This traditionally styled end table makes good use of easier methods for shaping curves to achieve an attractive, rounded appearance. You cut out the curves with a band saw, then shape them smooth by flush trimming with a router. But, if you don’t have a router, you can shape these curves by roughing them with a band saw then smoothing them with a drum sander mounted in a drill press. You could also do the shaping with a saber saw and a then smooth the surfaces with a spokeshave, files, or a drum sander in a hand drill, though the last alternative is hard to control. Parts List, all 3/4″ thick stock 6- 4 x 32 legs 4- 4 x 20 rails 1- 24 x 24 top 1- 20 x 20 shelf various scraps for screw blocks
Here is how to Build an End Table Out of Wood
Photo 1– Gluing up the leg blanks. There are six pieces of wood being clamped together here, but no glue in the middle joint, so you end up with two groups of three each. Clean all the glue off with hot water and rags while it’s wet. For the legs, glue together two sets of three boards, each board at 3/4 x 4 x 32″, as in photo 1. There is no glue in the middle lamination. When out of clamps rip each set of three down the middle as in photo 2. Make this cut in stages, first at 1″ above the table, then at 2″. The result will be four pieces at about 1-1/16″ thick. Sand the sawn faces smooth with a belt sander, or plane them with a planer or hand plane.
Photo 2– Take each of the glue blanks and rip it down the middle to make each leg. Do the cut in increments, first with the blade at 1″ height and
then higher. Draw a 1″ grid on one of the legs, and trace the shape of the leg in the grid to match the drawing. Trace and erase, trace and erase until you have drawn smooth lines. Bandsaw the leg to shape- but don’t cut off the small triangle at the foot yet- you’ll need that to flush trim the other legs.
Photo 3– After you rough cut the first leg on the band saw, sand it smooth with a drum sander in the drill press as shown. Sand smooth the curve edges of the leg with a drum sander at the drill press as in photo 3. You could also use the drum with a hand-held drill, or smooth it with a curve sole spokeshave. Make the curve smooth and flowing.
Photo 4– Now flush trim the other legs to the shape of the first by using the first as a template at the router table. Keep your fingers away from the bit at all times. Trace the shape of this leg onto the other three, and bandsaw close to these lines. Then attach the first leg to one of the others with small pieces of plywood and nails on the ends of the legs as in photo 4. This is why you left that triangle on the foot, so there would be room to fit the plywood. Locate the second leg on the first so that it overlaps all around. Then use the first leg as a template with a flush trim bit in the router table as shown.
The photo shows a flush trim bit with the bearing mounted at the shank, but bits with the bearing mounted on the end will work just as well. The length of the cutting flutes on the bit needs to be at least 1-1/4″. Flush trim all the legs to shape, then cut off the triangles on the feet and sand this area smooth. Next set up a 1/2″ radius roundover bit in the router table, and use this to round over the edges of the table legs. You can round over the entire edge if you wish, but by doing a partial round over you achieve a more subtle effect. Do this by lowering the bit in the router table so that it’s lower portion does not contact the wood in the cut. Don’t round over in the area where the dowels will go for the shelf.
RAIL TO LEG JOINTS
Photo 5– Cutting the miters on the ends of the rails at the table saw. Do this before you shape the rails because you need to flip the part to do the other end, so you need two straight edges to get accurate miters. Rip rail stock to 3-1/2″ wide, and then cut to length at 19-1/2″ on the table saw with the miter gauge as in photo 5. Set the blade at 45o to the table, and set the miter gauge at 90o. Screw a backup piece on the miter fence as shown to support the rails and prevent tear out where the blade comes out of the cut. Draw the curve (same as for the top) on one of the rails, cut it out on the band saw then sand to shape as before. Use this rail to trace the others, then band saw them close to the line.
Next use the first to flush trim the others just as you did with the legs. You may not be able to get the flush trim bit to clean up the ends of the rails because of the miters, in this case leave an inch or so on the ends and sand it smooth. Attach the first rail to the others by nailing them together on the top edges.
