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Forum topic by Ben posted 07-31-2010 01:53 AM 1343 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Ben's profile


242 posts in 2278 days

07-31-2010 01:53 AM

Hi everyone,
My first post here. Have browsed the site a bit and it seems like a good place with lots of talented woodworkers.

Anyway, my background is mostly in carpentry with very little experience in furniture making. I have done a lot of woodturning and am pretty good at it and I have a home shop with all the necessary tools for building pretty much anything.

I would like to build myself a coffee table. I’ve been browsing the net and found some pictures of antique tables for sale that I really like, and would like to try to duplicate:



First question: do you think it’s overly ambitious to attempt the oval table? The base looks pretty easy to me – like a band sawn/jig sawn profile, with band sawn empire style feet, glued/pegged together, whatever.
The columns I can easily turn with glued up stock. Not sure how thick they are but I’m guessing about 6” diameter?

The table top would be easy enough with a template and router and a lot of sanding. But how to make the apron? And how do the columns support the table top?

Is the apron steam bent, or laminated? Would it be easy to make a jig for laminating something like that?

Same questions go for the rectangular version, which maybe would be a bit more practical for me. Are the aprons just mitered together, maybe some corner blocks and screws on the inside, then some sort of “girder” spanning the top and connecting the columns?

How would you guys recommend I proceed with this project? I definitely like the style and would like to do one or the other.

Thanks a lot!

12 replies so far

View jusfine's profile


2405 posts in 2347 days

#1 posted 07-31-2010 04:45 AM

Personally I would recommend the rectangular table as a starter.

The bases appear to be similar if not the same, so once you master the first one, you could copy the base and challenge the oval design…

I think the apron is a bit “heavy” looking, so to reduce it a bit would lighten the piece and give it a bit more balance.

Hope that helps a bit.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Ben's profile


242 posts in 2278 days

#2 posted 07-31-2010 04:51 AM

thanks, jusfine.

am i right that the aprons in this case would be mitered and glued, maybe doweled? and a little brace on each corner on the inside?

and how do you think the columns are attached to the table top and support it?

also, if i were to attempt the oval, how would you build the oval apron?

thanks again.

View rcs47's profile


182 posts in 2550 days

#3 posted 07-31-2010 04:59 AM

The square would definitely be easier than the oval. But is it too much? Only you can answer that question.

I would start by drawing it to scale first. That should help you answer the leg size question, and help you start to work out the size of the apron. Then you start with the MDF, laying out the full size top, and cutting it out. Once you have that, then you can lay out the apron, finalize that size.

I would make the apron as a glue up VS. steam bending. So once you know the size, you are going to need more MDF to make the form as tall as your apron. You will be making the apron in pieces, then joining it together (mortise & tenon or lap joint). Cut out the area for the apron in the form, drill holes & cut notches for clamps, mount one side to another piece of MDF so only one will move and cover every surface that will come in contact with glue with clear packing tape. Try to keep the bending form pieces somewhat large. The mass will help as you start forcing the wood into shape.

Edit – As you make your form. First layer – cut out the final apron pattern. As you add additional layers, first rough cut the apron from the new layer, then final trim with a router.

Some people use bending plywood as the backer and the lumber as the finished surface (you can use one front piece to match the grain around the apron with either method). I’ve used lumber cut to 1/8” to 3/16”. The thicker you cut it, the more spring back you get once you pull it out of the form. Cut it on a band saw then run it through your planer or drum sander. If you don’t have a planer, maybe you want to go the bending plywood route. You can always do a test with some material that is not you expensive final material to see how it works.

You don’t want to use Titebond II for this because the wood will slip over time. your time. Polyurethane glue, like Gorilla Glue is a good glue. There are other glues that you need to order, i.e., Unibond.

Good luck, and take your time.

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

View Ben's profile


242 posts in 2278 days

#4 posted 07-31-2010 05:59 AM

thanks RCS.

i couldn’t quite follow the instructions for gluing up the apron with the MDF.
how do i make the forms?
so you’re saying either glue up a bunch of 1/8” thick pieces, or use a few sheets of 3/8” ply or 1/4” ply, then just one veneer on the outside?

i didn’t get the part about the holes and notches for clamps. totally lost.
thanks so much though.

also. how would you connect the pedestals to the top, as seen in those photos?
thanks man.

View rcs47's profile


182 posts in 2550 days

#5 posted 07-31-2010 07:10 AM

Lets start with the form. You need something rigid to hold pull the wood into the new shape. Many layers of MDF will work for this. I say many layers because the apron will most likely be 3-4” so you will need to make your form that thick.

Cut your first form inner oval (inside of the apron), and the outer oval. If you put the two together, the space left should be the thickness of your apron. Once you have them set the way you want them, then you start adding layers, by rough cutting the apron out of another piece, screwing it to the first one, and routing it flush. Repeat until you have a form that will be high enough for your apron. I screw one part of the finished form to another piece of MDF. This helps during the glue up. That way I only have to fight one piece of the form while I trying get the wood to bend.

The holes allow you to clamp and pull the two parts together. You will need more around the end because of the tighter curve than the sides. You cut a notch where you need to get a grip with your clamp.

Demilune tables have a curved apron too.

The second picture on this link shows a bending form:

This link shows a bending form in 6. You can see the multiple layers of MDF. Because sections are going between legs, it doesn’t need to be long:

Bending plywood is something special. The following will take you to one supplier I found on Google (you might be able to find it locally):

I would recommend joining the 14 day free trial of Fine Woodworking. Then do a search for Lamination Bending. It will give you some more information and pictures. You should find other information to help too.

You could attach the pedistals to the top by a block screwed into the top hidden by the apron. Motrise & tenon to the block. Figure 8s to the top.

