Monday, October 5, 2009

My latest handtool project

All of my posts lately have been focused on my acquisition of hand tools. I figured it was time to show off some of what I do with those tools.

My wife had been after me to build her a new end table for some time. Most of my work ends up being sold to clients or given away to friends, so I figured it was time to make her happy. I saw this table in Popular Woodworking and decided to go with it. However, I'm not a totally "to plan" kind of guy, so I played with the materials.

Rather than the traditional quarter sawn white oak, I decided to branch out. I visited Johnson's Workbench and decided to let the material speak to me. I found a very nice plank of wormy mahogany, which sounds like an odd choice, but for some reason it called to me. I used this for the legs after carefully sawing to ensure proper grain orientation for the square legs.

Drawbored through tenons. The ends of the tenons were beveled at 45 degrees with a block plane

With such a simple design, I knew that the top had to really pop to provide a very strong focal point. After wandering around Johnson's, I found a small piece of curly beech. It was only 3/4" thick and provided just enough material to glue into my top. I, of course, jumped. The top was rough cut with a bowsaw and smoothed to final shape with a spokeshave. I also used the spokeshave to bevel the bottom edge of the top. Beech was also used for the stretchers.

The table top, finished with boiled linseed oil and amber shellac

Once assembled, I ragged on two coats of boiled linseed oil, then three coats of amber shellac. After the shellac, I rubbed out the finish with some Bri-Wax to soften it. The wood of the top has a silky, tactile feel to it that really makes this table a pleasure to use, with a coaster of course. It has a soft sheen that looks very nice in the light. My wife was delighted with the table and I was quite happy with my choice of materials. I hope this inspires some of you to try non-traditional wood combinations in your next project.



  1. What is meant by 'to ensure proper orientation of the grain for the legs'?

  2. Antiwork,

    When you make square table legs, it is important that the grain runs from corner to corner, rather that parallel with the side of the legs. If you let the grain run parallel or close to it, two sides will be flat sawn grain and two sides will be quartersawn grain. The difference in the two looks is very distracting when you can see two sides of the leg. If, however, you are careful to make sure that the grain runs corner to corner, all sides will have rift sawn grain, approximately the same look and the leg will fit in much better.


  3. Zach,
    Beautiful Table, I can see why your wife is delighted with it. You can find some real treasures at Johnson's. It's fun to browse through the stacks of lumber when you are not quite sure what will work...until you see it.

  4. Keith,

    Thanks for the compliment. Johnson's is my favorite place in the world. I can spend hours just looking through the lumber room, picking up boards and imagining what to build with them.