Monday, January 4, 2016

Shaker Side Table - Finished

I finally got this one done.
This was supposed to be an anniversary gift to my wife in 2013.
I don't know what the struggle was, as I said this table was a fun hand tool build. I think it is only that it got interrupted for one reason or another, and when it was time to get back in the shop, there were other things ahead of this in line.

I have a couple projects I am itching to get started, but I made myself focus on this.  I am glad I did, because this little table is really nice.

I left off needing to construct the drawer.  Appropriate stock I had on hand that was 1/2" thick or less was oak, and this nice scots pine (Pinus sylvestrus).  Oak really would look funny with this drawer. Pine should be plenty stout for this.
Lucky me, this was wide enough to make the drawer bottom with only one glue line.
This pine was wide, clear, and perfectly quartersawn, which means it should be fairly stable.

For some reason, I goofed up and cut the sides of my drawer 1/2" too short. As a result, this drawer is 1/2" shorter than it ought to be. I can live with that, rather than start over with less appropriate wood.
I need to learn to clean up after myself in the middle of a project.
The last drawer I built, I used slips.  That was fun, so I thought I would do it again. Besides, this pine was closer to 3/8" than it was 1/2", so grooving slots in it might compromise it's strength.

For some extra overkill, I decided to use ash (Fraxinus excelsior) for the slips. I thought the ash would match the color of the pine inside the drawer, and not detract from the look of the inside of the drawer.

Being lazy, I plowed the groove for my slip stock after having nailed it directly to my bench top. I didn't really have another good option for work holding here without building something else.
I grooved the whole stick, then cut it in two pieces, one for each side of the drawer.
Now it's time for dovetails.
Slips and drawers. Woodworking or Victoria's Secret?
I have made very good dovetails in the past.  These, and the ones on the last drawer I made aren't quite there. I suppose I have to practice this some more.

I also might have to get a better light.
I used fish glue to glue the slips to the drawer sides.
Now that the drawer is done, this thing is looking like a finished project!
I used boiled linseed oil as a finished, and no finish at all for the inside of the drawer. I only burnished the wood with a polissoir.
The bottom actually is a stop that keeps the drawer even with the face. It sticks out so far because I made the drawer too short.
Here is a good shot of the inside of the drawer. The polissoir makes everything nice and smooth.
Nice and clean with no knots.
After a week or so putting on a few more coats of BLO, I will apply some paste wax and set it up with flowers on top, and all manner of crap in the drawer.

I like the top on this one. I found a board that was wide enough that I could glue it up with two boards looking pretty equal.
For now, it's empty.
I really like how the drawer is designed to stay up even when it's pulled out as far as it will go.
Just don't look too close at the dovetails.
The knob for the front I bought from Lee Valley. 
Artistic photography.
Hopefully the color will even out a bit over time. I decided against sanding the bits down that have darkened up over time with age. This would have made the color lighter, but also ruined the hand planed finish. I think the only sandpaper I used was some 400 grit on the knob.
The knob really gives this piece some character.
Here's my AAR:
  • It's probably better to finish the piece right away rather than move it from one part of the shop to the other for years on end. However, finishing it nearly three years late is better than not finishing it at all.
  • Cherry darkens over time, even in a shop with no natural light.
  • Taking time to lay out the parts on a board with grain flow and pattern in mind is well worth it, even at the expense of way more waste than otherwise.
  • Using a handsaw to cut the legs out so the grain is at a 45 degree angle is also well worth the effort. These legs have even, similar grain on all four faces of each leg. Had I not done this, the legs would not have turned out so graceful.
  • Tapering legs with a jack plane is a fun and easy hobby you can do at home!
  • More of these tables will need to be made to explore new and different things that can be done with the form.
  • Christopher Schwarz gets an A+ for his DVD which I used to build this table. I think that an absolute beginner could use this DVD to get good results, assuming he had the proper tools.


  1. Happy anniversary.

    The table looks really good. I have wanted to build the exact same for a long time, but I still need to find the right moment to start on it.
    A good point in finishing old projects is that your spouse will most likely not remember that it has taken so long time to do it, they will more or less believe that you did it during the course of the final work period.

    1. Hi Jonas, thanks!

      Although my wife seems to always remember that some projects take forever.

      You should make this table. I think a painted version would also look good, so palet lumber probably would work just fine.

      Elm would look good, too.

  2. Nicely done! The cherry will probably even out pretty quickly. In my limited experience, cherry darkens quickly to a certain point and then takes ages to darken further.
    Drawer slips is something that I have been meaning to give a try. I make most of my drawer sides from 1/2" pine. Larger drawers could benefit from the increased bearing/wear surface that a drawer slip would offer.
    I think you did the piece justiice. Again, well done.

    1. Hi Greg! Thanks for the comment. I hope you are right about the cherry, I think it will be OK.

      Drawer slips are great! The only drawback I've found with making them is it is one more thing where you have to wait for glue to dry before moving on. But if you can get past that, it is great as the sides of your drawers can be nearly any thickness. Plus, I like the look.

  3. Hooohooo done! That was undoubtedly the longest June build project :-)
    Jokes asides, it look great. I'm guessing that the color differences will somewhat disappear in due time.


  4. Hi Brian,
    and I thought I'm behind with my projects ;-).
    The table looks really great. I've got the same DVD but didn't find time to build one. But it seems to be a nice project and worth the effort.

    1. Hi Stefan, thanks!

      It is definitely worth the effort. If nothing else, I like the part in the DVD about how to choose stock for the project to make it look nice. It seems to have worked in this case.

  5. That table Looks gorgeous! Well done. John

  6. This is a really grandious table. What a pitty that your article isn't written in German

    1. My apologies, Eva! Unfortunately my German is not yet good enough to write auf Deutsch! Maybe soon!