Farmhouse Table w_Buffet #6: Buffet Lower Shelf

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Blog entry by Smitty_Cabinetshop posted 05-04-2015 12:28 PM 1962 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Table, Buffet Tops Part 6 of Farmhouse Table w_Buffet series Part 7: Buffet Drawers »

To get shelf in place between four turned legs is a challenge I’d not considered before, much less undertaken. Should the shelf have concave rounds at each corner to match profiles with the legs, with dowels to hold them in place? Or should the same setup have notches cut in the legs for additional holding power? The shelf will sag, being in the neighborhood of 50” long; is additional support needed? What can be done to mitigate sagging? All of this, and more, with the certain knowledge there’s little margin for error. Make the shelf board too short, and I’m pulling the legs out of square in some way. Unintentionally too long, same thing. As Winnie the Pooh says, ‘think, think, think.’

I don’t know how high off the floor a lower shelf should be, or how much room is enough above the shelf, so I reached for a cut-off 1x and used it to make a horizontal mark on the inside of each the left and right pair of legs; the plan is to notch in a pair of dado’d rails that in turn will hold the shelf. Four stopped dados in turned legs… sounds fun, right? I thought so, too. Mess up, and it’s back to Lowes for another leg (or two, or three, etc.). Oh, well. Gotta learn sometime, right?

Each side rail was cut somewhat long (how much longer was a wag…), as I didn’t really care how deep each end extended into a leg. Had to be at least 3/8”, but not as much as 3/4” as that’d weaken the leg (or so I think). From there, I wanted to rails to set in the dado fully, if that makes sense. So getting an even depth was a focus (to have full contact when the rail is pressed into place and glued). Hard to chisel on a tapered and turned leg, but I’ve covered that. Held a rail end against a leg and traced a rectangle. First I did a couple shallow cuts at the top and bottom of each ‘mortise’ with the gent’s backsaw, then got busy chiseling.

Lots of fit checks for each, of course.

The way I kept the legs perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other was low-tech; I measured the distance between the centers of each side leg and checked that it was the same at the bottom of the legs using a couple small marks; when the distances matched, I was done chiseling. Clamp-up of the pieces then confirmed all was well.

With the rails figured out, attention turned to the actual shelf itself. I looked around the shop for materials to use; there was a nice piece of 1×12 pine leaning against the back wall… But with any kind of weight applied, that thing would sag something fierce. After pondering some kind of support structure for the shelf and coming up with nothing aesthetically neutral, the long piece of red oak caught my eye. It’d lend weight to the piece at a low center of gravity, which is good, and is more rigid than the pine alternative. Finally, it was cheap. Very cheap. Okay, it was free; a handyman-for-hire friend of mine pulled a couple long and wide pieces from an office as part of a renovation and gave them to me vs. sending each to the dumpster. I didn’t think to include the shelf board in the quote, either, so this was a win-win.

Width needed was around 12 ½”, board was not wide enough. So a couple rip cuts with a second piece of the red oak stock, and jointing w/ Heft & Hubris, resulted in stock that needed a final rip, so I got a chance to use my ‘new’ panel marking gauge.

Simple but effective iron tool. Long point that slides up and down a trapezoidal shaft, small ‘hook’ on the end.

With the shelf board done (yay! I made a board!), I added a dado to each side rail w/ the Stanley #45.

Then did a fit check of the shelf. All was good! Here it is, in place and hit with some filler where it sported a couple finish nail holes from it’s former life.

And of course, another sandbag sighting; they’re always in use with these pieces. For dry-fitting, the sandbags and clamps work together to add stability. For glue-ups, the sandbags really drag the piece down on all four legs, getting good contact across the board.

Now that everything is constructed, it’s safe to glue up to final form, lightly sand any surface imperfections and apply sealer / primer. Easy enough, right? Right! Here it is, then (glue up went on without a hitch!):

The drawer frame will be included in the glue up just prior to fitting the drawers, and that’s another installment. Until then, thanks for looking!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

13 comments so far

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3468 days

#1 posted 05-04-2015 12:35 PM

This is going to be a beautiful piece and you are doing such a nice job on it. You have such an interesting shop and I certainly want to follow along.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View putty's profile


1292 posts in 2208 days

#2 posted 05-04-2015 12:37 PM

That is coming along nice Smitty. Good idea with the sand bags!

-- Putty

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16319 posts in 3219 days

#3 posted 05-04-2015 12:41 PM

Thanks, Charles! It’s an adventure… Putting a shelf on a turned leg table was an action I really hadn’t thought much about before. Now that it’s done, I’d not hesitate to do it again, same way. It’s really possible because of the stability afforded by the large M&T joints above; anything less than a fully rigid frame would be not good.

Good to see you, Putty, thanks for the comments!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View terryR's profile


7561 posts in 2909 days

#4 posted 05-04-2015 01:22 PM

Thanks for the many lessons, Smitty!
Cannot imagine mortising a turned leg, but your method looks great!
The table and buffet are looking fantastic.

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Pat3's profile


132 posts in 2480 days

#5 posted 05-04-2015 03:24 PM

I like how you mortised in the support rail for the shelf, xlnt idea.
The Buffet looks awesome so far, really enjoying watching your progress.
I want me one of those panel gauges, sweet tool!

View AnthonyReed's profile


10115 posts in 3041 days

#6 posted 05-04-2015 04:48 PM

So many avenues on which to err with the shelf installation and you make your success look so simple…

Great stuff, thank you Smitty.

-- ~Tony

View summerfi's profile


4355 posts in 2288 days

#7 posted 05-04-2015 05:46 PM

Smitty, your tools must be happy to have such a capable owner. Oh wait a minute….I’m anthropomorphizing. My bad. Good looking project though!

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16319 posts in 3219 days

#8 posted 05-04-2015 06:07 PM

Smitty, your tools must be happy to have such a capable owner.

- summerfi

That brought a smile to my face! Thanks Bob!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View 489tad's profile


3726 posts in 3613 days

#9 posted 05-04-2015 09:11 PM

Looks great! I like the sandbag idea too.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View JayT's profile


6354 posts in 2812 days

#10 posted 05-04-2015 09:23 PM

Making great progress, Smitty. I sense more commissions may be coming your way.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View mafe's profile


12286 posts in 3690 days

#11 posted 05-04-2015 09:59 PM

I always feel home when I see pictures from your shop.
Love to see how you work and what you come up with.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Mean_Dean's profile


7016 posts in 3748 days

#12 posted 05-05-2015 12:30 AM

Well, she’s certainly coming along great! I’m curious what results you’ll have with the paint. I always seem to get a rough surface when painting bare wood.

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16319 posts in 3219 days

#13 posted 05-05-2015 11:45 AM

^ thanks for the word vomit, songmin.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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