Ideas from my shop #3: Cherry End Tables: How To

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Blog entry by David posted 05-15-2008 12:17 AM 3372 reads 6 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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May 14, 2008 ~ Happy Birthday Samantha

Cherry End Tables

This is one of my favorite days of the year; the day my grandaughter Samantha was born. It seems like yesterday but it was really 10 years ago. Of course the other favorite day is Emily’s B-day and she is 3. So I digress but thought today would be a good time to finally put together this sequence on these Cherry End Tables.

Our Daughter wanted me to make her two end tables out of Cherry and liked the design of two that I made from oak at our house. It’s running close to 9 bucks a BF around here so I swallowed hard and she said she would pay me. After I got my heart started again I told her I’d figure up about how much it would be. You can figure at least 17 BF for each one plus hardware, finish, sanding sundries, gas to pick up the stuff and a sharpening job on the saw blade just to call it fair.

Here’s a parts list if you want to make one. It’s my own design so you won’t be infringing on anyone’s copyright , patent or ego. I’m sure it is influenced by things I’ve seen over the years but I didn’t have anything in mind or around when I designed it so I guess it’s as origional as one can get. Of course, if you do make one; I’d expect you to send me a royalty of 500 bucks unless you can’t afford it then just drop by with a 6 pack or coffee (depending on the time of day) and we’‘ll talk shop.

They have an “Artist Tour” here on the Island every May which was last weekend. I went around and saw more blown glass and paintings; enough to last me a long time. I can buy a lot of Cherry for what a small blown glass vase would cost (300 buck plus !!!) and made from recycled beer bottles to boot. Amazing what folks will pay for stuff ….. Wish I could sell some furniture for that mark-up.

Cherry End Table Parts List: 1 table (I made two) all measurements in inches

Top 3/4 X 17 X 28 Qt 1
Side Apron 3/4 X 4 X 20 1/2 ~ plus tennon Qt 2
Rear Apron 3/4 X 4 X 10 1/4 ~ plus tennon Qt 1
Side Stretcher 3/4 X 3 1/4 X 20 1/2 ~ plus tennon Qt 2
F & R Stretcher 3/4 X 3 1/4 X 10 1/4 ~ plus tennon Qt 2
Legs 1 3/4 X 1 3/4 X 12 1/4 Qt 4
Shelf 3/4 X 11 1/4 X 21 3/8 Qt 1
Drawer Frames 3/4 X 1 1/2 X ?
Cleats Various
Drawer to fit (use the apron sizes when you go to purchase the wood)
Drawer Bottom 1/4 Cherry plywood Qt 1

Note: I added 1 1/2 for the two tennons (3/4 each) then ended up clipping off just a hair so they would not bottom out in the mortise. The lengths shown are the leg to leg distances.

After a trip to the yard and hours of sorting thru cherry, I brought it home and started by cutting it down to rough lengths and sorting it all out. My first endeavour was the legs…..
Squared out at size and length, I dug out my leg mortise jig and cut all of the mortises. Pay attention as there are left and right parts and the front and rear legs are not interchangable. A lesson I learned when I built my oak tables. If you need a set of RR legs I have a couple of spares. Here’s the jig and setup.

Clamp to the bench Back side of jig How the leg fits in back side Top side of jig

”Yea…I know just turn your head a bit”

So with a 3/8 spiral bit in the router, just plunge it in and cut out the mortices. (no don’t try to slam it down and cut it all at the same time) Clamp the jig down to the leg and table; the photo doesn’t show that.

Router ready to go Without spacer held w/ blue tape With spacer held w/ blue tape
The spacer just held in with blue tape allows for the difference in the side and F&R aprons. The side aprons being wider get a longer mortise. The spacer is about 1” ... I’d have to go measure it. The bottom edge of the stretchers are the same height from the bottom end of the leg but the end stretchers are narrower as well as shorter. This puts the shelf top surface flush with the end stretchers. The side stretchers sit proud.

Mark each leg mortise and label the top end of the leg where it will go ie RF,LF,RR,LR or you’ll get ‘em messed up. Mark the mortise location and if it doesn’t show thru the opening in the jig; stop and scratch yer head! It took me an hour to do all of them once set up. Once they are all mortised out (double check) ~~ the next step is to put an angle on the leg ends.

Fancy taper jig different view

I cut off an angle on the two inside surfaces and not the outside surfaces: just my style ~ no other reason. It’s about 1/2” x 2 1/2 long. It is only what looks good and as long as they are all cut with the same setup to match, you’ll be fine. I’m a stickler for accuracy (repeatability) vs precision: get a conversation going on that one !! This took about 15 minutes once set up. Setup took about 1 minute after 20 minutes to find my hammer.

