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Dan's Table Build 5-25-19

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Here is a tutorial on how I built 2 side tables using traditional and some modern "short cuts" to make the projects move along a little easier. Before I start the breakdown of steps let me add that I enjoy working with my hand tools but I am not reluctant to use a power tool if I think it will do the job as well.

Both of the tables were built using the same techniques for the most part. The walnut mortises were done entirely with chisels and the cherry table was done with a some drilling and chiseling to clean out the mortises.



The first step is to select the stock for the legs, go to the lathe and turn out the bottom section and leave the top portion square. This design came from viewing some early Shaker pieces but took on a life of its own as I embellished it as I went along.


The mortises are rather long. As you look at the photo above, you will see the 2 legs in the middle are for the front dividers and the 2 on the left and right are for the back legs.


Its important to point out here that all of the mortises are the same depth for a reason I will point out later but now is the time to get things the same. Patience.



Here is the tenon fitted to the mortise then the shoulder board is glue in place on the inside of the piece. The veneered piece on the outside will be custom cut and fit to the outside once it is glued up square. A perfect fit with no gaps.

This is how the tenons will come together providing a strong mechanical fit in the mortise in the rear legs.


Here is the top of the left front leg. the dovetail will hold this just right. The tenons for the dividers are cut and fit to give a square opening for the drawers. The front section of the dividers(all 3) are left narrow to allow a stip of cherry or walnut to be glued on the front.


Notice the top divider is not full width. Here is where the strip will be glued in place and planed just so.


The outside pieces that I have veneered are now glued up. The outside is a about a 1/4 inch of pine with cherry veneer for the side piece.


On this side piece for the current walnut table I added a small bead to the bottom of the side, back and front. I think I will use that again.


With the table glued up, I have my dimensions from a measurement of the piece. I make up 3 sets of drawer supports to set the drawers. They are cut to exact size but will not be glued. Allow for adjustments with the drawers assembled.


The dividers and supports for the cherry table were done on my TS and the same pieces for the walnut table were done by hand. Same results just a bit slower. You get the idea.


To make up the drawer faces with the horizontal crotch, all I did was pull out my ugly little hammer and squeeze out the glue like the photo above.


I build and fit the drawers before I fit the cockbeading.


getting the depth of the bead on the end grain of the drawer. This will be nailed in place


After the end is set to the correct depth I begin to find the depth on the long grain edge. I do not leave the the rear portion of the original drawer like the photo. Once the depth is set, I remove the entire portion. Some of the modern industrial pieces use this but I still use the 18th century method for my drawers.


One down and one to go. All drawers are hand joined with white pine secondary wood.

Here I have applied Garnetlac to the faces. I mix all of my shellac with flakes and alchohol in small concentrated batches. My initial seal coats are very thin for quicker penetration and ease of wiping it off with a rag soaked in alcohol if I don't like it. You may ask?? Why the fuss? Well some like the milder tone of orange shellac on some walnut surfaces-- I like it just a little richer. Garnetlac. Its a choice and its easy to adjust the colors with just shellac mixes.


This is what you will get if you just soak any finish like oil on the surface of crotch walnut. Black walnut end grain. Its too dark. This is not glued but you need to know that it is veneer on both sides of 2 ugly walnut boards for stability. It will be cut down from this width of 19" to 18" wide.



I had to bleach back the walnut veneer with some water and bleach to get this lighter tone. Additionally, if you look at the first photo of the top, you will see sapwood that needs blending. I use aniline dyes and some artist oil paints to blend and match till I like it. I apply a wash coat of clear wax free shellac and seal it.

The top is the central feature in my design but it needs to sit side by side with the busy drawer fronts and not be over-powering. I was nervous about this like the first try with the cherry and maple top table you see in the second photo.

After putting the handles on the fronts it seems to work?

For viewers who are curious about methods of building here I might add:

1. All of the parts are glued with hot hide glue. When I need time to assemble lots of parts, I slow the glue down with the addition of household salt. I make about a 1/4 of a cup with salt in it and treat it just like the other glue. You can not hammer veneer with slow drying hide. Remember.

2. The top is glued up with hot hide one side at a time. I use lots of glue and put it in my veneer bag as a first time test. It worked after 4-5 hours. I immediately glued the same thickness veneer 3/16 to the bottom side and put it in the bag. Nice and flat ready to work with a scraper blade. You may wonder why hide glue? If there are any voids I can iron the surface with a clothes iron and clamp the spot for 15 minutes and I'm golden. You can not do that more than once with yellow glue. So if you have a problem 10 years from now you can not fix it -- you are stuck.


I will continue to add to this to make this a good learning resource for others considering veneer in their projects. You just don't realize how much is opened up in the way of design once you master the art.

Over the years, I have taught classes on coloring wood with dyes and stains, how to cut dovetails, how to veneer with hot glue, and how to finish with shellac and varnish. All of these things are included here.

Note on Glue: The most extensive presentation on hot hide glue, mixing, adjusting set times with salt and urea. Worth viewing. Presentations/2016 05 Hide Glue in the Modern Workshop/Hide Glue EMGW Presetation Handout.pdf
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GREAT build and professionally written tutorial, it makes me want to build one.
Very well thought out build and presentation.

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