Nakashima-inspired elm burl coffee table.

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Project by WillDyckman posted 02-10-2015 02:07 AM 2803 views 10 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was a student project that incorporated a number of significant ‘firsts’ for me. My first time making butterfly keys, first attempt at a slab table, first use of housed sliding dovetails as attachment between top and base, the list goes on.

The top is an elm burl slab that I picked up from Evan Shively in Marin County, CA. It required six butterfly keys to stabilize the various cracks and checks. I made the keys from lignum vitae that someone at the school shop had discarded as scrap.

The base is made of white oak harvested 30 years ago in northern California. I had hoped to have the base entirely cantilevered, but I went with a compression fit for the joinery (this was for a Japanese woodworking class) and, given the 52” length of the slab, there was too much play when I applied pressure at the extreme end of the top. So I added a small hand-planed walnut dowel as a support to stiffen things up.

The butterfly keys initially fit much better than they do now, for the following reason: on the advice of my teacher I tapered the keys slightly so that I could create a nice tight fit when placing them in their mortises. I then went to hand-plane the keys and top and all of that figured elm coupled with the contrasting grain of the keys resulted in massive tear-out. I ended up having to run the top through the Timesaver and remove almost 1/8” of material—which, while ‘erasing’ the tear-out from my failed attempts at hand-planing, also wore down the keys to the point where I had tapered them, resulting in the gaps that you can see in the photos above.

Still, I’m pretty satisfied with this as a first attempt at a Nakashima-style table, particularly given that the only glue employed was to hold the butterfly keys in their mortises.



18 comments so far

View DavidTTU's profile


115 posts in 1057 days

#1 posted 02-10-2015 02:28 AM

Incredible. Excellent execution.

View RMorris's profile


30 posts in 624 days

#2 posted 02-10-2015 02:38 AM

Wonderful table. I would love to see it in place.

-- If you are going to make it, make it last.

View WillDyckman's profile


11 posts in 629 days

#3 posted 02-10-2015 05:32 AM

Thanks, folks. The table is at my friend’s photo studio as I don’t have a safe spot for it where I’m currently living. Once I get my live/work woodshop going in Oakland I’ll be giving the table pride of place.



View watermark's profile


482 posts in 1364 days

#4 posted 02-10-2015 06:03 AM

Great piece! Love that slab

-- "He who has no dog, hunts with a cat" Portuguese proverb

View deon's profile


2507 posts in 2447 days

#5 posted 02-10-2015 06:54 AM

Great work!

-- Dreaming patterns

View LoganN's profile


323 posts in 1322 days

#6 posted 02-10-2015 12:37 PM

Nice job! The keys looks great (I just did my own first ones this weekend) and the dimensions are solid. I love the base – nice look overall!

View ncdon's profile


214 posts in 2298 days

#7 posted 02-10-2015 01:09 PM

Let see, I have a great looking Walnut slab out in the shop, and I need a coffee table, ummm. This one goes to my favorites. Hope you don’t mind but I foresee a very similar table in my future. Thank you for sharing.

-- Don, North Carolina, Working full time at retired.

View mdennisusa1's profile


38 posts in 1575 days

#8 posted 02-10-2015 01:39 PM

Great job and learning experience!

View Ben's profile


67 posts in 659 days

#9 posted 02-10-2015 03:27 PM

That right there is just beautiful. Well done!

View _Daniel_'s profile


38 posts in 850 days

#10 posted 02-10-2015 05:14 PM

Very nice work. True to the essence of Nakashima’s Early Minguren End Table.

View mcoyfrog's profile


3800 posts in 3016 days

#11 posted 02-10-2015 06:39 PM

awesome table love the living feeling

welcome to LJ’s

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View david38's profile


2391 posts in 1765 days

#12 posted 02-10-2015 08:34 PM

nice work

View Woodbridge's profile


3451 posts in 1840 days

#13 posted 02-10-2015 10:22 PM

beautiful table.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View Mean_Dean's profile


4943 posts in 2569 days

#14 posted 02-11-2015 01:14 AM

Beautiful slab—and even better looking table!

-- Dean

View bobkberg's profile


420 posts in 2495 days

#15 posted 02-11-2015 02:18 AM

Very nice! Good luck with your future projects as well.

-- Bob - A sideline, not how I earn a living

showing 1 through 15 of 18 comments

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