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Pine End Table

[diagram of foot stool]

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.

Construction Details:

(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.

Photo Gallery
[Small photo of completed table]

  1. "So You Want To Build A Table?" -- From John Gunterman's web pages.
    Instructions for building a table like this, with nothing but hand tools.
  2. A Simple Hand Tool Project -- From Ralph Brendler's web pages. (An enhanced version of [1], with diagrams)
  3. "Furniture making plain & simple" by Aldren A. Watson and Theodora A. Poulos. Norton, c1984. -- I followed his well illustrated instructions on how to chop a mortise by hand, with a mortising chisel. I also half-followed his advice on cutting the tenons.


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