Designing A Table From Scratch

Country Bench Plans

Designing an original piece of furniture is always a challenge, but it's simpler once you realize that it starts with a single idea. That idea snowballs, generating more ideas along the way. Luckily, I'm surrounded by top-notch craftsmen in my shop, so I get everyone involved in the design process.

For my "floating-top table/ I started with the idea of a piece in the Arts and Crafts style: sturdy, simple, with an honest use of solid wood. Looking at museum catalogs of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, I was drawn to his use of cantilevers, angular geometry and repetitive, vertical lines. But his furniture was too heavy-looking tor my taste. From concept to final form. KopH's table design began as a collection of varied

How to lighten up the look without los- geometrical forms. Refining proportions and resolving joinery details yielded a ing that Arts and Crafts feel^ We saw two design that was ready to be mocked up in the shop.

opportunities: proportions and color. _____________

Tapered legs and slats would give the table some visual lift. And using cherry, with its light tones and spectacular grain patterns, seemed quite the opposite of the dark oak typical of Arts and Crafts furniture. Since I like contrasts, I thought of accenting the cherry with ebonized wood.

With all these ideas in motion, it was time to sketch them on paper. Our sketc hes aren't fancy. The point is to get clown on paper the ideas that are floating around in your head. Much to my surprise, the drawings showed a style reminiscent of the sweeping architecture of Japanese temples.

Rather than tone down this oriental flair, I decided to play it up. We added more slats in a decorative centerpiece. Thick, massive rails worked with the architectural theme. Then we beveled and angled ends and edges.

With such a complex base, the top needed to be simple». The clean lines of Shaker tables came to mind. And to keep the airy feel, we decided to set the top on tall battens, rather than fixing it to an apron in the conventional method. Adding the black butterfly keys tied the top to the base. At this point, the name "floating-top table" seemed to describe how the top appeared to rise above the base.

The next step was to build full-si/e mock-ups ot the more complicated parts, such as the end assemblies and the centerpiece. Our mock-ups are pretty rough-shod affairs. We take care to si/e the stoc k accurately, then we slap parts together, stand back and look for opportunities to improve.

From mock-ups we went into the shop proper and began construction. As we build, we keep asking questions about the design and posing answers. And we review our construction methods to make them more efficient. The result? An evolution in a series: The second table will have refinements that the first table lacked.

Interestingly, after we designed and built our first "floating-top" table, I learned that Frank Lloyd Wright was an impassioned collector of Japanese prints known as ukiyo-e— Japanese tor "pictures of the floating world." —K.K.

I hen wc taper the legs and the slats, and choni/e the slats, the battens and the blocks for the ccnccrpiccc. Next, wc assemble the centerpiece and glue up the end assemblies, lo complete the base, we join the end assemblies together by installing the three .stretchers, along with the centerpiece. Adding the stub rails is the last step.

I he two-piece top is eas\ to make; it s just matter of selecting <>r gluing up two beautiful boards and joining them with butterfly keys. (See sidebar, page

^ ''A . .i :' ' 1 -i -. a J ■'.' ' p.i:..? until both subassemblies have been coated with finish. I n keep the butterfly joints from popping while the top is separate Irom the base, we screw scrap battens underneath the top.

Construction Details Dowel joinery—We use grooved dowels to join all the parts. (See ligs. 2 and 3.) Dowels are strongest when used in pairs on wide parts to resist twist. Dowel joints simplify joining the angled parts of this table, such as where a tapered leg meets .i rail. Wc drill all the dowel holes m the tapered stock legs and slats—while these parts are still square. In out shop, we use a commercial hori/oiual boring machine for drilling. You can make accurate dowel holes with a plunge router and * <S- and * i-in. spiral up-cutting bits.

Four-sided tapers—\\ e taper the legs and slats on the tahlesaw with a tapering jig. rhc jig rides in one of the miter grooves on the saw and holds the stock at an angle to the blade. (See photo, right.)

Cutting four-sided tapers. The author tapers the slats by ripping two adjacent sides; then he inserts a spac er in the }ig and rips the remaining sides.


This unique floating-top design connects the two-piece top to the base assembly with three battens.

Taper Jig For Table Saw
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