A Coffee Table and Side Tables - West Wind Hardwood

by Bill Howard

From a local customer Bill Howard.  This is a fabulous critique on the background tech side of an at-home project…..in his words.

The primary wood is American Cherry. The secondary wood is Yellow Poplar.

The style is Shaker.  The case joinery is all mortise and tenon; frame and panel.  The design is my own.  My wife, Jennifer, wanted me to make these for our family room.

The Cherry from West Wind

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A thick rough board ( for legs ) and two already planed boards ( for rails and styles ).  I look for the grain and pattern of the grain, always thinking about the end result.  This is so hard to do and I often fail at this point.

The Parts – After Sawing and Planing

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This takes a lot of time to do well.  I think time spent here is time well spent.

A Leg For a Side Table

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Once the leg is tapered on two sides using the table saw, the best way to clean it up is with hand planes.

I have some really vintage Stanley planes which I have restored.  They are my preferred tools for smoothing.

All the Parts, Ready for Glue Up

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I label all the tenons, etc so I can keep track.  This is key when the mortises and tenons are fitted by hand.

The Glue Up Work

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I pin the tenons with Cocobolo pins.

This is mainly a decoration ( today’s glues don’t need this ), but it adds so much to the finished work and it is historically accurate.

Construction of the Web Frame

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The web frame to support the drawers is Yellow poplar, which is the best wood for this.

Note that the tenons on the rails extend right thru the tops of the legs:

with rails that are 1″ wide, this increases the long grain glue surface by 25% and makes the insertion of the panels much easier.  I think this is a superior approach for frame and panel.

Top and Shelf of the Coffee Table

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Since the top and shelf are veneer on MDF, I attach the solid cherry edging with full spline joints.  See also the joinery for the lower shelf: lots of angles.  Vintage Stanley sliding bevels are the ticket to this.

Top and Edging on a Side Table

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The veneer is vertical grain and book matched.  The solid cherry edging is mitered.  A trick here:  since the veneer is vertical grain, I cut the edging so the edge grain faces up, to match the veneer. This takes some more time but the result is good. I use hand planes to level the ‘fat’ edging to the veneer: this is the only safe way to do this, with thin veneers.

The Final 3 Side Tables

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The finish is several coats of Shellac ( it is tricky to work with, but the results are worth it ).  The tops have Shellac, then Wipe on Poly ( my daughters are a bit tough on furniture, so this really protects the veneer and is so easy to work with ).

Then wax.


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