A walnut sofa table with Jacobean influences

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by John Fry posted 04-30-2008 03:36 AM 7380 reads 4 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

First I want to thank everyone who visited and responded to my last two project blogs;

A small table that took a whole lot of work

A veneering extravaganza!

As always I welcome your comments AND critiques on this latest project.

This commissioned sofa table’s concept was borrowed from a late seventeenth century round gate-leg table.

The client wanted it in a dark walnut with “antique shading”, and asked that the back of the table be as detailed as the front so it could be used away from the sofa if desired.

This elevated shot shows the grain and antique shading of the table’s top.

I used a Legacy Ornamental Mill to sculpt the barley twisted legs. I set the Legacy up and cut the mortises for the aprons in the 2” X 2” walnut stock as the very first milling procedure. Then I milled the stock round from the apron block down.

Next, I cut the top and bottom terminuses for the twists.

Here is one leg on the mill and I’m routing the barley twists.

All the twists are done, and here you can see the right and left twists of the four legs and the two backup legs. The two legs on the left side of the table spiral up and inward towards the center, and the two legs on the right are an opposing twist. This design gives the table balance and guides the eye upward and to the center of the piece. I see pieces where commercially purchased moldings and legs all spiral in one direction and to me, the balance is lost.

The final step on the Legacy is to mill 5/8” round tenons/dowels on the top and bottom of the spiral section of the leg, and part off the upper apron blocks. I decided on this construction technique because the bottom has to go through a flat stretcher and into a turned foot, and by separating the spiral from the upper apron block, this allows me to turn and position the twisted part of the leg at glue up time for the best appearance, and be certain of the alignment of all the spirals.

I turned the feet on the lathe two at a time.

Using chucks on the lathe, and a 5/8” forstner bit, I drilled the round mortises in the apron blocks and the feet.

The curved aprons called for bent laminations. From a full size drawing on ¼” MDF, I measured the inside radius of the curve and built a form to use in the vac press. I sliced the laminates at 1/8” thick and then drum sanded to 3/32”. For grain matching I used one piece of 6/4 walnut to go across the front of the table. Eight laminates gave me my approximately ¾” curved apron.

Another shot from the end.

I used a narrow block of wood on the waste section of the laminates and screwed through the block, the laminates, and into the form to keep it all from shifting while the vacuum pulled the laminates down against the form.

After the aprons got one of their edges sanded and jointed, I ripped the parallel edge very carefully on the table saw. I built a 90 degree fixture to use as a trimming sled so I could be certain the ends of the curved aprons would be cut at a perfect 90 degrees. I used this same fixture to hold the ends while I routed the mortises to joint the apron to the legs with loose tenons.

The front and back apron profiles would be easy to cut on the flat aprons using the band saw, but because I would have to cut the curved aprons by hand, I cut them all that way for the practice. So I removed the big waste with the band saw, but carefully cut the ogee profile with a coping saw and then shaped and smoothed with a #49 cabinet makers rasp and files.

Here is where I start cutting up my ¼” full size drawing to make templates. This shot shows the table top just after band sawing, and routing to finished size. You can see the carcass dry fit at the other end of the bench.

After the top is shaped, I cut the drawing up some more to get the bottom “flat” stretcher template. Once again, using the template, I draw it on the glue up, band saw close to the line, and then trim with the router.

This design called for a groove and bead-like edge treatment on the lower profile of the aprons. The straight aprons were no problem. I made a template and used a 1/8” round-over bit with a guide bushing and routed away. Bingo!

The curved aprons created different challenges. I made a new bent lamination out of some scrap veneers I had lying around and hand cut the profile needed to make this “curved” template. Using a trim router instead of a big router, I cut the tricky profile detail keeping the router as square as possible to the curved face. It wasn’t perfect, but a little hand work with a few sharp carving chisels and I was done.

The finishing goal was to be a dark walnut with antique shading on edges and in the nooks and crannies. I tried many methods of staining, dying, shading, and toning on samples. The expert finishers will probably scoff at the unorthodox method I used, but it was what worked best for me.

I used a gel stain by General Finishes called Java, and I stained the shaded areas first rather than as a glaze after the main stain.

