, top and center disk. I actually made a jig to make this jig. Once again, everything is “registered” through the center of each component.

This is the dry fit of all the mortises and tenons. You can see the second table carcass on the bench in the background.

All of the vertical members, needed to be gently rounded on the outer face to match the molded curves of their mating surfaces. I did this on the bench with a rasp and a card scraper. I left everything a little proud to be able to do a final, after glue, sculpting.

I needed to cut curved rabbets on each face of the tops and bottoms of each panel to create a ¼” curved stub tenon. I used this set up with just the round guide to cut the inside rabbet, and then added the opposite form (as shown) to cut the outside.

Once again, the router trammel was used to cut the curved groove in between the mortises on all the plates that the stiles and panels would be joined to.

The top’s profile was cut with a roundover bit in the router, but there was no way to cut the fragile ¼” wide bullnose profile on the top’s bead without poking a hole in the center of my veneered top. I used a Lie-Nielson No.66 Beading tool to form the bead.

This is the final dry fit of both the tables. After cutting 1/8” grooves in all the verticals, I used 1/8” splines to align the stiles and panels.

Once everything was fit, I sanded everything to 180 grit, stained all the inside surfaces dark, and began the glue up from the bottom up. I used West Systems Epoxy for this project. In this picture all the panel’s sides, splines, edges, and all the bottom mortises and tenons are glued. The center horizontal divider on the top, is not yet glued, but used as a register to be sure everything is in line, and as a clamping block.

The drawer box side walls were cut and fitted and the top carcass was glued up next. To insure the drawer box was true and square, this was actually done in three stages.

The door was carefully fit and installed. The curved drawer front would not fit in my Leigh D4 jig, so I hand cut the dovetails. The drawer bottom and sides are solid white soft maple, and the box was planed and sanded to a perfect fit.

Here are a few final detail shots. This shows the hand cut, halfblind, dovetails.

The molding profile and the fit of the stiles.

And, of course, the Chisel And Bit medallion inlaid in the inside drawer side.

Thanks for looking!

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

40 comments so far

View Bill Butler's profile

Bill Butler

74 posts in 4004 days

#1 posted 04-10-2008 06:37 AM


That is absolutely stunning workmanship. I could only hope to someday create such an exceptional piece. Thanks for sharing.


View Napaman's profile


5530 posts in 4318 days

#2 posted 04-10-2008 06:54 AM

ditto what bill said…amazing build…and thanks for all the great photos!!! For a guy like me (total beginner) these are great!!

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Rxmpo's profile


268 posts in 3986 days

#3 posted 04-10-2008 07:01 AM


What Bill said… Thanks for the detailed blog. Fantastic!


View HallTree's profile


5665 posts in 4008 days

#4 posted 04-10-2008 07:10 AM

Very, very nice work. And a great presentation.

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3277 posts in 3953 days

#5 posted 04-10-2008 07:27 AM

This has been so incredibly informative. It is certainly not just extraordinary skill, but a great deal of patience, too. I have long wanted to make curved end cabinets with raised-panel cathedral doors, but even after reading this, I’m still without a clue how to achieve it. (Chances are it is so far beyond my capabilities, I should just quit thinking about it.) Everything about your tables is absolutely outstanding. I’m looking forward to more blogs from you. Not everyone with so much talent as you have is willing to share so freely. It is extremely well written. Thanks.

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 4046 days

#6 posted 04-10-2008 11:19 AM

That’s a truly inspirational piece of work. Many thanks for the blog. You really have achieved the highest skill levels in your work.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4063 days

#7 posted 04-10-2008 11:40 AM


This is a wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing the construction steps that went into these tables. Your photographic skills are excellent and the step wise process was clear and concise.

What type of finishing process did you use on the table?

Nice job.

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

View Doug S.'s profile

Doug S.

295 posts in 3949 days

#8 posted 04-10-2008 11:44 AM

Outstanding workmanship. Thanks for the great writeup.

-- Use the fence Luke

View toyguy's profile


1672 posts in 4078 days

#9 posted 04-10-2008 11:59 AM

Very informative blog…..... And you sir give a new meaning to the word craftsmanship.

“A tip of the Hat” to you.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Patrick Jaromin's profile

Patrick Jaromin

406 posts in 4073 days

#10 posted 04-10-2008 01:07 PM

Thanks for posting the details…extremely interesting and informative. Beautiful work you do there, John!

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4231 days

#11 posted 04-10-2008 01:16 PM

Yes, Thank you very much for shareing this project. My earlier attempts to create a star pattern top failed (cutting and glue-up) but now I think it’s worth trying again. It’s going to be very interesting following your future projects as well. Again…Thanx!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Critterman's profile


601 posts in 4051 days

#12 posted 04-10-2008 01:29 PM

John, can not find words enought to express how fantastic a job you did. And what a great blog on how the project was complete…very educational and like I’ve been saying “it’s great to learn from the best here at lumberjocks”. Thanks for the post and sharing such a beautiful project.

-- Jim Hallada, Chesterfield, VA

View jcees's profile


1071 posts in 4040 days

#13 posted 04-10-2008 02:27 PM

SWEEEEEET! I don’t know what else to say.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4137 days

#14 posted 04-10-2008 02:47 PM

WOW! Incredible work!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View VTWoody's profile


95 posts in 4298 days

#15 posted 04-10-2008 03:08 PM


This is not only an excellent piece, but an excellent blog as well. Thank you for sharing this with us. This will definitely be going in my favorites so for the piece and the construction tips that you provide.


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