MAKING IT INTERESTING
With a master's help, this project comes to life.
SHOP OWNER: Joanne Adler
LOCATION: Point Pleasant, PA
Two years ago I built a cherry sideboard for my parents. It was to replace a rather ugly chest in their front foyer. I told them the next piece of furniture I wanted to replace was a non-descript end table in the living room. “How about a nice little Shaker table with a drawer”, I asked my mother. “Oh,” she said, “Well, as long as you’re offering - I don’t want anything too plain. Make something interesting.” Hmmmm… I HAD to ask!
Not having Mr. Skaggs’ or Mr. Young’s flair for design or any ideas sprouting from my head, I started combing magazines and the Internet for ideas. I found something similar to this table in a furniture magazine. Although it was clunky and built out of oak, I liked the idea of shelves and drawers. I set about designing my version on paper. Were I better with pencil, rule, and paper (or took the time to learn to use a CAD program), I might have noticed some of the design flaws myself. But then, that would have eliminated the wonderful teaching/learning session I experienced with Ellis on a recent visit he made to my shop; and I do so love being an educable sponge.
I had done arcs or cloud lifts and mortise and tenon (and through-tenon) joints on an Arts and Crafts table before. I’ve done frame and panel assembly. I’ve built units with shelves in dados. For me, with my limited design and construction knowledge, the most difficult thing to work out was the captured shelf and the bottom shelf and getting the whole thing to fit together neatly. Ellis to the rescue! He saw my poorly fitting shelves and where I had tried to create some shadow lines but didn’t quite have things lining up evenly. Within 10 to 15 minutes he very easily explained how to fix the shelves - “Do you have any more of that cherry? You really should cut new shelves! And then line edges up in a more sensible way, and get the bottom shelf to fit into the center divider”. “But Ellis, it’s already partially glued.” “Naaahhhh, we can break that glue joint.” And he did!
The one thing he suggested, that I did NOT get to, was to reshape the arches on the bottom rails. He thought the arc should be longer and more gradual and go almost all the way to the legs. I agree that it would look nicer, but I was on a deadline - my mother expected that table to be in her house for visiting company on a certain date.
Overall, I am pleased with the way it turned out. I would like to have had a little more time for sanding and finishing, and more cherry to choose from to match grain a little better and leave out lighter sapwood (although, I kind of like that contrast), but it was time for the piece to leave my shop. It turns out that my parents love it just the way it is!
The first few shots should give you an idea of the table’s construction and some of the nice grain I found (Oh - this is more of the cherry I got from Malcolm Timbers before he moved west. Thanks, Malcolm!).
The next few shots are closer shots of the shelf joints and how things line up. The front edges of the two shelves, the center divider, drawers, and drawer dividers all line up on the same plane (or pretty nearly do!). And the side edges of the two shelves are in the same plane. The shelves are pinned (screwed from the outside of the left legs) and plugged and float in dados or grooves on the center divider.
This table was good practice for hand cut dovetails. Very happily I learned a lot of new design and construction techniques on this project, (Thanks, Ellis! You rock!). Very unhappily I learned that my skin does NOT like Waterlox, and I am still recovering from a rather unpleasant case of contact dermatitis. Reminder to self: Don’t worry about getting Waterlox on your old, junky sweatshirt; keep it off your arms!!. . . Joanne Adler
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