A Rustic New England End Table Explained
By Derek Skapars
Expert Author Derek Skapars
No matter where you live, or what you do for a living, each and every one of our lives includes furniture. We sit behind a desk, eat dinner at the kitchen table, and empty the contents of our pockets in the night stand draw at the end of the day before we climb into bed. There are numerous variations and many different styles of furniture. My focus is rustic furniture and through examining the steps I took to make a log style end table with a shelf, you can better understand the world of rustic furniture making.
If you have ever hiked a mountain trail or walked your dog in the woods, you have seen sticks, branches, logs, small trees, big trees, and many different species of plant life around you. This surrounding (the forest), is half my lumberyard. It is here, in the woods, where I harvest table legs and supporting braces and stretchers for my rustic furniture creations.
The project was to create a knotty pine rustic end table with a shelf. The table top was to be 24” by 24”. The height from the ground was to be 22”, and the table top thickness was to be 1”. The Shelf was to be 7” from ground and 1/2” thick, being cut around each unique table leg. The leg thickness was to be 2”. With the dimensions specific and figured out up front, I walked into the Massachusetts forest armed with a tape measure, pocket knife, folding hand saw and strong imagination. To my left was crazy shaped maple trees, to my right was young sassafras, then right in front of me was 3” thick pine trees all clustered together. They were young and uniquely shaped, perfect for the end table. So I cut 5 young trees down, leaving a 6” stump so I didn’t kill the tree’s root system.Every tree I cut, I pruned away branches, and removed the thin tops, leaving me with about 25” of workable tree. They were then taken to the woodshop to be de-barked with a draw knife and left to dry for three weeks in a dry, warm climate. The harvested log legs without the bark revealed a white color with brown knots where the branches were removed.
The table top and shelf lumber were then purchased from the lumber yard, 12 board feet at 8/4 thickness of Eastern White Pine planks got selected for the project. At the woodshop, I rough-milled the pine with my jointer and thickness planer, taking material from the top and bottom of the boards. They then got stickered to let air circulate and put away for two weeks to acclimate to the shop environment. I edge glued the table top boards together as well as the shelf boards after finish milling the stock to final dimensions. I scraped the glue off, card scraped the surfaces, and lightly sanded the surfaces with 220 grit.
The hardware used for the leg joinery was t-nuts and hanger bolts. I recessed the t-nuts in the tabletop and made each t-nut 3” in from each corner. The hanger bolt was inserted into the legs that were dry and cut to the right height. Each leg got srewed into the t-nut designated for that leg. Screws held the shelf in place 7” from the ground. I used a carboard template to get the shape around the legs, and then traced the shape onto the pine board with a pencil, then proceeded to cut around the pencil line with the bandsaw before attaching with screws. I used plugs to hide the screw holes joining the shelf. I sanded the end table with 220 grit, and applied two coats of amber shellac. The final step was to add screw-in levels to the legs. That way an uneven floor isn’t a problem.
Rustic furniture making is fun, unique, and a passion of mine. Every piece takes on its own identity. I also feel it makes me build fine furniture better, because when making log furniture you have to use improvisation in every step. The habit of using improv in furniture making is very important. Woodworking involves wood, tools, design, creativity, improvisation, and patience. Making rustic furniture is fun and easy when you take it one step at a time.
-- derek, texas