1st big thing: coffee table. Advice?

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Forum topic by SubtleEpsilon posted 08-21-2014 02:38 PM 801 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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12 posts in 1271 days

08-21-2014 02:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: coffee table question

Below are some screen caps of the coffee table design. Top is bookmatched walnut slab, about 54”x31”. My plan so far is to have the legs be made of ash.
Slab thickness is 6/4 as are all the ash bits, which are 3” wide everywhere.

The perpendicular cross braces will have lap joints that I’ll put in with a dado blade and, because I don’t want too many challenges all at once, I was going to go for loose tenons where the legs and braces meet at an angle (10 degrees everywhere).

Notice the orientation of the lap joints on the top and bottom are opposite. Not quite sure what’s best there. Open to suggestions about how to attach the legs to the table (in a non difficult manner, not too fond of the cleat idea…) Currently considering a satin wiping varnish because, well….it’s a coffee table. And, yes, I’m freaking out about finishing something this big. Alternate wood suggestions considered but ash seems like a good light choice without being overly busy. There’s enough figure and stuff going on in the slab.

If someone suggests ebony pins through the tenons I might have to hurt you. ;-)

-- It's a fine line between clever and stupid

4 replies so far

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1275 posts in 1356 days

#1 posted 08-21-2014 02:51 PM

Joinery all seems legit to me. It won’t be easy doing those 10 degree floating tenons, but if you have a plan then you should be fine. The one thing I will say about odd angles is that you really need to think about how you are going to clamps this thing up. I have found that the clamping part of the process is where I usually goof up, even if I do a dry run. I have discovered that even a 2 or 3 degree skew can throw off clamps, so 10 degrees definitely will. I would probably cut little “ramps” to fit between the clamp jaws and the workpiece.

For the finish, wipe on poly (probably oil based for walnut) is always a safe bet. Maybe put a coat of something that will pop the grain on first, like an oil/poly mixture.

For attaching the top to the base, I would get some “L” angle, probably 1.5×1.5 and drill out some holes in both legs of the angle. Small holes for the sides that will attach to the ash rails, and large holes (maybe 1/2” or 5/8”) for the sides that will attach to the underside of the table. Screw the angles onto the ash rails, then use a fender washer and screw the top to the angles, pretty tight, but still allowing some leeway for expansion and contraction. Hope that made sense

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View JayG46's profile


138 posts in 1279 days

#2 posted 08-22-2014 12:47 AM

Looks like a great design. The “ramps” that The Oyster is talking about are best sourced from the cutoffs of the pieces that you will be gluing up. Try to save those if you can remember.

I built a similar table recently, although not nearly as intricate in terms of joinery as yours.

Floating tenons make things much easier and if you have a Domino, it’s no more difficult than 90 degree unions.

Looking forward to seeing the final outcome.

-- Jay Gargiulo, Naples, FL "Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things."- Miyamoto Musashi

View gfadvm's profile


14929 posts in 2111 days

#3 posted 08-22-2014 12:55 AM

I think it will be beautiful!

Figure 8 table top connectors are simple, cheap, and allow for wood movement.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View SubtleEpsilon's profile


12 posts in 1271 days

#4 posted 08-22-2014 04:30 AM

Thanks for the great replies. I hadn’t thought about a poly/oil under a wiping varnish but that’ll be an interesting option to test on some scrap. I definitely hadn’t thought about L-brackets. I understand what you mean there and am curious about placement.

There are a number of issues here about which I’m cogitating long and hard before even setting blade to wood. Right now, I’m still working out how I want to do the mortises. I’ve been looking at making a mortising jig for the router and have even thought of variation of the support pieces that I’d like to test that would handle stock at an angle. However, I’ve also contemplated doing exactly what I think JayG46 is suggesting: putting in mortises perpendicular to the respective faces and then having the tenon being somewhat skewed. I’m kind of curious how that worked out. I can see it working if you glue it up well.

-- It's a fine line between clever and stupid

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