When I returned to woodworking several years ago my nephew had been talking about a particular style of “coffee” table he’d seen online somewhere and was describing it to me. Since he’d just announced plans to marry, I told him I’d make him, and his fiancée, the table as a wedding gift.
He showed me some online photos of the table, which I used as the basic, general design plan. The joinery I chose is original but the style was taken from the photos.
This piece is the result:
My nephew came with me to a local lumber yard to pick out the type of wood and grain pattern that he wanted. He’s not a woodworker but I did get him involved in a few aspects of this project.
The entire piece is made from solid 4/4 and 12/4 stock wood.
Each leg is essentially a hollow box. After gluing up sufficient walnut “planks” with enough width (across the grain for the height of the legs, I cross cut each “plank” so the grain sequence would flow or “wrap” entirely around each leg. I used rabbet joints for the leg corners. My first thought was that 45 degree miters would be more appealing, but I didn’t trust myself to cut the miters perfectly for the entire width of the cut (height of the legs). Thus rabbet joinery seemed to be safer, though at the expense of visual appeal.
Each hollow leg has a base of red oak tongue and grooved into the lower portion of the inside of the leg 1inch from the bottom. Because of the size or footprint of each leg, I used two levelers within each leg’s base to ensure the table would sit level on either carpeted or smooth surface floors. An unforeseen benefit to this is that even though the table is quite heavy, it actually slides on either type of floor surface quite easily for moving it around as needed.
The following picture shows the underside after all the glue-up was complete. In this picture, you can see that I’ve temporarily replaced the leveler’s feet with bolts until the table was completely finished. This allowed me to move it around the shop (to some people it’s called a garage) without worrying about damaging the actual feet that came with the levelers.
To mark the project as a gift on their wedding day, I woodburned a wedding message into the underside of the top:
The top is a frame/panel design. The panel is basically 4/4 stock walnut, which my nephew specifically picked out for the top. I used a glue line interlocking type router bit on each edge before edge-joining/gluing together each of the four planks that make up the panel. Since I don’t have a drum sander (and am very jealous of all you LJs who do), and lacked hand planes at the time to do a sufficient job of flattening the panel, I took the panel down to a local millshop to have it drum sanded flat on both top and bottom. That cost me $20 bucks but was well worth it since I didn’t want to take a chance with my hand-held belt sander and not getting it dead flat.
I routed a tongue around the entire perimeter of the panel to be received by the corresponding groove in the frame pieces. The photo below shows a dry fit of the panel and frame before cutting the key slots in the miter joints.
The frame is made of 12/4 stock walnut. I decided to use 45 degree miters at the corners which I cut on my table saw. The grooves (for the tongue and groove) were done on my router table. I also decided to use a “key” lock vertically in the miters perpendicular to the miter joints at the corners. In order to do this I made a jig for my router table sufficient to handle frame pieces this large. The next few photos show this process. I made the jig so I could use it for any angle between 90 to 30 degrees. It is bolted onto the mite-r-slide on my router table.
The photo below shows the set up for cutting the key slot for one of the longer two pieces of the frame. I used a ½ inch spiral up-cut bit in multiple passes, increasing the depth until the depth matched ½ the size of the key size.
(As you can see above my “shop” extends out into my driveway thanks to mobile bases. My primary dust collection system is called “prevailing Kansas winds”. It sure keeps the garage cleaner)
Fastening the top to the legs:
The design of this table posed some challenges in deciding how to join the legs to the top. I much prefer wood joinery and really dislike using metal fasteners, unless absolutely necessary. Even though I’m sure there are many ways in which I could have chosen to join the legs and top, I chose to basically dado grooves on the underside of the top to accept each leg. Then for strength and stability I decided on a series of braces that were also dado’d
into the legs,
into the underside of the top,
into the frame itself, and
between the legs that are on each end of the table
The dados were cut by a combination of (1) a handheld router using a homemade straight-edge guide (it’s called a board) and (2) hammer and chisel. In the photo directly below you can see the connecting braces being fitted to the legs, the top, and the frame of the top.
The photos below shows the legs and braces being simultaneously clamped to the top (and frame by way of the braces that serve as structural supports). As you can see I used gorilla glue for attaching the legs and braces:
I wasn’t sure how stable this technique would be, but I was very pleased with the result. There is absolutely zero wobble or sway in the legs…which was a concern due to their weight and the fact that there are no cross braces near the bottoms of the legs. The legs and top truly are “one piece” as a result. For this I was thankful.
All edges were rounded over using a 3/16 inch round over bit in my handheld router. The piece was sanded to 220 grit. This was repeated after wiping down the entire piece with water to raise the grain. The finish was four coats of wipe-on poly/oil blend. This was followed by two coats of paste wax, with the first one being rubbed in with 0000 steel wool.
One reservation I have for the construction style I chose was whether or not moisture content changes over time would ever effect the frame/panel top and the bracing design for attaching the legs. It’s been 2 ½ years since this table was completed and I’m happy there are no signs yet whatsoever of any changes in the joints, etc., and it remains rock solid… so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
I hope you enjoy this post. I’m also posting this table as an LJ project.
-- Martin, Kansas