Shaker Pedestal Table (Version 0.5)

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Project by ChuckV posted 08-24-2013 02:52 PM 2871 views 2 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This cherry Shaker pedestal table offered me a few new skills to practice. This is the first piece of furniture I have made that incorporates a spindle made on my recently acquired lathe. The hand-cut sliding dovetails attaching the legs to the pedestal are also a first for me.

I’m happy with how this came out for my first try. In a video about building this table, Roy Underhill says that the secret to getting this piece just right might be to “have your mind free of impure thoughts”. He adds that he is still chasing it after all these years.

There are a few things that I will do differently in the next version. I hope that my experience with the sliding dovetails will help me to get a cleaner fit the next time. I think that the “knob” near the top of the pedestal is a bit too small in diameter. I will try to get the color of the pieces to match better.

I’m a bit confused about the angle of the top of the legs where they attach. I should have noticed this before but did not. I got the dimensions for the table from the book “The American Shakers and Their Furniture” by John G. Shea. The drawing was measured from the original at the Shaker village in Hancock, MA. But for some reason, the drawing of the legs in the book has the angle as I made them. Yet, the photo of the actual piece shows that the angle is much sharper giving a better flow from pedestal to leg.

On the suggestion of a friend from North Bennet Street School, I installed a “spider” on the bottom for added support. Normally, this should only been seen by dogs and drunks.

I bought the spider here:

Here are some photos that I took along the way.

The finish is Danish Oil and some wax.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

8 comments so far

View punk's profile


181 posts in 2586 days

#1 posted 08-24-2013 04:06 PM

chuck seen pictures of the lathe really looking good the pedestal you turned really looks good,the hole table is nice you really done a good job I did not ferget about your wood have a good day

-- Punk in PA

View Porchfish's profile


847 posts in 2702 days

#2 posted 08-24-2013 04:27 PM

Amazing job for a first ! absolutely ! and you couldn’t have picked a more “unforgiving” wood to attempt your first sliding dovetails. But cherry sure is pretty and it is traditional for the style ! Very nice table in any case and a piece to be proud of. (P.S. my first sliding dovetails were in a “pie crust” top occasional table center post and legs very similar in construction to your cherry ‘shaker’ table mine was in walnut which is easier to deal with than Cherry I used carving tools to get the round shape inside the dovetails…still didn’t look as tight as yours do in the photos) Goodon’ya don s.

-- The pig caught under the fence is always the one doing all the squealing !

View Oldtool's profile


2732 posts in 2360 days

#3 posted 08-24-2013 06:23 PM

Very nice, yep, very nice indeed. Great work on this table, came out beautiful. Great work on the lathe too, was this a first turning for you?, or just a new lathe? Either way, couldn’t have come out much better.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 4084 days

#4 posted 08-24-2013 06:50 PM

Nice work and given your proximity to the Shakers villages, very appropriate.
Nice lathework. I think you nailed the shape.
I believe these tables came in many shapes and styles, even among the Shakers.

Here’s one I took at Hancock, MA – there might be more than one, this one looks quite different!

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View ChuckV's profile


3175 posts in 3697 days

#5 posted 08-24-2013 07:21 PM

Thanks for the kind words.

Oldtool -
I am new to turning. I took a workshop and made some practice pieces. This is the first real thing for me.

Steve -
When you say “took”, do you mean the photo or the table. It would fit into your car trunk!

Very interesting. That table looks just like another one in the book I have. From the book:
The maple pedestal on this page was made at New Lebanon around 1830. Top tenon of the original model was threaded into the disk plate, which, in turn, was screw-fastened to the top.

When the book was written, 1971, the original was at the Shaker Museum in Old Chatham, NY. I believe that museum has since closed. So, I suppose the table could have moved to Hancock, although it looks like cherry rather than maple.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View DS's profile


3020 posts in 2590 days

#6 posted 08-24-2013 08:47 PM

Nicely done. I am convinced that the experiences we have make us better for the lessons learned.
The table looks very nice.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 4084 days

#7 posted 08-25-2013 01:13 PM

Chuck – The precrime unit got me for thinking about taking the table, right after I took the photo.

I have Ejner Handberg’s ‘Shop Drawings of Shaker Furniture & Woodenware’ and the leg design above shows up on other so called “stands” ( he lumps a group of pedestal tables together under this heading). The table leg design you’ve recreated shows up on a sewing pedestal, whereas the leg design in the photo shows up on a workstand (which includes a drawer) and finally the candlestand, which is what you’ve reproduced, shows a quarter round curve like you have but with no flare near the center column.

I think they must have had an inventory of parts and put together whatever they had lying around at the time for themselves. If it sold from a catalog, it might have been different.

Btw, since it unlikely that you completed the piece without ‘impure thoughts’, you can’t really call it a Shaker pedestal table, only a Shaker inspired reproduction – but perhaps reproduction is a bad word?

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View joseph000's profile


346 posts in 2196 days

#8 posted 09-02-2013 11:29 AM

Love it.Nice looking table.Pedestal table is a great furniture piece to have in any home.This table has become more and more popular in recent years.It is a very versatile and functional table.You can use them for dining,gaming and meetings.

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