MAHOGANY CONSOLE TABLE
Turning a breadboard end problem into a design opportunity.
SHOP OWNER: Jason Young
LOCATION: Austin, TX
I spent about thirty hours building this console table for the entry area. My wife had seen a few at Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware. They were overpriced and not beautiful so I decided I could make one myself. First off, I had to design the thing, and four hours later I had a good design mocked up in a CAD program. I had thought about it a lot and already knew what it was going to look like, but this just made me think about overall proportions. It also gave me something to estimate how much material I needed to buy. I ended up getting almost exactly the right amount.
I decided to use mahogany and hard maple. Originally, I was going the maple/cherry route, but the cherry at the lumberyard was plain sawn and the grain didn't look very good. In retrospect, I'm very glad that I went with mahogany. It's a wonderful wood with beautiful grain and the pieces I got look more quartersawn than plain sawn. Mahogany machines nicely and finishes like a dream.
Here, Iíve rough cut the mahogany leg pieces.
My friend Mark let me use his jointer and planer to get the stock to final rough dimension. At this point, I was quite concerned, as the color of the top did not match the legs. The legs have a beautiful reddish-brown color and the top, which came from a separate board, had a sort of salmon-pink color. Ultimately I was able to match the colors with some work.
After cutting the stock to length, I machined the blanks for the apron from the hard maple, cut the tenons, cut the curved corner details, and sanded the curve with a sanding drum in my drill press.
At this point most of the apron work was completed. I still had to knock off the sharp edges and sand it up to 220 in preparation for finishing. I did very little to the hard maple, as I wanted a nice contrast with the dark mahogany.
Next, I turned my attention to the top. After jointing the edges of the top boards, I glued them together, then I ripped a two-inch wide strip from the oversized top, cut a mortise in this strip using my wonderful new router table, cut a corresponding tenon on the ends of the top, and glued these breadboard ends onto the top. That grain is sure beautiful!
After this, I again used my router table and a tiny 1/4" straight-cutting bit to run a very tiny dado where the breadboard ends met the field of the top. I bought some inlay from woodcraft and glued it into the dado. Since the wood in the field of the top expands across the width, and the breadboard ends do not expand in that dimension, I had to glue the ľ" wide inlay just to the part of the groove on the breadboard end itself, which means that I only had a 1/8" glue surface to attach the inlay. I had to carefully apply the glue with a toothpick all along the 16" width of the table!
After sanding the top, the inlay was perfectly flush. In addition, since the groove is so accurate, there is no gap in the joint, even though the joint will "slide" by up to 1/16" or so as the field flexes throughout the year!
Since I was staining the mahogany, but not the maple, I decided to finish the pieces separately. I started by putting a coat of grain filler on all the mahogany. Since it was my first time using grain filler, I didn't realize that you should work in small segments. I coated the whole top of the table at once and let it dry for a few minutes. When I went to wipe it off with a squeegee, it was as hard as a rock! I spent a few hours scrubbing it off with lots of hard work. In the end, I had a nice grain-filled top and legs. I waited a day and then sanded the small bit of grain-filler haze that was still on the surfaces. Next, I sanded (and sanded, and sanded, and sanded) the whole thing to 220-grit. I wetted the top with distilled water, let dry, and sanded the raised grain. After doing this three times, I achieved a beautiful smooth surface. Then I broke out the stain.
I tested some Solar-Lux light brown mahogany dye on the underside of the table first, but it ended up excessively red and blotchy looking. However, using the dye I got a very nice and very slightly red color on the legs, so I went ahead and dyed these. I built a small jig that allowed me to finish all four sides and the top at the same time. Incidentally, there is a very slight chamfer (cut on the tablesaw) at the top of each leg.
As the legs were drying, I tested a small bit of mahogany gel-stain on the top and got a nice deep brown. This color very closely matched the dye-stained legs so I decided to use three coats of gel-stain on the top to achieve a consistent color.
Next came the assembly. First, I glued up the short ends. Then I glued up the whole piece. After the whole assembly had dried for a day or so, I gave the whole thing a coat of Tried and True varnish. This stuff is great; just wipe on, let sit for an hour, wipe off, and repeat. It doesn't smell and, best of all, is completely non-toxic. It's a bit expensive at $18/pint, but it goes a long way. Over the next five days, I put four coats of varnish on and didn't even use half a pint!
Here's a leg detail view.
Here's a shot of the inlay and breadboard end.
I had a great time building this project. It was my first attempt at an original design, my first time to work with mahogany, my first use of grain filler, first time using inlay, and first time making breadboard ends. Heck, just about everything involved in building the table was a first-time attempt. I'm very happy with the way it turned out, I learned a lot during its construction, and I'm looking forward to the next piece. By the way, my wife loves it!. . . Jason Young
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