Then I sanded back to the amount of shading I wanted. I could feather the darker color easily without worrying about cutting into the main stain.

Then I stained the whole piece to get the dark walnut tone and the shading showed through perfectly. I was very satisfied with the effect. Five or six coats of an oil/varnish blend and I’ll be done.

The top is attached to the carcass with cabinetmaker’s buttons except for the front-center, which was attached solidly with screws. This will keep the top’s overhang consistent in the front of the table and around the curves, but still allow the top to expand/contract towards the back.

This close up shows the apron detail and the upper leg joint.

This one shows the leg, to stretcher, to foot.

This was a really neat little project. I enjoyed making this piece because it had so many challenging processes.

Thanks for looking.

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

17 comments so far

View EternalDesign's profile


237 posts in 4234 days

#1 posted 04-30-2008 04:00 AM

Your work is amazing.

-- Brian, Eternal Furniture & Design

View Topapilot's profile


172 posts in 4079 days

#2 posted 04-30-2008 04:01 AM

Your work, and more importantly, the photo tutorials, are great. Thanks!

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4060 days

#3 posted 04-30-2008 04:09 AM


This is a beautiful table and you did a nice job of detailing the construction process. I really enjoy seeing posts like this. I agree that this was a neat project and I can see that you are having fun.

Keep the posts coming. I enjoyed this one greatly.

Thanks for sharing.

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

View Kipster's profile


1076 posts in 3991 days

#4 posted 04-30-2008 04:31 AM

Seeing more and more of the ornamental lathe’s. I guess I have to put one on my list for new tools. They do some really nice work in the right hands. Thanks for sharing. Please post more projects when possible.

-- Kip Northern Illinois ( If you don't know where your goin any road will take you there) George Harrison

View jcees's profile


1071 posts in 4038 days

#5 posted 04-30-2008 04:32 AM

Gorgeous work, my man. Fine execution and your finish work is lovely too. Results are all that matters. Bravo.


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

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 4012 days

#6 posted 04-30-2008 05:19 AM

Exquisite detail and design. Thanks for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Kerry's profile


161 posts in 4029 days

#7 posted 04-30-2008 05:45 AM

Thanks very much for showing all the steps – very educational. And of course the final product is outstanding!


-- Alberta, Canada

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4007 days

#8 posted 04-30-2008 12:23 PM

beautiful work. its nice that you went into such detail. the walnut is such a beautiful wood. thanks for showing the leg twists too. I’ve always wondered how they were made.

View Toolz's profile


1004 posts in 3981 days

#9 posted 04-30-2008 02:30 PM

John, your work is outstanding. Many thanks for showing us in detail how you accomplish your magic.

-- Larry "Work like a Captain but Play like a Pirate!"

View Les Hastings's profile

Les Hastings

1305 posts in 4012 days

#10 posted 04-30-2008 07:19 PM

Great blog John! Excellent work on a great piece.

-- Les, Wichita, Ks. (I'd rather be covered in saw dust!)

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 4230 days

#11 posted 04-30-2008 07:33 PM

Great post John, and I agree with Toolz, stunning work.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View John Fry's profile

John Fry

74 posts in 3939 days

#12 posted 05-01-2008 01:53 AM

Thanks for the kind words everybody.

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3277 posts in 3951 days

#13 posted 05-01-2008 06:12 AM

Your information is so complete and the photographs are exceptional. For those of us who could only wish to accomplish such spectacular pieces, your blogs offer us an inspiring experience in woodworking. Your willingness to share what many of us would not be able to discover on our own is really appreciated.

I must say that your website is extremely thorough and informative as well. I look forward to each new post of yours.

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4054 days

#14 posted 05-07-2008 06:17 AM

I don’t know how I missed this. The designs attention to detail is special. The opposite turning of the legs is just one of them.


-- Scott - Chico California

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 4046 days

#15 posted 05-30-2008 01:10 AM

Where do I begin… I am seeing this for the first time and am blown away. This is why I love LJ. To not only have access to viewing such outstanding projects like this but to have people like youself take the time and blog the process with full descriptions and photos is just a priceless education for me. Again, I am blown away with this beautiful piece of furniture.

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics