Curly Cherry and Walnut Side Table

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Project by tallinstaller posted 04-21-2013 08:03 PM 3032 views 8 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project started out as a big beautiful slab of curly cherry that I acquired. It was thirteen inches wide and six foot long and just hair over 4/4 thick. Clear as a bell and the darkest, richest cherry I’ve ever seen. I needed a table to go by a papasan chair so I decided to use the board for the top. I wanted to go with a two tone table with the legs a different species than the top and aprons. I started researching table design as I had never made a table before. The board sat in my lumber rack for probably a year before I decided on a design for the table. I wanted an end table with a drawer and a shelf and was limited to 13 inches width by the width of the board for the top. I didn’t want to glue up a top as I had such a wide board. I saw a picture of a table that had a drawer on the end that looked just like the apron on the other end. You would never know it was there unless someone showed you or you got underneath the table. I liked that because the table could act as a hall table up against the wall if it ever needed to. I then found a collection of tables by Todd Woodesign that I fell in love with for the simple curved aprons and tapered legs and overall proportions. I drew up something similar in sketchup and played with dimensions and ratios until it drove me nuts. I even made a prototype out of dimensional pine. After living with the prototype for a while I could see all the things I didn’t like. I’m glad I did too because I changed both the leg thickness and taper locations, apron hight and shelf hight.

I pulled down some nice dark 6/4 walnut from my rack and started laying out legs to get nice straight grain on all four sides. I wasted half the board to get my four legs but it was worth it for the leg stock I ended up with. The prototype’s legs were 6/4 thick but the finished thickness on the final piece was 1 1/8. I laid out the aprons, shelf and top on the cherry and started cutting it up. The aprons went through the jointer and planer but the top and shelf had to have one side flattened by hand before thicknessing. The top ended up 7/8 thick and the shelf 1/2. I beveled the underside of the top with a hand plane and chamfered the top edge. I made the legs, roughing out the taper on the bandsaw and cleaning it up with a No. 4. I cut mortises and notches for the shelf. The mortises are done with a router and squared up with a chisel. The mortises meet in the middle of the rear legs and the tenons are mitered to get the most glue surface and longest tenons possible. I cut the tenons at the table saw with a dado blade and fitted them with my shoulder plane. I made plywood templates for the curve on the aprons and roughed out the curves on the bandsaw and then used a flush cutting bit at the router table to finish it up. Then I cut some 1/8 inch strips of walnut, ran a bead on one edge and glued them to the bottom of the curves on the aprons and drawer front. I just used glue and a bunch of clamps to bend them to conform to the curves. I used some maple for the runners for the drawer to ride on and glued them to the aprons. I glued in top runners to serve double duty as runners and to screw through to hold the top on. Spacers between the upper and lower runners make sure of a consistent gap for the drawer.

At this point I was ready to prefinish the top and shelf and then do some gluing up. I gave all the aprons a smoothing with the No. 4 and glued up. The glue up went smooth and everything was nice and tight and square. At that point I turned my attention to the drawer. I had never cut half blind dovetails and couldn’t afford to mess these up since my drawer front was all ready done so I decided to cut four corners on some scrap and if they were ok by the last two I should be good to go. All four were near perfect so I went ahead with the drawer and they turned out just great! The hardest structural part of this design was how to get the drawer to sit at the same offset from the legs as the aprons and still have structural support in two places across the front to keep the piece square. To do that I cut a rabbet on the bottom of the drawer front to let the drawer clear the bottom stretcher mortised into the legs under the drawer. I was smarter on the top and mortised the stretcher into the top runners so I was able to keep full thickness there. The drawer sides and bottom are made of curly maple for a nice contrast. The back of the drawer is cherry with through dovetails and the bottom is slid in from the back into grooves in the sides and the front. I ran a screw though the bottom into the back and then put the drawer in and backed the screw out a bit to act as a stop for the drawer. The finish for the table is clear sprayed lacquer over BLO wet sanded to 600 grit except the top and shelf which are sanded through 2000 grit and then buffed out with automotive polishing compound and machine polish to a mirror shine. I used a power buffer! The drawer is finished inside and out with a thin cut of dewaxed shellac. Everything got a couple of coats of wax as a final finish. I also used a candle to wax the drawer runners and the top and bottom of the drawer sides so the drawer slides real smooth.

The table now resides next to the papasan chair in my living room. It usually has woodworking books or magazines on the shelf and a drink on top. This is the first piece of furniture I’ve ever required a coaster under all glasses. I love it, although the drawer may have been a waste of time as nothing has ever been in it. I’ve taken a ton of pictures of this piece since I finished it three months ago but was never happy enough with any of them to post them. I wrote up the build this morning and decided to get some good ones so I took it outside and laid out a white blanket as a backdrop. These turned out very well and I was able to really capture the curl on the top in one picture while the sun was out. Overall a very satisfying build.


-- Jason

12 comments so far

View pwalter's profile


79 posts in 2784 days

#1 posted 04-21-2013 09:04 PM

Beautiful table!

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3777 days

#2 posted 04-21-2013 09:27 PM

Beautiful woods and a fine build Jason,A excellent piece.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View BenR's profile


340 posts in 2828 days

#3 posted 04-22-2013 01:59 AM

Fabulous! I like everything about it – the lines, the curves, the choice of wood, and the finish. You did Mother Nature proud. Congratulations on a fine build.

-- Ben in Va

View Norwegian's profile


42 posts in 4137 days

#4 posted 04-22-2013 06:23 AM

Nice table with a fine combination of wood.
How is the end with the drawer constucted. Is the two legs connected with a hidden apron?

-- Norwegian (living in Sarpsborg, Norway)

View joseph000's profile


346 posts in 2227 days

#5 posted 04-22-2013 09:32 AM

Very nice sharing tallinstaller.Side table is the most useful piece of furniture in the home.A Wood side table is important when it comes to decorating your home, not only for design but also for functionality.

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 2543 days

#6 posted 04-22-2013 02:54 PM

beautiful wood

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2685 days

#7 posted 04-22-2013 04:10 PM

I love everything about this piece. Phenomenal work.

-- Brian Timmons -

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 4023 days

#8 posted 04-22-2013 05:15 PM

Gran work on this beautiful Curly Cherry a show piece for sure, you have to be very pleased…BC

View tallinstaller's profile


43 posts in 3447 days

#9 posted 04-22-2013 07:00 PM

Hi there, Brian in Arlington! Thank you for your kind words. I was just looking at your swords the other day. I’m just in McKinney. Are there any woodworking get together a in the dfw that you know of?

-- Jason

View je_superfly's profile


74 posts in 2310 days

#10 posted 04-22-2013 07:09 PM

Wow this table is incredible! The proportions to the grain itself…great eye for detail! Very well done sir.

-- -James, Sumerville SC

View Douglas's profile


424 posts in 2760 days

#11 posted 04-22-2013 08:27 PM

yeah, that’s OK for a first table…

hahaha! Come on, that’s great! Really great choice of wood. You did all the right things: making a prototype, practicing your dovetails before using your final material. You should be proud.

-- Douglas in Chicago -

View Natalie 's profile


367 posts in 2166 days

#12 posted 04-23-2013 04:52 AM

Very nice. You did a great job of doing justice to a beautiful piece of wood.

-- Natalie - My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I don't like to go there alone.

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