Ready to sand the legs, I got out my Redneck (trademark) sander and dust removal system. You’ll have to make your own. You can copy my sander from my previous blog. It took me 1 hr to sand the legs.

RN Sander and DRS front RNS and DRS rear view

My shop’s on wheels so it look different every time I use it.

Shop equip

With a stop block or the fence retracted (whatever your preference) cut the aprons and stretchers to length. All goes back to that repeatability thing. If you’re off a smidge; they all need to be off the same smidge. Remember the definition of a rectangle.

Cutting lengths

OK here we go…lets cut some mortices. I had to dig out my RN tennon cutting attachment, clean off the cobwebs and adjust it with some scrap. Mine’s made from plywood scraps. I have this thing about those cast iron ones being so close to a spinning blade. There’s one clip where the blade actually will cut into the upright guide piece and I couldn’t do that if it was metal and still be writting this. I find it pretty easy to get the setup close then if I need to take off a hair more, put on a strip of tape to shim the stock closer to the blade. I actually did my cuts with two layers of tape.

tennon jig All the cheek cuts done

I like to make the shoulder cuts with the fence supporting the end all the way thru the cut. That way I know I’m not sliding on the miter gauge. I don’t like getting hit in the you know where with those little pieces. So clip off a smidge then make the full cut as shown. Flip it over and do the same on the other side and the other end. It took 1 hr to do all the tennons. It took more than that to find the RN jig.

Clip end cut full amount one side all side cuts done

All of the cheek cuts done, make the shoulder cuts.

trim should look like this all done

Give them a test fit and maybe a little sharp chisel work to pare off a shaving here or there. Then sand them up and mark out the curve on the lower stretchers. The aprons do not have a curve. A little band saw work and some edge sanding on the RN sander and they’re ready to assemble.

thin ply pattern of curves

OK so some purist is thinking ”What about the little round ends of the mortices and the square tennons?” No ~ I don’t round over the tennon to fit the round of the mortice. It goes as far as the mortice is straight and doesn’t fill the little roundy space. You’re gluing face grain to face grain at right angles to each other. This isn’t a New England Barn built for snow loads or to meet Seattle Earthquake codes. I’ve never had one break and have been doing them like this for years. If you think about it: this grain moves this way… and that grain will swell that way… and no one will ever get to see and appreciate the fact that you made them fill the little roundy end spaces. Nuff said.

Sand it all up and assemble the sides ie. two side legs and two other side legs. Make sure all is square, use a diagonal clamp if it needs coaxing into square. Put the glue in the mortise not the tennon so when you slide them together the glue doesn’t scrape off onto the leg. You don’t need a lot. If the tennons are going to bottom out, clip off about 1/8” so there is some space. I’ve had glue hydraulic pressure actually blow thru the side of a leg once. Won’t make that mistake again. Use some soft pine cauls so the work isn’t all beat up by the clamps. Be neat and tidy.

gule & clamp sides

Once they are dry, assemble the pair and the frame is done. Square it up two. You won’t have a top apron in the front so put in a piece of scrap to hold that space.

Frame done

There is a pair of cleats that hold the shelf on. Here’s the bottom cleat aligned with a piece of shelf scrap stock. Note that the holes are pre drilled and CS for the screws that will hold the shelf.

Shelf cleat Note holes

Make up the shelf to size and the top while you’re at it. The shelf needs to have the corners notched to fit around the legs. The first table I made (the Oak ones) had the legs notched so the shelf actually fit into a slot and there was no visable space. What a nightmare cutting it out then it all had to be assembled at the same time. Don’t go there. Not worth it. The shelf is going to breathe a bit due to its width, so give it breathing room. Drill those screw holes a bit loose and don’t glue the shelf in.

Note notch Shelves

Make two frames per table to just fit inside the aprons. After assembled; these have to be later notched around the legs too. I make frames that don’t show with half/corner lap joints. Quick, easy, really strong and they do the job nicely. Everyone knows the trick to get a blade so the height will cut exactly half way thru. Set it a hair low, clip the end (on a piece of scrap of same stock), roll it over, raise blade a tweek and repeat until the left over waste is paper thin…. then just barely tweek the blade height adj. Of course everyone knows that one so I don’t have to explain it. If I’m only doing a few laps, I just make multiple passes to take off all the stock to the end. But if I have to do a bunch… I get out my trusty RN tennon cutting jig and my blue tape adjuster and set it up for a cheek cut.

blade height cheek cut

Note the stop block on the fence attached to the miter gauge. It’s glued on and I slide the fence L or R then clamp. Once cut, glue and clamp the frames and square them. Use that diagonal clamp if needed. They’re easy to face clamp with one clamp per corner. After they are dry, sand or trim off any long tails and glue squeeze out. I made them a hair oversize them trimed on the TS to just fit inside the table frame. The corners have to be notched.

