Rosewood Sofa Table

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Project by RobertKleeman posted 12-01-2011 12:59 PM 3469 views 14 times favorited 37 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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Some time back, I was contacted by a customer in possession of a late Georgian English Rosewood Sofa Table. The table, while in near perfect condition, presented a problem in that it would not support the weight of the clients equally valuable and important Remington Bronze Sculpture.

The original intention of the client and his designer was to have the Sofa Table altered by shortening the original dovetailed drawers in order to make room for a support beam to be installed under the top in the center of the frame. While this would have solved the immediate dilemma it would have destroyed an almost perfect antique and severely affected it value.

Never being one who enjoys decimating cultural artifacts, I instead suggested that we take detailed measurements of the original and make an adapted reproduction that would retain the aesthetic quality of the original and sell the original to another collector thus preserving its integrity. Given the monetary value of Georgian Sofa Table, this was also the most economic solution.
Frame adaptation

In addition to shortening the original drawer length to allow for the addition of the support beam, the adaptation also added a stretcher between the legs, thus adding additional structural support.

While the original form did not include a stretcher it was still in keeping with the period style.

Without even cutting into any materials the process of measuring every part of the original and creating a working set of drawings was a challenge in and of itself.


The actual construction of the table involved numerous techniques, which covered a multitude of disciplines.

The main carcase involved a variety of joinery methods from dovetails to tenons. The knuckle joints for the leaf supports were particularly challenging. Aptly named for their similarity to intertwined fingers, they are in fact simply a wooden hinge. Carved to allow free movement of the sections and pivoting on a steel pivot…exactly like a door hinge.

The hand cut dovetails were fashioned into the White Oak drawer sides with a coping saw and then cleaned up with a dovetail chisel. A time consuming but gratifying operation.

By far the portion of the construction that presented more than its fair share of headaches was the radius-ed boxwood stringing for the legs and the corners of the top. The material I had selected was commercially available boxwood inlay 3mm square. A perfect dimension for the straight sections, bending them to a curve was problematic.

I first attempted to persuade them into the correct radius using a violin rib bending iron. The heat from the iron and the steam produced is quite effective on the thin maple material used for the “ribs” or sides of a violin. After several trial runs, it became obvious that the 3mm thick boxwood wasn’t impressed at all with this technique. 3mm was just too thick and the stringing kept shattering into smaller sections.

Given the boxwood apparent desire to be in smaller sections. I ripped 1mm x 3mm thick strips from a board of solid, using the bending iron to get the approximate curvature in each section and them gluing up 3 of these pieces around a dowel, turned to the proper radius. Each of these assembled corners was them cleaned, trued and cut to fit in its proper place. The corners for the top were done in a similar fashion using a slightly different jig.

The veneer was applied to the ground work using a traditional hammer gluing process. The veneer and the ground work are first “toothed”. Using a wooden plane, with the blade held almost perpendicular to the surface, the toothed blade both levels the surface of any minor irregularities and adds a surface that is more conducive to adhesion. After toothing the ground work and the veneer are sized with diluted hide glue and allowed to dry completely before proceeding.

Hide glue is made up full strength and applied hot to all the surfaces, using a veneer hammer (seen with the blue handle) the veneer is essential squeegeed down onto the surface and the excess glue is pushed out at the edges. A sticky, messy and slightly smelly operation. Other than the advantage of being historically accurate, the process allows for repositioning and adjustments even after the glue has set. Small bubbles that may occur in the panels can be easily reheated and pressed flat.

Its not often in your life that you are given the opportunity to apply your craft at this level or for such an extended period. A gratifying and memorable time for which I am grateful.

You can see more on my blog if you’re so inclined

37 comments so far

View Andy123's profile


226 posts in 2497 days

#1 posted 12-01-2011 01:17 PM

All I can say is WOW!

-- The mistakes I make in woodworking are not mistakes they just give my projects character- Me

View Ken90712's profile


17563 posts in 3212 days

#2 posted 12-01-2011 01:34 PM

Some amazing work and results I have to agree with above and say WOW!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2744 posts in 3615 days

#3 posted 12-01-2011 03:35 PM

Excellent Craftsmanship! Great job. I too am a big fan of hot animal hide glue.

-- Dennis Zongker

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2717 days

#4 posted 12-01-2011 04:00 PM

Incredible! Fantastic hand skills you’ve got there.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View ed220's profile


624 posts in 3417 days

#5 posted 12-01-2011 04:10 PM

Simply amazing!! Great job !

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2821 days

#6 posted 12-01-2011 04:16 PM

First of all, you are to be applauded for balking at “altering” the original.

Your craftsmanship and pride of workmanship are very apparent and your adherence to the old methods has kept the piece a faithful reproduction.

Finally, thanks for adding another voice in support of the fine art of veneering the way it is supposed to be done.

An inspirational piece of work Robert.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2800 days

#7 posted 12-01-2011 04:35 PM

Cannot say any more than the rest. Your skill and craftsmanship speak for itself. It is a shame that you did not make a pair of them at the same time. This is a “keeper!”

I really enjoyed the blog and this.

Thank you!

-- David in Damascus, MD

View JaLatham's profile


52 posts in 2393 days

#8 posted 12-01-2011 04:41 PM

Absolutely stunning. The level of craftsmanship you have been blessed with is excellent. Bravo.

View RobertKleeman's profile


20 posts in 2494 days

#9 posted 12-01-2011 04:47 PM

Thank you all for your compliments and thoughts.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2800 days

#10 posted 12-01-2011 05:19 PM

Question for you – In toothing both the base material and the veneer (can you tell I don’t do this), do you keep the toothing perpendicular or does it not matter?

Also, what is the base hardwwod

-- David in Damascus, MD

View sras's profile


4807 posts in 3153 days

#11 posted 12-01-2011 05:21 PM

Fantastic! An impressive display of your skills. I am sure your clients are pleased with their new table.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View IrreverentJack's profile


727 posts in 2867 days

#12 posted 12-01-2011 05:57 PM

A wonderful table and a superb post. Thank you Robert. -Jack

View WoodSpanker's profile


519 posts in 3415 days

#13 posted 12-01-2011 07:05 PM


-- Adventure? Heh! Excitement? Heh! A Woodworker craves not these things!

View Puupaja's profile


310 posts in 3124 days

#14 posted 12-01-2011 07:28 PM

Looks really great table and lot of work…


View topspin's profile


62 posts in 3442 days

#15 posted 12-01-2011 07:57 PM

It appears that you veneered rosewood on mahogany. Is that how the original was done… or was it solid rosewood?

-- Seems that talent only gets you so far... effort makes you successful.

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