Queen Anne Tea Table

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Blog entry by Kerry posted 05-07-2008 06:24 AM 3878 reads 2 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a table I made to kill two birds with one stone. First off, I wanted to make something with cabriole legs; secondly we needed a couple of end tables for our TV room. My wife gave me the go ahead to make a couple of these tables. I couldn’t find a design that I really wanted to duplicate, so I used a bit from here, a bit from there, and then added a few touches of my own and came up with this table.

As I said in my project post for this table, part of the reason for putting this in a blog is so that some of you Lumberjocks with far more experience than I could have a peek at how I did this and maybe point out anything you think I could do differently/better when I build the second matching table. So feel free to post your criticisms – I’m here to learn.

The first thing I did was to make a full size template for the oval top. I knew I’d be needing a router template anyway, and having a full size drawing on the template would make preparing the different components much easier. Here’s the template at an early stage:

To lay out the oval on the particle board, I started with a central line drawn the length of what would be the final shape. I drew a line perpendicular to the lengthwise line at what will be the middle of the oval. After a little experimenting to arrive at the final size of the table top, I tapped two small nails into the board on the central lengthwise line at 12 ½” from the middle line. I made a loop of string 57” (I think? – might have to check my math) in circumference so that when it was placed over the nails and a pencil was used to stretch out the loop, it reached out to the desired size of the oval – 32”, and then used that to draw the oval. There are several good articles on the web explaining this – just search on “drawing ovals”. The important thing here is that the string does not stretch. I repeat – the string must me a material that does not stretch. Similarly, to draw sections of ovals that defined the outside and inside of the side apron, I replaced the nails at 11 ½” and 11 7/32” respectively as shown here:

I continued drawing components (legs, aprons, tenons) onto the template to aid in assembly and to help picture how the whole thing goes together. This picture for example shows how the tenons fit into mortises in the legs:

Now I taped a piece of blank paper to the template and – using nails in the same holes used to draw the apron onto the template, drew the outline of the apron onto the paper using the string used earlier:

I just happened to use the same paper on which I had earlier traced the form of the cabriole legs.

The next step was to glue up a bending form to be used to bend the veneers into the final shape of the side aprons. I used MDF and to make it slightly lighter and to use up some scraps, I alternated full size pieces with strips to leave open channels:

Using graphite tracing paper and the apron pattern I made earlier, I traced the outline of the apron onto the surface of the bending form block, and then cut the form on the bandsaw:

The surface undulations seen in this photo must be sanded smooth. I used a large sanding block – wood with sandpaper glued on with spray adhesive to ensure as fair a form as possible:

As I found out on an earlier project, if these band saw marks are not sanded out they WILL telegraph into the surface of the bent apron which will then need extensive sanding to smooth. Better to do the sanding once now in material that is easily sanded rather than spend more time sanding the hardwood aprons – making them thinner in the process. Once the form was sanded smooth, I used some packing tape to protect the MDF from moisture and glue during the bending process:

Now that the form was done, I used my full size drawing to determine the sizes of the pieces I’d need for the aprons and top, and selected what I felt were the best pieces of lumber from the cherry boards I had. Using my bandsaw I then cut one of the pieces that would become a side apron into veneers for bending. I found that cutting them 1/8” thick worked well. I did try a bit thicker, 3/16” for one side but it was much harder to bend and a small crack (with the grain) formed. I then put the veneers into my steam box and let them steam for about a half hour:

After removing the veneers from the steam box I quickly applied a coat of yellow glue to one side of each (except the last one). I then placed them between the two halves of the bending form and began to squeeze them together with clamps. I had earlier marked them so that I wouldn’t mix up their order while I did the gluing. Here’s a picture of one of the layups in the press:

After removing the apron from the press, I traced my pattern onto it and put together this jig to hold it while I cut the curves on the bandsaw, and later to cut the tenons on the table saw:

Once the bottom of the aprons were cut, I made up a scratch stock for putting a bead on the bottom edge of each apron:

Here it is in use:

And here’s some of the final results:

