Asian Inspired Sofa Table #1: Design...

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Blog entry by azwoodman posted 10-25-2009 10:27 AM 5331 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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My wife and I need a little hall/sofa table and I want to build something so here we go…

Here’s a SketchUp picture of what I have come up with so far…


I am thinking solid wood for the legs and aprons then two sheets of 3/4 ply glued together with some solid wood edge banding for the top and lower shelf… (Wood choices might be: all walnut, all mahogany, or maybe wenge legs with a contrasting species for the rest of the piece.)

The edges of the top and and of the shelf are beveled at 5 degrees. Each leg starts at 1 1/2 inches square at the top and taper out to 2 1/2 inches at the bottom.

So here’s my question:

What type of joinery should I use to attach the legs to the drawer carcass and to the shelf?

Pocket screws would probably get the job done but I’d like to go with a more traditional type of joinery. I assume I might be limited if I am using plywood though, right?

Comments, suggestions, critique???

-- Spencer, Gilbert Az (

5 comments so far

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 4155 days

#1 posted 10-25-2009 03:12 PM

I really recommend this book, it shows you just about every joinery method I’ve seen (the one notable absence is draw-boring, though they do cover pegged mortise and tenon).

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Marco Cecala's profile

Marco Cecala

189 posts in 4954 days

#2 posted 10-25-2009 03:45 PM

Hello from a fellow AZ. Great time of year to be in the shop.

The plywood idea sounds good, but with all the work it will take to put this together it will be just as easy to use solid wood. Maple is cheap and looks great for Asian inspired casework. The table will perform better with 2 drawers, one big one may not be as practical and be more prone to warping.

The design will work well with mortise and tenon joinery. Don’t let it intimidate you, practice it a few times and you will have the skill forever.

Contrasting woods help the look, you can look at some tables I made for my wife’s office that are Asian in influence.

You can even come by my shop after some mortise and tenon practice and I will help you trouble shoot the joint and answer questions.

View a1Jim's profile


118145 posts in 4498 days

#3 posted 10-25-2009 04:46 PM

A good design and plan I agree with Jim c that is a super book I also like “joinery” by Gary Roginski


View CaptainSkully's profile


1615 posts in 4479 days

#4 posted 10-25-2009 06:41 PM

That’s a very cool design. I admire Asian-influenced pieces, as well as users of Sketchup. With angled legs like that, I usually use loose tenon joinery. My first thought was that a “floating” top would look really cool over your current design, kind of like Schroeder did with this table:

I really enjoy blogs where they start out with a drawing and you see it come to fruition.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 4269 days

#5 posted 10-26-2009 02:42 AM

First a disclaimer: critiquing a design based on one image and only a few bits of supporting text is, to say the least, challenging. Now with that out of the way….

One way to evaluate a design is to ask questions regarding what the designer’s intent is and how well the intent is realized in the design. The functional and the general aesthetics intent is stated (Asian influenced hall table) so that’s already clear.

Next one can look at the specific design details to see how they are composed. Because the legs stand proud of every other surface of the design they appear to be the most important element and their long gentle tapers further indicate their visual importance.

As designed, the meeting of the legs with the shelf and the drawer assembly indicates an equality of direction. Being equal on both sides, the connection shows no preference to the long or the short side, even though the overall design is a long and short geometry. Several questions come to mind. Is the leg position the design intent or is it a missed opportunity to further enrich the design? What if the legs were attached only to the short side? What if they were only attached to the long side? What effect might this have on the overall design?

There is an additional design detail, stated in the supporting text, regarding a 5 deg bevel on the edge of the shelf and the top. What is the intent of this detail? Is 5 deg enough of a bevel to be clearly interpreted as an ‘on purpose’ feature? Probably. When the bevel engages the leg what is the visual impact of the leg taper running by the 5 deg bevel? Is this juxtaposition visually desirable? Is visual tension between the to surfaces intended?

It is hard to determine from the picture but it doesn’t appear that the 5 deg bevel is continued into the drawer assembly and the text seems to support this by stating the bevel is on the shelf and the top. Is it the intent that the shelf and the top be read as identical elements and if so is it also the intent for the bevel to visually separate the top from the drawer? If this is the intent would it benefit the design if the separation was carried out more definitely? For example, could the drawer shrink in it’s footprint, be hung from the bottom of the top allowing a space between it in the legs and thus allowing the top to read more like the shelf? Now if a separation between these elements is not the intent can the top/drawer be be more fully integrated with each other and should the top develop some detail that allows it to separate itself from the shelf?

As you have probably realized by now this type of questioning can go on and on and on…. so now is as good as time as any to stop.
Please consider the above food for thought (or disposal) as you see fit.

Good Luck with the project.

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

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