This project is a simple, small, shaker-style table. It is made from pine. It is a small table: 12" deep x 24" long x 24" tall.
I don't have any particular need for this table, though I'm sure it will find a use, perhaps as a nightstand or maybe as an endtable. I'm making this table as a learning experience, to develop my skills and abilities.
The inspiration, plans and instructions, for this project came from the "OldTools" mailing list. I don't participate in that mailing list, but I do regularly peruse their WWW Archive (see here for info) of postings. On that mailing list, a couple of galoots conceived of the idea for a simple shaker-style table as a kind of group project, and also as a simple introduction to hand-tool woodworking for newbies. See the references below for links to two different sets of instructions.
This idea appealed to me, since I do consider myself to be an amateur woodworker, and this looked like a way to gain some experience. Also, while I'm not a handtool purist, I am interested in learning how to use handtools. I have found that in many situations it is quicker and easier (not to mention safer and quieter!) for a hobbyist like myself to reach for a handsaw or a chisel, rather than a power tool.
(These thoughts were recorded in sort of chronological order, as the table was built)
As mentioned above, I chose pine for this project. I had a piece of 1x12x60" laminated pine that had recently retired from duty in a board-n-brick shelving unit. That didn't contain quite enough raw material for me (unless I wanted a really small table!) so I picked up a second 1x12x36" piece of laminated pine.
By choosing to make a 12x24" table, I neatly avoided having to glue up wood for the top in this project. However I did have to glue up pieces for the legs.
I departed from the "group project" instructions in that I gleefully used my table saw to cut my wood to size. At the present time, I'm not interested in trying to use a handsaw to rip lumber.
On the other hand, I was interested in learning to chop mortises by hand. I don't have a drillpress or a plunge-router, which are the popular (best?) ways that I know of to make mortises with power tools. Besides, I wanted to try. So I went off to Lee Valley and picked up a Marples 1/4" mortising chisel. (At CAN$20, I might point out that this is significantly cheaper than either a drill press or a plunge router...)
My first two practise mortises, made in a piece of 2x4, were pretty bad. My third and fourth morises turned out quite well. For those two, I used an actual piece of pine that was left over after cutting out the table pieces. The Watson book (see references below) provided excellent guidance and instructions. I think that part of the difficulty on the first two mortises were that they were only 1/4" from the edge of the wood, which contributed to splitting. The next two were 1/2" away from the edge.
I chose to have a painted base, with a natural-wood top. Therefore, the top was finished separately from the base, and later attached. I rounded over the edges of the table (with a 1/4-round bit on my router table), sanded it to 150 grit smoothness, and applied the finish. No stain. I used four coats of Flecto Varathane Diamond finish (satin). After each of the first two coats, I lightly sanded (dry) with 400 grit paper. After each of the last two coats I used a 3M synthetic pad (equivalent to #000 steel wool) with some water for lubricant, and wet sanded the top.
I ended up cutting the tenons by hand. This was somewhat time consuming, but satisfying and educational. It turns out that I can cut straight after all! In actuality, cutting tenons by hand was much quicker and easier than chopping the mortises by hand.
I continued my foray into hand-toolery (is that a word?) by using a (old) Stanley #4 smoothing plane to taper the legs. Fortunately pine is a soft wood, since I'm reasonably sure that my plane iron wasn't as sharp as it could have been. This really wasn't that difficult. I only tapered the insides of the legs, so there were only two sides of each leg to plane. I measured where I wanted the taper to start (about 7 inches down from the top) and end (with a 1 inch square foot) and drew connecting lines along the side of the leg. Then I simply planed away until I was reasonably close to the line. I didn't stay perfectly square, but this was my first such time! Also note that since the 4 legs are not immediately beside each other, small differences between them do not show up.
After a dry test fit, I applied the glue and clamped up the base. (More clamps, I need more clamps!) Perhaps I should have glued this up in stages. I then primed and painted the base. (two coats of blue latex) Over the latex I applied a clear coat of the flecto varathane. (I hope that was ok, I couldn't find any info on whether or not it was -- it did look fine on the test piece that I'd finished a few weeks earlier.)
The top was attached to the base via 4 cleats. The cleats were first glued to the rails (before finishing), and then I screwed the cleats to the top. The screws were put in through oval holes in the cleats, which should provide sufficient room for any wood movement of the top.
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