Photo 6– Cut biscuit joints on the mitered ends of the rails like so. Your biscuit joiner fence should be adaptable for such a cut- most are, but if not, make a 45o fitting to hold the biscuit joiner steady. Use a biscuit joiner to join the legs to the rails. To cut biscuit slots on the rail ends, use your biscuit joiner to set up on a 45o surface as in photo 6. Most biscuit joiners have fences that allow this kind of cut. Carefully align the cut, and make it where the wood is thick so the slot doesn’t come through the other side. Cut slots in the legs with the biscuit joiner fence in the 90o position as in photo 7.
You can join the legs to the rails with dowels if you have a dowel jig that will locate dowels on a mitered edge. Few dowel jigs will do this, one that does is the Record jig. You could locate the dowels with a drill press jig that holds the rails in the right location for accurate boring.
Photo 7– Use the biscuit joiner in its normal 90o configuration to cut slots in the legs for the rails.
TOP AND SHELF
Edge glue enough pieces together for the top and shelf, to get plates that measure 24″ square and 20″ square. Your biscuit joiner will really help you out here, keeping the pieces aligned to each other during the glue up. For the shelf, use one of the rails to flush trim the shape into the edges. First trace the shape onto the shelf, and locate the corner surfaces that will join the legs as shown in the drawing. Then rough cut the curves on the band saw. Now attach one of the rails on the bottom of the shelf on one side with small finish nails. Drill three 1/16″ diameter holes in the rail and place the nails in these holes. Flush trim this side of the shelf, then move the rail to the next. Later, fill the holes with putty. Use a similar procedure to shape the top. Draw grid lines on a piece of scrap and trace the shape from the drawing. Cut this out and sand it smooth, then use this template to trace each side and then flush trim it.
Photo 8– Use a dowel jig to bore holes in the shelf corners and in the legs. Use 3/8″ dowels. Shown is the Stanley dowel jig. Bore holes in the shelf ends for 3/8″ dowels with a dowel jig as in photo 8. Mark locations on the legs for the corresponding dowel holes. Do so at the point of the curve on the legs which is at 90o to the floor. Because of the round over, you may need to flatten this spot on the legs to get level areas for the shelf ends to contact. Do this with a block plane or stationary sander. Use the dowel jig to bore holes in the legs. If you choose, put a router detail on the edges of the top and shelf, but stop the detail before it gets to the corners of the shelf.
Photo 9– Band clamps and bar clamps being used to pull the assembly together. Note the clamp blocks between the clamps and the rails. Don’t squeeze too hard with bar clamps on a mitered biscuit joint like this or you’ll tweak the biscuits. Band clamps work wonders for glue ups like this (photo 9). But, they aren’t always strong enough to pull the joints tight, so use bar clamps -gently- as shown to pull it tight. Another way to pull all this together is with nylon cord, which stretches a bit. If you wrap 100 feet of it tightly around the assembly, the combined squeeze of all the wrappings provides adequate pressure. Once out of clamps or cord install corner blocks with glue and screws as shown in photo 10 to strengthen the joints.
Photo 10– Biscuits are strong but adding corner blocks like this will tremendously lengthen the life of your table’s joints. Miter them so they fit well and wet out the end grain of the miters with glue for 5 minutes before you put them in place to let the pores suck up as much glue as they can before it gets squeezed out. Otherwise the pores might pull the glue out of the joint, starving it for glue. Predrill for the screws.
ATTACHING THE TOP
Any wide wooden plate, like this top, will have substantial movement across the grain. Therefore, don’t glue the top to the rails, but screw it on with blocks at about ¾ x ¾ x 4 inches or so. Make the holes in the blocks for the screw shanks that go into the top about twice the diameter of the shanks, and use washers to hold the screw head to the wood.
This way the table top can move all it wants to, dragging the screws along with it within the large holes. FINISH Sand to 220 grit. On a table like this that will probably get exposed to moisture from glasses or flower vases, use a water resistant finish like satin polyurethane varnish. Sand lightly with 400 grit paper between coats, and finish up with paste wax.
A good book on the subject of finishes is Bob Flexner’s Understanding Wood Finishing.