Spindle Detail

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Making the Birdcage

The birdcage comes next. It's nothing more than a box consisting of an upper and lower plate connected by four turned spindles. (See Fig. 2.)

The tablctop pivots on two /*-in. dia. tenons projecting from the upper plate, as shown in Fig. 1 and 2. There are two ways to make these. You can cut out the top plate with two Vin. long "ears'' and round these ears with a knife and a file. Or you can round the ends of a piece of "nn. square stock on the lathe and glue the stock onto the plate.

On the lower plate, lay out the centers for the P/cin. dia. pedestal post hole and the four '>in. dia. spindle holes. Tape the upper and lower plates together so you can drill both plates at once. Note in Fig. 2 that the holes go through the lower plate but only partially into the upper plate. A Forstner bit makes a clean, flat-bottomed hole. After drilling the holes, chamfer or round the edges of the plates and round the upper edge of the top plate next to the tenons to allow clearance for the top to pivot.

Next, turn the four birdcage spindles, sanding and finishing them right on the lathe. The tenons on these spindles should fit snugly into the plate-holes, but you may also wish to cut kerfs in the tenons and wedge them in place for extra strength. If you like, you can blind-wedge the tenons in the upper plate by inserting a wedge partially into the kerf and driving the tenon into its hole. ITie bottom of the mortise forces the wedge into the tenon and locks it in place.

Turning the Top

You have several options for making the top: dish it on the lathe, dish it with a router (see sidebar), or simply make a flat top by cutting a circle on the bandsaw and shaping the edge with a router.

To turn the top, you'll need a stout lathe with an outboard spindle and a floor stand t(x>l rest. (Most 12-in. swing cast iron lathes will suffice.) I glued the tabletop to a 24-in. dia. plywood waste block that is screwed to a large faceplate. The whole assembly is then mounted on the outboard spindle of the lathe and turned at a low speed (20(>-30<) rpm) with scrapers. The top is then pried away from the waste block and the two cleats that connect the top to the birdcage assembly are immediately screwed to the top's undcn»ide to keep it fiat.

Because you'll need to install the two cleats right after turning the top, make them first. (Sec Fig. 1.) Drill Vin. dia. holes in the sides of the cleats to accept the tenons on the birdcage's up|xr plate. Also, drill and countersink the screw holes for the screws that fasten the cleats to the lop.

Now for the top. Glue up the top blank from 5/4 boards that match in both color and grain (if you choose to make a flat top use 4/4 stock). Many old tables have tops made from a single board, but of course wide boards like that just aren't available today.

While the glue is drying, bandsaw the 24-in. dia. waste block from H-in.

To simp«' the tenons on tli«' birdcage's upper plate, the author first rounded the ends of a square spindle and then glued the spindle to the up|>er plate.

plywood (for more on sawing circles, see aw March/April 1988). Fasten the waste block to the outboard faceplate with screws. Then mount the faceplate on the lathe and true up the waste block's face and edge with a heavy scraper.

Once the top blank is dry, saw out a 35-in. dia. circle on the handsaw. With a jointer plane, flatten the underside. Then remove the waste block/faceplate assembly from the lathe, center it on the underside of the tabletop and glue it down with a layer of heavy paper between the top and the waste block. I use grocery bags and plenty of yellow glue. The paper allows you to pry off the waste block after turning.

When the glue has dried overnight, you're ready to turn the top. Start the job in the morning so you can see it through to completion. Left unfinished, the top may twist or cup overnight making it difficult to finish turning the next day.

Mount the work on the lathe. (Wear a face shield!) Stan the lathe at its slowest possible speed. If the lathe wants to dance around the room, weight the lathe stand with sandbags or concrete blocks.

Begin by truing up the edge of the top with a sharp, heavy scraper. Stop frequently and sharpen the tool. Just tnie the edge at this stage—don't turn the top to its finished diameter yet.

When the edge runs true, reposition the tool rest and tnie up the face with a scraper. By now the top should be spinning pretty smoothly. Keeping the speed low (300 rpm). turn the face to the finished rim thickness (1 in.). When the face is ninning true, turn the top to its finished 34-in. dia.

Now take a break and study the drawing of the raised rim. (See Fig. 1.) It's basically a bead, a fillet and cove. Turn the fillet first with a square scraper, then the cove with a round nose scraper and finally the bead with a square scraper. You should sand the raised rim now, as it may move slightly once you start dishing out the top.

Dish the top with a heavy scraper and check for flatness as the work pro

To simp«' the tenons on tli«' birdcage's upper plate, the author first rounded the ends of a square spindle and then glued the spindle to the up|>er plate.

gresses. Keep the tool sharp to minimize cross-grain tear-out. When the turning is complete, sand the top, while it's still on the lathe, to 220 grit. Then remove the top from the lathe and sand it by hand following the grain to remove the circular scratches.

Separate the top from the plywcx>d disc with a large, wide cliisel. Insert the chisel under the edge of the waste block, bevel down, and carefully working your way around its perimeter, tap the cliisel lightly with a mallet to pry it free. Avoid gouging the underside of the top. Once you remove it, scrape away the paper and glue from the underside of the top and sand it.

Now screw the cleats in place to prevent the top from cupping. IX) this by-screwing one cleat down first, and inserting the birdcage top-plate tenon in the hole in the cleat. Then slide the other cleat ovct the other birdcage tenon and screw dial cleat to the tabletop.

Turning the Washer

Turn the Vin. thick wooden retaining washer that mounts over the pedestal's post next. (See Fig. 2.) Screw a waste block that is about 4 in. to 5 in. dia. to the lathe's faceplate and glue the workpiece to the waste block with a piece of paper bag between the two pieces.

Turn the washer with scrapers. Before removing it from the lathe, bore the 114-in. dia. hole with a Forstner bit mounted in a chuck in the tail-stock. This method will ensure that the hole is concentric with the washer itself.

Pry the washer from the waste block with a chisel. Be careful, the washer is thin and will break if pried with much forcc. Then, moisten the back of the washer and rub off the glue and paper with your fingers. Finally, carefully chisel two notches in the top of the washer for the wedge that secures the birdcage to the l>edestal. (See Fig. 2.) This prevents the washer from turning when the top is rotated.

Place the birdcage and washer on the pedestal and mark the pedestal for the tapered wedge mortise. (See Fig. 2.) Accurate location is important. If the mortise is too high the top will rattle. If it's t(X) low the wedge may cause-binding and make it difficult to rotate the top. Cut the mortise with a brad point bit chucked in a hand-held electric drill. Then clean the mortise up with a chisel.

Next, place the assembled table upside down and position the brass catch and its keeper (available from Ball & Ball. 463 W. Lincoln Hwy., Exton. PA 19341. 215-363-7330). Mount the hardware and check to see that it works properly. Remember to remove the hardware before finishing.

Final sanding and finishing will complete the job. Antique tables were commonly finished with varnish or shellac. I like to use a tung oil varnish, on unstained wood, because it brings out the natural color. ▲ ►___.

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