Corner Joinery on a Shadow Box Coffee Table Suggestions?

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Forum topic by RickRinger posted 04-06-2013 03:07 PM 1612 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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93 posts in 2148 days

04-06-2013 03:07 PM

Topic tags/keywords: coffee table shadow box joinery corners glass table

I’m getting ready to build a shadow box coffee table for my wife. It will be similar, but not exactly like this one:{%22ImageId%22%3A5617259}

I’m struggling with what the best way is to do the corners. Also whether to put the glass in the top of the table, or under the table. Here are my considerations:

Overlap or Bridal joint. I like this because of the strength and the fact that it gives me a lot of glue-up surface to help keep the lid strong as a unit.

Mitered corners with a spline. This in some ways is simpler. It also allows me more freedom to rabbet my inset for glass. I fear that it wouldn’t be as strong as the above option.

Mortise & Tenon: I like this, and I’m able to make a tenon pretty decently. I don’t have a mortising machine, and I’m concerned about getting the surfaces all flush so they look perfect. This may in some ways be the smartest option, but perhaps the least functional for me personally.


Next discussion:

I’m not sure whether to rabbet out the frame on the top so that I can drop the glass down into the frame, or whether to do the rabbets underneath.

From the top gives me more security against the glass dropping down and falling. But getting the corners clean may be a challenge. If I rabbet the entire length of the stiles and rails, I will have a problem where they meet.
From the bottom allows me a cleaner application, but I’m concerned with adding strips or other techniques to hold the glass in for strength.

I’m planning on using 1×4 rails ripped down to 1×3 dimension (my table saw blade can only go to just over 3” in height. And I’m planning on using poplar and staining the project.

I’m planning on using 3/8” tempered glass. Beveled if it’s on the top, square edge if it’s from underneath.

I’d love everyone’s insight and suggestions on this. I’m a visual person, so pictures or links would help me the most.

Thank you all in advance.

3 replies so far

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2672 days

#1 posted 04-06-2013 05:05 PM

Rick, I see that you built yourself a nice router table, did you consider a Matched Rail and Stile Router Bit set? Just a thought, I like the hinged top for it’s accessibility for cleaning the glass, but I guess I keep more clutter around and wonder about clearing the glass top to easier access the display area.

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93 posts in 2148 days

#2 posted 04-06-2013 05:30 PM

Thank you for your suggestion. I haven’t considered that. I’m wondering how much a set like that would cost. Money is tight, but if it’s not too bad, I may be able to make it happen. I’ll look into it.

You’re right. I just finished the router table, and I have to confess that I’m having trouble thinking in terms of what I can do with it. I guess I’m saying that I’ve become so used to not having one that I have to get myself into thinking in those terms. Sounds funny, eh?

Are you thinking that the glass may be easier to clean if it’s inset from the top? I have to say that I hadn’t considered ease of cleaning. That’s an excellent point. I really appreciate your response! Thank you.

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2672 days

#3 posted 04-06-2013 07:27 PM

sorry Rick I was thinking I might consider a drawer, but that would help with access the display area but hinder underside glass cleaning. As to a bit set, I often buy mlcswoodworking bits especially if I do not anticipate a lot of use. Some guys use the mlcs – eagleamerica bits and there are differences of opinion.

The fact that your build piece will be a coffee table leads me to consider some issues. The Matched Rail and Stile Router Bit set would want to capture the glass similar to a raised panel. The trouble with that would be the same as attaching the glass from underside of the wood. You would not have a flat tabletop, could cause a coffee cup or soda bottle to tip and spill, also it might make it necessary to tilt the top to clean dust and stuff.

I believe that a smooth top would be desired for a coffee table, and perhaps the rail and stile bit set was a bad steer on my part. Things made a bit more sense to me when I tried to cad it.

Sorry if I blurted out too soon.

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