Nest of tables

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Project by rilanda posted 07-17-2012 09:55 AM 1246 views 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

These tables were made about seven years ago, they were made in Brazilian Mahogany with a figured Makore veneer applied to the tops and a balance veneer applied to the u/side of the tops. the principal table was cross banded with Queensland Walnut and inlaid with a Sycamore banding. Below is the method I followed to make these tables, hope you find it of interest.

This nest of tables appears on face value to be relatively simple to make, however it can prove to be a little more difficult than first meets the eye.
It is necessary to make a full size setting out rod before any marking-out takes place to determine angles etcetera. Once the rod is made then select and mark face side and edge to all non-turned items. Carefully mark out and cut templates from 6 mm MDF or ply for the feet &top rails of table one. These templates should contain all the information for all three tables, it is important they should be accurately marked out for the drilling centres of the stretcher rails and the legs. Drill the centre marks through with a hole to suit the diameter of a suitable transfer punch. Using the completed templates mark-out the feet and top rails to shape and also for the drilling centres. It is important here to remember to mark out in pairs to achieve this reverse the template for the feet and mark out the drilling centre for the bottom rail with the transfer punch from the opposite face. The top rails are not handed, these are marked for shape, drilling centres for the legs and also the rebates to the top rails of tables 1 & 2, and these carry the next table below eventually leaving the main table supporting the entire remaining table. Clearly mark-out the shoulder size on one leg and each of the three stretcher rails these must be able to be clearly seen on a rotating lathe. Make sure the shoulder length of the legs are precisely the same length however the shoulder lengths of the stretcher rails vary by 50 mm between each separate table. This ends the marking-out.
Start the process of making the feet by drilling the hole for the legs. This process was performed on a drill press with the table tilted to the correct angle and a fence set square to the table and bolted into position. If a tilting table is not an option the angle can be achieved by the introduction of a tilt block attached to the table and fixed into position. These holes are 12 mm diameter * 25 mm deep, perpendicular with the face side of the foot but are 82.5 degrees to the horizontal in the opposite elevation. It is sensible to drill these holes at this stage BEFORE any shaping work takes place to avoid any complications shaped pieces would present. Similarly before any shaping work, using the same angle setting and the same drill (note these holes are only 20 mm deep) produce the holes in the top rails to receive the legs. Using a 12 mm drill pro-duke the holes in the feet for the stretcher rails to 15 mm deep this process will hand the feet so make sure you have 3 pairs. Next drill the top rails for the dowels to attach the tops (note the position of these dowels) these should be 20 mm deep to allow 10 mm of dowel to penetrate the top. The screw fixing to fix the top rail to the top is optional, should you decide to use it then drill and counter bore for the pellets now. Drilling complete shaping the feet and top rails can be done; to ensure uniformity the feet and rails can be lightly glued together in their respective pairs (2 small beads of hot melt adhesive between each pair) so they can carefully be separated after all shaping and cleaning up of the edges have been completed. Care-fully remove the waste on the band saw (ignoring at this stage the cut outs at the rear of the feet for tables 2 & 3) leaving about 1 mm on for final removal with a bobbin sander or spoke shave finishing the edges with a fine sandpaper With this work to the feet and rails complete separate the pairs and produce the cut outs to the rear of feet to table 2 & 3 this can be helped by drilling a 25 mm diameter hole to produce the radius section and carefully cutting out the remainder with the band saw; finally finish with bobbin sander and fine sandpaper. Now is also the time to produce the stopped chamfers to the feet, these require careful marking out of the stop positions and are produced using a bearing guided cutter with the router mounted in the router table, the bearing is actually running on the work piece, a cutter suitable for this work would be Wealdon T916B or any equivalent of other manufacture. Make sure all guards are in position; the use of a substantial holding jig is essential to carry out this operation the pieces must be firmly held to avoid the risk of the piece being ejected from the jig and possible contact with the cutter being made DON’T TAKE RISKS. Use a sharp cutter and reduce the speed of the router to avoid any burn marks on entry or exit of the cutter as these will be difficult to remove later. Of course, should you wish it is possible to produce these chamfers using traditional methods, or if you desire then omit the chamfers altogether, although I believe they do add something to the final appearance of the tables. Finally produce the rebates in the top rails of tables 1 & 2 only; the size of this rebate is important.
First mark out all turning centres to the ends of legs and stretcher rails then to help with the turning, remove the corners to make them octagonal, this can be done using a table saw or by passing them through a thicknesser on a jig (see sketch). Now turn the spigot to each end of all pieces these must be accurate to produce a strong joint, avoid either tight or loose fit; also con-firm the accuracy of shoulder lengths. I find the use of a simple tapered jam chuck invaluable for this operation. Prepare a marking out rod for the legs and rails to guarantee uniformity, then remount each piece and turn to detail, you will need to use a centre support on the lathe to prevent any “whipping” and to help with the turning. Clean up using fine garnet paper on the lathe nevertheless avoid producing cross sanding marks particularly if the unit is to be stained. It is possible to finish the items with a friction polish on the lathe; however I prefer to leave all finishing to the fully assembled units.
