View from the Garage

March 17, 2008

Coffee Table

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 11:00 pm

When Owen moved into his new work/live loft in the SOMA district of San Francisco, it seemed a little bare, and I promised to make a coffee table for him. We saw one in a furniture store, but after thinking about the design a little, I thought to make one similar to one I made for our home in 1978. The design is rather simple and very sturdy. But our old table had the leg thickness tapering larger toward the top, and I thought, after living with it for a while, that it should go the other way, tapering larger toward the bottom to give a feeling of solidity and balance.

So here’s photos of the new one and the old one:



The table is made from an 8/4 poplar board I got in 1982 from an old friend, Steve Johnson, who taught me a lot about woodworking. I’d originally thought to use the board for flooring in the upstairs bedroom, thinking that its softness would lend a nice glow to the room. But good sense prevailed and I used red oak for that. So the board has been sitting in my garage ever since. I’d never planed it so I had no idea what it would look like under the rough-sawn exterior. But in fact the board was quite beautiful, with many small eye-knots and streaks of chocolate.


Original board: board.jpg

First I bandsawed the legs roughly to their tapered shape and glued them up. Then I flattened the legs with a small handplane. Same thing with the top, except that it isn’t tapered and I used a jointing plane.

endglueup.jpg smoothingends.jpg topflattening.jpg

Then it’s time to cut the dovetails. First the cutting lines are marked out with a pencil and then cut along the lines with my new Japanese hand saw. This saw is wonderful. The teeth have almost no set, so once you get it going it steers itself. Of course, that means a lot of attention at the start but just muscle after that. Sometimes the best tools are cheap! Then the waste is chopped out using a chisel and mallet.
sawing.jpg cuttingend.jpg choppingtails.jpg

The fully cut dovetails on the legs, top, and their assembly are shown here:
finishedend.jpg preassembly.jpg dovetailcu.jpg

The glue-up is always a time of stress. All the surfaces of the dovetails have to seat exactly, and the joint can’t be pre-assembled to test the fit because it is too difficult to get it apart. I used Titebond III glue due to its long setup time and that worked well. It did leave the faintest reddish stain along the joint lines, though, and I don’t think the original Titebond does that. However, the original has a setup time of around 5 minutes, so the glue-up process has to be flawless to get it done in that time.
fullyassembled.jpg fullassemonbench.jpg

Finishing is not too difficult, although I tried a new product this time. The tung oil on the original didn’t last that well, so after planing the dovetails to fit and rounding the edges for the comfort of the users, I sanded to 320 grit and then applied two coats of Zinnsler shellac sealer. I sanded lightly with 400 grit and then applied three very thin coats of Minwax wipe-on satin polyurethane, sanding between coats with first 600 grit and then 1200 grit before the last coat. Then a thin coat of Renaissance Wax and I’m done. The last photo is how it looks in Owen’s apartment.

inlrprofile.jpg legprofile.jpg


1 Comment »

  1. I recognize that table! It looks even better with a certain puzzle cube on it. 🙂


    Comment by Owen — March 18, 2008 @ 11:42 am

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