Nesting Table Prototype
My next project is a set of nesting tables, copies of a set that my father has, which are as old as I am. He sent me photos and dimensions to base my design on. The originals are elm, and I decided to use cherry, but I wanted to build a prototype first out of pine.
The basic construction is fairly simple - the sides are attached to the top with half-blind dovetails and there is a rail at the back of the table which is joined with a wedged mortise and tenon. The most unique and visually pleasing aspect of the design is the scalloped hand-holds on the sides.
The material I started with was 2 six foot 1x6' planks. The first challenge was getting the rough-cut lumber flat and ready to be glued up into wider (the prototype is 10" wide) planks, as I dont have a jointer or thickness planer yet. I ended up just using the table saw to rip clean edges on the boards and then I sanded the glued up planks as flat as I could manage.
Each table has an elegant groove under the front edge for your fingers to find when pulling the tables forward. I tried to make this by rounding out a groove cut with a straight bit in the router using a file and sandpaper, but I didn't really achieve the shape I was looking for which I think would have been a lot easier to accomplish using a core box bit instead.
Still, the end result is functional if not quite as aesthetically pleasing (and this part is rarely visible in use). Next I tackled the mortises for the rail, while I had the router out. I used my edge guide and clamped some stops in place to ensure a consistent length to each pass as I plunged deeper into the wood.
I planned on making the hand-holds and the pattern of the feet with the router too, so I created some templates.
The hand-holds required a mostly semi-circular through-cut inset within the vertical scallop, which I planned on cutting with a core box bit to get the softly curved edge and then a straight bit to remove most of the material in the middle of the scallop. To make the scallop progressively shallower, I planned on placing the template at an angle to the wood surface.
Below you can see the completed template for the scallop with wedges attached with double-sided tape. What hadn't occurred to me until I tried using it, was how to clamp it to the piece when it was raised at an angle and still give the router enough clearance.
I solved the clamping problem by making another set of wedges and inserting a caul under the end of the template. I practiced first on a piece of scrap.
It was a bit tricky getting the depth of both bits to match and the practice run was a bit of a mess - but I thought I had figured out how to do it.
The next time around, it came out pretty well.
Next step was trying out the dovetail jig. I had done a test run a couple of weeks earlier and I grabbed the dovetail bit and bushing without checking to make sure I still had the right one - and this was the result:
I somehow had picked up the through-dovetail bushing instead of the half-blind dovetail one, so everything was way off.
I dealt with this setback by cutting off half an inch from the sides and the top to remove the bad dovetails and tried again. Tragically, this time in my distraction I must have forgotten to tighten the bit in the router properly, as it immediately wandered an extra 1/4" too deep and ruined the dovetail again...
So, by the time I finally had the dovetails cut the hand-holds were quite a bit higher up than planned.
Moving on to the tenons, I used the dado set on the table-saw to cut the tenons to size and then a handsaw to cut the slot for the wedge. The wedges were made from some red oak scrap I had lying around.
After some initial sanding, I was ready for the glue-up.
I used a brace opposite the rail to keep the sides square during clamping. With all the dovetails, the rail tenons and the wedges to glue, it was a bit of a scramble getting everything together before the glue started setting.
Once the glue had set fully, I sanded down the dovetails and finish-sanded the whole piece. I love these little bench cookies by the way - really great for resting a workpiece on for sanding.
Then, I gave it 4 coats of polyurethane. I had a lot of problems with drips, brushing on the first 3 coats, so I wiped on the final coat which helped and also gave it a waxing. I'm thinking of using a shellac seal-coat and wiping varnish for the cherry.
Overall, I'm pretty pleased with how it came out. So now I'm ready to start a set of three.