These are figure 8s:,41306,41309

I hope this helps.

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

View Ben's profile


242 posts in 2278 days

#6 posted 07-31-2010 02:44 PM

thanks again rcs.
so you are saying to make two forms, one for each end radius, and one for each side radius, and glue all four sections up separately?

can’t you just go all the way around with one piece, and alternate the joints?
otherwise, i don’t see how a mortise and tenon would be possible.

thank you, though. i’m beginning to see how this is done. i’ll look into joining fine woodworking.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2495 days

#7 posted 07-31-2010 03:32 PM

For the oval, I would start by making the apron. If you successfully make the apron, everything else will fall into place nicely. If you can’t get the oval apron you want, make the rectangle.

I can’t improve on the advice rcs gave you on laminating so I won’t try.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View rcs47's profile


182 posts in 2550 days

#8 posted 07-31-2010 05:56 PM

I don’t think you would get the lumber around the full apron in one piece unless you cut it very thin. Maybe if you make the apron using bending plywood, then cover it with veneer.

That might be your answer. I’ve been talking about two forms, one fit to the inside apron and one fit to the outside of the apron (I’m thinking of a rectangle with an oval gap for the apron). Mount both to another piece of MDF and cover the gap with packing tape. You will want to make the apron a little taller at this point because of the trimming needed after the you pull it out.

You can get glue backed veneer that you use an iron to attach to your work. Or, you now have a rigid form that you could glue your own piece of veneer. You will need to test how thin it will need to be cut, and how you will need to clamp and tape it (blue tape works great at times) until it dries.

As Rich said, once you have the apron, the rest will fall into place. Since you will start with making the apron form for a one piece apron to match the shape, you can see if you can bend wood around the oval. Try one. If it works, then try a few more. Glue will allow the pieces to slip by each other, something that they will not do dry. If you do it in one piece, make sure you stager the ends on each piece, giving you a lap joint, not a butt joint.

If you can’t bend the lumber, and can’t find bending plywood (or don’t want to buy a sheet), then you will be cutting the form into parts, so you can make the apron in parts. My thought was to use a mortise and tenon to join the pieces together, but I don’t know how thick you plan to make the apron (I was assuming at least 1/2”). Or you could cut a lap joint. You can always reinforce the joint from behind (who will see it).

Note – If you decide before you start any work you are going to join the apron in parts, then you only need to make that much of the apron in the form, i.e., half or a quarter.

I hope this helps.

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

View Ben's profile


242 posts in 2278 days

#9 posted 07-31-2010 09:12 PM

guys, many thanks for all the feedback. i’ve decided to start with the rectangular version for now, just to keep my stress to a minimum.
i just bought a bunch of sapele for the table, as the supplier didn’t have any wider planks of quartersawn oak, and it will look like mahogany now and be pretty sweet, for cheaper.

my only concern is the design where the two pedestals are in the center line of the table, inset from the ends.
do i build it as if i were framing a floor, with a few “joists” running between the two long apron pieces, and the columns attached to the bottom of those?
rcs – i was a bit confused as to your “block” under the table method.

anyway, going to give this a go pretty soon.

thanks a lot.

View rcs47's profile


182 posts in 2550 days

#10 posted 07-31-2010 10:32 PM

How do you plan to attach the pedestal to the foot? Mortise & Tenon?

The block I referenced is relative to the space you have behind the apron. Now you have room to run one almost the width of the table, a little wider than the pedestal. M&T the pedestal into this and you are set. Figure 8 this to top and you are set for any wood movement. You will want to use figure 8s on the apron too.

You could always attach the pedestal directly to the top with a M&T, but you might want the cross suppport.

If you use the “block” attach, I think you could eliminate the apron. You can taper the block, and change the thickness towards the ends. Or, depending on the thickness of your material, I’ve seen a sliding dovetail used to attach this cross board.

You’ll know more when you draw it out.

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

View Ben's profile


242 posts in 2278 days

#11 posted 07-31-2010 11:24 PM

rcs – you’re the man, dude.
very interested in doing this without the apron, as the apron would simply be aesthetic anyway and serve no functional purpose.

so you’re saying i could essentially put like a 1X3 hardwood across the top of each pedestal, tapered to nothing at the ends so you don’t see it from the sides, screwed into the table top, and screwed into the pedestals, or maybe a double ended lag into the pedestal or something?

or are you saying of running something beefier, like a 2X3 or something, and an actual mortise and tenon? would you want to glue the pedestals into these, or want the ability to unscrew them easily?

i think the table would actually look better without an apron. what do you think?
either way, i can’t imagine being able to sit on it without the top ripping off the base.

for the base, i was planning on just a big lap/glue/peg attachment for the scrolled feet.

all i have is 5/4” material for both the base and the top.

for the columns, i’m going to glue up two pieces of 12/4 and wind up making about a 5” diameter column.

many thanks man.

edit: dang, looking at those pics it’s obvious i need more than 5/4” for the base. i guess i need at least an 8/4 thick base? maybe even 12.

View rcs47's profile


182 posts in 2550 days

#12 posted 08-01-2010 12:40 AM

I think it would look better without the apron.

Normally I’d think the 5/4 material would work using M&T or screws (w/glue), but that’s with four legs. The single pedestal on each side does make a difference from the “sitting on” stand point. You need a trestle table joint at the top, something with more meat. The following is a picture showing what I mean:

You could use the same type of joint you are planning for the bottom, on the top, then taper the sides. I would recommend making it the same width as the pedestal, then taper it to the ends. Using the 5/4 with some of your 12/4 at the pedestal should work. Or, you could turn the 5/4 on edge, one each side of the pedestal, and taper it to the edge.

If you get good joints at the top and bottom, you should be able to sit on the table.

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

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