Notch frame corners Holes for top attach

The frames go in just like this was a chest of drawers. I screwed them from inside towards outside. Space between them is important. Use a couple of spacer blocks if you need an extra hand. The top one needs to be flush with the top of the legs and aprons.
bottom frame frames in

The front of the frames need a piece added on to bring them out to the correct location. I just glued it on after the frames were installed. You can use a biscut; I didn’t and havn/t had any problem. Glue and clamp cleanly, nice fit to the legs on the ends. That’s why I put them on after… you’ll see. It’s nice to have these sanded and the corners broken as they are hard to get at after installed.

Here’s my drawer sequence. Hand cut dovetails would be real nice. Even those machine ones. I used a lock rabbet? Somebody will call me on the name I’m sure. I make the tails long; it’s a long box but one doesn’t need to lose stuff in the deep recesses of a long drawer. The long tails keep it from tipping down when out and the grandkid proof stop keeps it from being dumped on the floor. I used cherry 1/4 ply for the bottom. I got the guy at the yard to sell me a damaged piece cheaper than full price and still it stung. The bottom sits in a groove. Front joint assembled dado in rear

drawer Glue and Square drawer

The drawers need a strip placed on the sides to guide them. this fills the space between the legs, inside of the apron. I put them in with a little glue. (glued to the apron; not the drawer) It’s not all the way back in position in the photo. I left it protruding so you could see the aprox. size.

drawer guide

After the drawers were all made up,I added a stop strip across the back of the inside of the rear apron to stop the drawer flush in the front. Clean everything up, sand, sand, sand some more, then sand again. These have several coats of Tung Oil ~ no stain. Cherry will darken over time and take on a beautiful patina. I waxed them and here they are. But just when you think you’re done…. here’s how I level tables. Put them on the flatest surface in the shop (probably TS) and see which two legs are hitting. Then set a piece of sandpaper rough side up and scuff the bottom tf those two legs. If you try to turn the tabe over and work the legs, you’ll get it goofy! Several scuffs and they won’t rock. So when I deliver them, if they rock, I know the floor is out! Now for the grandkid proof drawer. Put a stop on the back of the drawer to prevent it from being pulled out. I use a fender washer so later down the road, it can be removed.

check for flatness Scuff legs Fender washer stop

I know… I skipped over putting on the top. I guess you can figure that out. Just get it centered
Here they are and delivered for Mothers Day.

All of the photos are at this location if you want them in a group.
You can pick on the photos and get a much more detailed shot of all of my mistakes.

-- [email protected]

8 comments so far

View Partridge's profile


296 posts in 4407 days

#1 posted 05-15-2008 01:00 AM

very nice

-- I get out in the shop when I can

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4439 days

#2 posted 05-15-2008 01:35 AM

Great blog. Nice job on the tables!

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4273 days

#3 posted 05-15-2008 02:54 AM

This is a very educational blog and some gorgeous tables.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View TedM's profile


2002 posts in 4184 days

#4 posted 05-15-2008 03:40 AM

Great tutorial! Thanks!

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit and sign up for my project updates!

View David's profile


211 posts in 4166 days

#5 posted 05-15-2008 06:11 PM

May 15th

I just made some corrections on the blog. I was getting rummy yesterday so had to go make some sawdust to regain my sanity. I also added a link to the photo album.


-- [email protected]

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4333 days

#6 posted 05-15-2008 07:05 PM

Very nice blog. It is always fun to watch someone make something. Bravo to you for mentioning that the tenons are too short for the mortises. You are correct that the side grain to side grain is doing all of the work. I guess we have all done it, but are afraid to say it. Cheating, ya know.

The end results are very nice indeed.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Jim Crockett (USN Retired)'s profile

Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 4184 days

#7 posted 05-17-2008 04:43 AM

Nice blog – very informative! But I have to wonder about your oak end tables, “two that I made from oak at out house”. Did you make these for the outhouse or did you make them at the outhouse? Never heard of end tables in an outhouse but then there are probably lots of things I have never heard of! ;-)


-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

View David's profile


211 posts in 4166 days

#8 posted 05-19-2008 06:10 PM

Sorry Jim ….. It should have read “our house” I think. Guess my head (no pun intended) was at the out house. Spelling sure can put a different spin on things …. I posted some bowls some time ago and put an e in there so it was bowels ….... that got some heads (again no pun) turned.
I fixed it. You sure read it in detail though! I had an Instructor once who would intentionally put something in that was blatantly incorrect to see if we read it.

-- [email protected]

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