After I made the mortices in the legs (see below), it was time to cut tenons on the ends of the aprons. This is where the jig shown earlier, and it’s sister really shone:

With the aprons complete (except for the tenons which were actually cut after I made the mortices in the legs), it was time to turn to the legs. First step was to plan where to cut the legs from the 12/4 board to try to have the grain running from corner to corner. I then tilted my saw table to match one edge of one pair of legs:

I then flattened the freshly cut face with a jointer plane:

and then reset the table to 90° to cut the remaining three sides of the first pair of legs. I repeated this for the second pair. Afterwards I flattened and squared the stock before crosscutting each pair apart.

After spending some time trying to find the best orientation of each leg, I used a hardboard template to draw the shape of the leg on two adjacent faces of each blank:

At this point I made the mortices in the legs, before cutting the cabriole shape. Some I did by hand, and some with a hollow chisel morticer attachment on the drill press. No rhyme or reason as to which ones I did by hand and which by machine – I just got tired of chopping after a while and switched to the machine. It was actually at this point that I cut the tenons pictured above to fit the mortices. Then it was off to the band saw to cut the waste from these legs, trying to stay just outside the pencil lines. I don’t have any pictures of this, but afterwards here’s what I had:

In the photo above I’m beginning to add guide marks to aid in the rounding of the leg. The first step was to find the distance from the edge to the middle of the narrowest part, the ankle, and draw a line the same distance from the edge all the way up the leg. Then I drew another set of lines between these first lines and the edge, like so:

This line is a little closer to the first pencil line than the edge, but I don’t think it would have made much difference if it had been halfway between. The next step is to use a drawknife, chisel, or whatever to remove the corners down to these second lines, like so:

Next, I drew a line down the middle of the areas I just flattened:

The line is a little hard to see because of glare, but you can see part of it at the top and bottom of the photo. Now I removed the edges between these latest lines and the original ones, flattening an area about halfway between. Next, it was on to a spokeshave to continue removing ridges and smoothing the overall shape:

Since I don’t have a big enough lathe to turn the feet, I had to start by finding something to draw a circle for the pad on the bottom of each foot. This pill bottle did the trick:

Then I used a handsaw to cut into the top of the pad, down to the circle:

and then used a chisel to remove the waste all the way around the pad:

In order to guide stock removal in forming the foot, I cut a 2 ½” circle from a piece of cardboard and made some guide marks in from the corners of each foot:

and then cut off the three outside corners with a handsaw:

The round shape of the foot was then refined with a rasp:

After this, it was lots and lots of sanding and scraping and sanding and more sanding to arrive at the finished leg.

-- Alberta, Canada

4 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 5327 days

#1 posted 05-07-2008 07:53 AM

I usually do the same thing using 1/8” material. I don’t steam it though. I never saw the need.
What is your reason for that?

Great blog. Looking forward to seeing more.

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

View Kerry's profile


162 posts in 5129 days

#2 posted 05-07-2008 03:46 PM

Thanks Gary. In answer to your question, I steamed it because I, umm, well, I thought I needed to :-) That’s about it. Maybe on the next table I’ll give one a try without steaming. It would certainly eliminate the scalded hands and the fumbling around with leather gloves. When you bend something without steaming do you find much springback?

Thanks again, this is exactly why I wanted to post this – to solicit feedback.


-- Alberta, Canada

View jjohn's profile


390 posts in 5052 days

#3 posted 05-08-2008 02:51 PM

Great tutorial. We need more like this. Very well done.

-- JJohn

View xylosapiens's profile


198 posts in 4953 days

#4 posted 07-22-2008 02:00 AM

I find it very elegant to use technique instead of rough force: making thinks just for fun offers you the oportunity of learning and using technics that enrich your project. As a professional one is often caught by time to learn o improve your procedures: in fact, many professionals specialized themselve in certain methods and it determined, sometimes in exces, their production. I would like to encourage you in using as much skills as you like. Is just an opinion. Thank you for your attention.

-- Alejandro Moreno alias xylosapiens, CANARY ISLANDS

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