Open Apron Nesting Tables #1: An Interresting Commission

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 08-27-2014 01:13 AM 1880 reads 3 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Open Apron Nesting Tables series Part 2: Ebonizing and Burl Matching »

Last fall I entered my “Music” table in the Sidney Fine Arts Show on Vancouver Island and while it didn’t sell, it did attract a lot of attention. After the show a local woman contacted me and asked if I would build her a couple of little end tables. I said “sure” and the process began.

She brought me the pair of nesting end tables that she wanted to replace as an indicator of size and general design but she also showed me a photo of another set that she liked and wondered if I could do “something like that”.

The idea of an open apron was the point and she understood when I said I couldn’t actually copy someone else’s design. I also had serious doubts about the structural strength of the aprons and the fine, thin elements in the example so I drew up five alternatives and she chose the one she liked the best. Actually she loved it. That was nice.

With that out of the way I built a prototype to be sure it would all work and to let her see it in three dimensions.

She still liked it and it seemed remarkably strong so we went on to the next step, assembling the real thing out of Walnut. She wanted a very dark, near black look so I suggested ebonizing Walnut and topping them off with four way matched burl tops.

Here are some of the steps in thousand word segments. (including my first cabriole legs)

There was one glitch. Who knew that Walnut wasn’t as strong as Arbutus? The photo shows the short grain failure already re-glued. This was exactly what I didn’t like about the example tables and why I had done a prototype.

A few thousand words on the fix. The aprons are amazingly strong now and stood up to a lot of force when assembling the tables. The cross-bands only show in the very ends of the front/back aprons (from the top) and the ebonizing hides them completely.

That’s long enough for tonight. I’ll get on with the ebonizing an burl matching next time.

Thanks for looking in.


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

20 comments so far

View kiefer's profile


5619 posts in 2718 days

#1 posted 08-27-2014 01:36 AM

Looking good and Iam enjoying the blog .
I like the fix /reinforcement on the apron seem like a good solution .


-- Kiefer

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3975 days

#2 posted 08-27-2014 01:42 AM

Impressive Paul, well executed design. I would like to seethe ebonizing process.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3354 days

#3 posted 08-27-2014 01:42 AM

ahh ha…i knew i smelled some walnut in the air…seeing that scraper makes me hope your digits are ok, this is a really awesome design, i like it….am looking forward to your next instalment…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View gbear's profile


512 posts in 4150 days

#4 posted 08-27-2014 01:52 AM

Great design…like everyone else, I am awaiting the ebonizing installment!

-- gbear, Carmichael, CA

View Woodbridge's profile


3550 posts in 2469 days

#5 posted 08-27-2014 02:06 AM

great looking tables. I have a chair that might go with them. I’m looking forward to your next instalment.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View DocSavage45's profile


8638 posts in 2894 days

#6 posted 08-27-2014 02:08 AM

Great save!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3360 days

#7 posted 08-27-2014 03:23 AM

Hey Paul…this is really some intricate and detailed design. Add me to the group watching the entire process.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10147 posts in 4103 days

#8 posted 08-27-2014 03:38 AM

Very GOOD!

Your design ends up good BIG TIME!

Nice Fix… I was wondering about the Strength of those cross-grain sections… (how about the Upper sections?)
... cool spline work…

Looks great so far… and you’re going to make a smaller version for nesting… COOL…

Thank you for sharing!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View rance's profile


4259 posts in 3212 days

#9 posted 08-27-2014 04:05 AM

Good idea with the splines.

I never noticed before how the legs continue the curve of the aprons on the sides. Very nice touch.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3385 days

#10 posted 08-27-2014 08:11 AM

Excellent table design Paul and your cabriole legs are beautifully shaped. I like your conscientious approach with the splines. I’m pretty sure anything you make will never fail (unless an elephant sits on it). You better watch out though, as your satisfied customer list grows you will find yourself slaving in the shop instead of enjoying your freedom.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3933 days

#11 posted 08-27-2014 11:31 AM

Very nice Paul.
I was wondering what ever became of that prototype table. I remember when you built it.

Nice save – very nice save.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10599 posts in 3480 days

#12 posted 08-27-2014 11:54 AM

Very nice. Great save, too.
Looking forward to seeing the finished pair.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2908 days

#13 posted 08-27-2014 12:14 PM

Great design and a good fix
Look forward to seeing more


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Blackbear's profile


137 posts in 2270 days

#14 posted 08-27-2014 12:28 PM

That’s a cool project. It will have a very light feel to it when done I imagine. Nice work, I look forward to the next entry in your blog.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2536 days

#15 posted 08-27-2014 03:16 PM

Brilliant fix.

-- Brian Timmons -

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