The tops are made using 15 mm MDF that is edged with a hardwood to match the table frame. The top face is veneered over the lippings whereas the bottom face is veneered BEFORE the lippings are applied. This avoids the possibility of the veneer being the bearing surface when the tables are slid together as a set. Cut the MDF to size and lay up the veneers for all faces. Prepare the surface of the MDF by removing the shiny face with a coarse sandpaper to produce a “key” for the glue film. Make sure all the dust is removed before proceeding to apply the veneer. Remember to use an iron with an aluminium base and a veneer hammer with a none ferrous insert to avoid black staining if you are using mahogany or oak. After veneering the veneer is care-fully trimmed back to the MDF and then the tops are grooved to receive the tongue of the edging. Apply the tongue to the edgings aiming for a good fit with the grooves (avoid either a tight or a loose fit as either of these will “telegraph” the edging through the face veneer). The edgings are mitred at each corner and well glued to the top all round [note: it is also important to apply glue to all the mitres during assembly. This avoids any spelching of the edging at the mitre when the moulding is applied]. Once the adhesive has set then carefully flush down the edgings to the surfaces of the top. The tops are veneered on both faces to ensure a balanced construction and to avoid any future distortion that could result if only one side was to be veneered. If, like me you have no press facilities then I find the use of a glue film acceptable for the veneering process. However the use of good quality animal glue using traditional method is also appropriate. Veneering complete, remove any glue residues from around the edges and apply the moulding. You will see from the drawing that the top table [table 1] has a small radius applied to each corner to soften the corner, this is optional, however if required it should be applied before moulding the table edges to allow the edge moulding to continue around the corner. Make a preliminary clean-up of the three tops only removing a small amount of material so that further work can be carried out at a later stage.
Clean up all feet and top rails before assembly it is also at this stage that the feet to tables 2 & 3 are reduced in width to 85 mm then assemble the legs with the feet and top rails. Make sure you make a pair for each table, ensure that the top rail and foot are in the appropriate plane to each other and the legs are all the right way up; it is possible to assemble them incorrectly so beware. To ensure that the frames are flat and square I made a simple assembly jig [see Figure 4] using a piece of flat board [I used 25 mm ply although 18 mm MDF would suffice] and several blocks screwed into position. This allowed the use of a single sash cramp to allow gentle pressure to be applied until the glue had set. Starting with table 1 invert the top on the bench and using the top of table 2 position the leg frames to mark out the dowel positions with dowel centres to locate the legs. With the stretcher rail in place make sure the legs are parallel, square to the end and central in the table’s width, take great care with this operation as mistakes will not be easy to rectify afterwards. Drill the holes 13 mm deep using a drill suitable for the dowels. Now insert the dowels with glue into the top rails of the leg frames and allow the glue to cure; then reassemble with the top dry and mark out the screw positions, drill these with a suitable pilot drill for the screws being used. Give the underside of each top a final clean-up, and also give the top surface and edges a further clean up to leave only a final clean up for after assembly. Now assemble each table with adhesive using the screws to pull the leg frames and tops together and a sash cramp only applied lightly to avoid distorting the leg frames to assemble the stretcher rail into position. Check for square and leave aside to for the glue to set. Assemble all three tables in a similar manner then after curing place each table into its correct rebate position and check the fit. With the three tables assembled the two smaller tables should have a floor clearance of about 2 mm on a hard floor, if the tables are to be used on a carpeted floor this clearance can be increased by a further 5 mm maximum.
Clean up the whole assembly working down through the grades of paper to prepare the tables for their finish. I chose to use a natural finish produced by using a fortified French polish. Several coats are applied with each coat allowed to dry thoroughly and then rubbed down with a fine paper. The final finish is achieved with wax applied with a fine abrasive pad and then buffed up.

-- Bill, Nottingham. Remember its not waiting for the storm to end, but learning to dance in the rain that counts. If you dont make mistakes, you make nothing at all.

3 comments so far

View Tom Godfrey's profile

Tom Godfrey

488 posts in 2379 days

#1 posted 07-17-2012 11:02 AM

Super nice but that’s more work than I care to undertake at this stage of my woodworking skills. Going to save this for maybe later on, say two or three years from now.
Great job and also impressed with your wood working skills.
Have a great day.

-- Tom Godfrey Landrum South Carolina (

View Brit's profile


7545 posts in 3046 days

#2 posted 07-17-2012 08:13 PM

Excellent craftsmanship Bill. Thanks again for the detailed write up.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View a1Jim's profile


117338 posts in 3780 days

#3 posted 07-17-2012 08:13 PM

Wow super nest of tables great job.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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