So about a year ago I had a bunch of scrap 2x4s and 2x6s left over from building a shed in my backyard. I used this as an excuse to try building a cheap shaker style side table. I had been wanting to build on of these for ages as i feel once this foundation of furniture building is mastered, it is easy to either lengthen / shorten legs, adjust tabletop sizes, etc. to create entirely different pieces. Needless to say, the scrap wood side table was painted white and lived in our living room for just over a year and was ready to be retired and replaced with a new cherry shaker side table.
I finally broke down and spent a couple hundred bucks on some nice cherry lumber. I purchased enough to build two identical tables that will be the same dimensions as the cheap one as this was build to fit perfectly in our living room. I figured this would be a good excuse to replace the old table and to practice the numerous techniques involved with this build. The idea was that if these were successful i could begin selling some of these pieces to help fund my hobby as I cant imagine just making cutting boards every time i need a new tool.
The idea is that these tables will not use any pocket screws or any other joinery techniques that i think the shakers would not approve of. It will honor the shaker style as much as possible, being build for form and function, but will also include a few subtle features that I felt made it my own design.
First, I carefully cut out and milled the legs ensuring the grain was a vertical as possible, the wood I purchased allowed for a 1″ by 1″ leg and I decided to let the wood tell me what to do and built the legs this way. I built a new tapering jig and cut tapers down to 3/4 inch at the foot. This was less of a taper then before but i felt looked better then my previous design. I spent hours with a block plane “Pillowing” the faces of the leg and then sanding them to 400 grit.
Second, I built the table top. I was excited to make my first breadboard table top and probably due to my excitement i forgot to cut the main section long enough to cut tenons. No problem now i can practice making floating tenons! I used my router and a few reference lines to mortise each tenon location on the main top and the ends. I made the tenons out of some scrap oak, rounding over the ends and then cutting to size. I glued the tenons into the table end which fit tightly into all the mortises. I was careful to ensure I cut the mortises on the breadboard ends wider then the tenon on each outer one to allow for wood movement.
Third, I then wanted to practice pegging the joints in a way that draws the two pieces tight together. i drilled in the breadboard end, marked center in the tenon then offset about a 1/32″ so that the pieces will pull together tightly. I now got to make some handmade dowels. I go a thick steel plate and drilled a hole in it that would be the same as my dowels. Next i cut some square strips of scrap bubinga then pounded them through the plate. Man this works great and i’m going to be using it all the time! so much nicer than store bought dowels! I then glued the center tenon in place and pegged all size dowels in making a very tight joint. I glued the tops of all the dowels so that they were glued in place but not glued into the tenons. I cut a 45 degree taper along the entire perimeter of the top then sanded like a mad man until i was happy with it.
Fourth, I built the skirts and cut the joinery. All of the skirts were fit into place with mortise and tenon joinery that i cut on the router table. All the mortise and tenons stop short of the ends to ensure they are invisible. The front skirt was cut into 3 pieces. removing 1″ from the top and bottom. The middle will become the drawer front. I dovetailed the top into the legs and then cut a square tenon on the bottom mortising it into the legs. Forstner bits are a life saver for speeding this up!
Fifth was the most anticipated moment as I was eager to practice building dovetailed drawers. I made the drawer body out of poplar and cut through dovetails on the back of the drawer then half blind dovetails on the front. They were not perfect by any means but i was happy for the experience. Sharp chisels are a must for this. I used my router to cut a grove a 1/8″ from the base that would accept my drawer bottom. I was able to resaw a piece of poplar and book match it for the drawer bottom. I then planed down all four sides of the bottom side at a slight angle until the panel slid nicely into the groves. This panel is held in place with a small screw at the back that will allow for wood movement.
Sixth, now to make the guts of the drawer glides. This was always a mystery to me but after looking at some furniture that was build traditionally, i think i got it figured out. Maybe.. I used scrap hard maple to build a couple strips that the drawer will slide on. I wanted something durable so it didn’t wear down over time. This was installed slightly above the bottom of the opening to ensure i had the correct reveal top to bottom. I then used some scrap poplar up against the inside of the skirt that will ride against the side of the drawer. This will ensure i get the proper reveal side to side. I knew i wanted something to stop the drawer from tipping forward when it was pulled out so i ended up grabbing a piece of cherry and dovetailing it into the front and back skirts ensuring that it stuck down just over an inch so it was just shy of the drawer top. I installed a mounting block on each side of the table at the exact center which will be used to mount the table top. If this is the only point the top is mounted at, it will allow for expansion and contraction of the wood away from the center, or so my thinking goes.
The entire table was sanded up to 400 grit then finished with a glossy wipe on poly. I added 8 coats and sanded first with 220 grit sand paper between coats, then 600 grit wet dry sandpaper then on the final 2 coats I used 1000 grit wet dry sandpaper. I finished the entire piece with some paste wax that i buffed off after a few minutes but i did not remove any from the drawer slides so that they were nice an smooth. I had never done a high gloss finish and for my first time I was amazed at how it ended up looking and feeling!
The last touch was to add felt furniture pads on the feet and also on the back of the drawer to soften the sound when it is closed. I put this in the living room and my wife and dogs seem to love it. My only concern is that I may end up being a bit of a coaster Nazi now!