Three Church Tables

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Project by Dinger posted 08-01-2014 06:47 PM 1439 views 1 time favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Recently, a dear member of our church passed away after battling disease for over 10 years. This man was a woodworker in his own right and made several items for our church, including two podiums, a place to hold individual cups at the communion rail and a decorative crucifix next to the pulpit. One project that he never completed was one that his wife always wanted done (aren’t they always?) when he became ill over a decade ago and could no longer work wood. His wife always thought the occasional side tables in the narthex (reception area/lobby) we’ve used for so long were beyond ugly. In fact, they were folding tables designed for temporary use or camp use! She always wanted Hank to replace them.

When he died, we decided to use a portion of the funds to purchase materials to finally make these tables to replace the ugly ones – a young woodworker carrying on the tradition in Hank’s honor. I’ve recently completed these three identical tables, and I hope you enjoy!

My parameters were limited by a couple of things in terms of design. The first was that we already had a table in this area that the widow liked and she wanted the new table to match as closely as possible. So I simply took some measurements and scaled every piece down about two thirds. This obviously wasn’t going to be perfect by itself, and that’s where the second element of the designe came into play. These tables needed to occupy the same space as the old ones, approximately 2’ x 4’ x 30” tall. I then worked that into my design. It still wasn’t perfect to my eye so I kept tweaking it in Sketchup until I liked it. Here’s a picture of the table I was to copy:

And these are the finished tables next to their larger clone:

A few notes on the construction:

Again, to keep with the model I had to work with, the table legs, aprons, stretchers, and table trim were made of Quarter Sawn White Oak. The plywood for the top was cabinet grade 3/4” Red Oak. Ok don’t kick me off of Lumberjocks for the following statement: The joinery method used was ALL pocket screws! Not exactly purist and not my preferred method – but I’m open to trying new things. It was remarkably fast and effective. On the first table I needed another form of joinery other than mortise and tenon. Why? I cut the aprons too short. So I thought about dowels. I don’t have a doweling jig and while I trust my drill press to give me good square results in the long grain, I needed something for the end grain. I borrowed a friends doweling jig and much to my dismay NONE of my bits fit his jig’s sleeves. So pocket screws were the solutions. All joints are glued of course and I’ve read somewhere that glue joints are supposedly stronger than the wood itself when cured. We’ll see. I intended to join the top with pocket screws anyway considering it is plywood and shouldn’t move much. And I know you all want an answer to the burning question – Yes, even the stretchers are joined with PS. The corbels were the toughest part. Again, I was copying a scaled down version of someone else’s design. I band sawed 24 of them to rough shape (two per leg x 3 tables) and then used a friends bump sander to get them to final shape. I then devised a seriously dangerous and not at all recommended way of cutting the coves on the router table. Do NOT repeat this method…

Basically, I took a long off-cut drilled a couple undersized holes and forced some finish nails into the holes upside down so that I could hammer the corbels temporarily. I then CAREFULLY used a cove bearing bit to form the coves. The only reason I mention my horribly unsafe method is in hopes that someone could provide some insight into a better way of doing it in case I or another woodworker come across a similar situation in the future. Any thoughts are appreciated. I didn’t lose any fingers and only flung one corbel across the room. I’d rather not test my luck twice.

I then cleaned them up with hand sanding and chisels for some of the worst burn marks. I formed a bit of a production line and it went quite quickly. They are only attached with glue because I thought brads would split them and I don’t have a pinner. Crossing my fingers.

I had to improvise a bit on the decorative fluting on the legs. The original looked like they were done on a moulder. I do not have a moulder. So I used a core box bit, set it to take a cut right in the middle, then offset it and got two other flutes equidistant from the middle after flipping the leg end for end. It resulted in a pretty nice replica. Just used tape on the fence for a visual cue.

Most surfaces were planed to finish. Sanded the to to 150. Stained with Minwax Golden Pecan – one of my favorites for oak if I must stain. All my hardwood floors are stained with it. I finished with a Satin coat of Arm-R-Seal. I also had some commemorative brass plates made for the memorial. We also purchased some 3/16” glass panes to go on top to protect them from coffee spills.

All in all I’m very pleased with how this project turned out. Designing something from scratch is one thing, but designing to something that already exists is quite another. I learned some good design lessons about scaling, etc. It was quite a new experience for me.

I know this is a way long post for a pretty basic project, but these are as much my notes as they are an (overly)informative post. Thanks for looking and I look forward to your comments!

-- "Begin every endeaver with the end ever in mind."

2 comments so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26778 posts in 4345 days

#1 posted 08-17-2014 02:05 AM

Those are some nice looking tables. Great job you did on them!!.............Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View G5Flyr's profile


99 posts in 2973 days

#2 posted 08-22-2014 02:08 PM

Great job Dinger. Hank and our Lord are smiling from above. As for your misdeeds with the router rest assured we’ve all done it. I did something foolish at my router table last night. I got away with it but thought better of it after I ran my first test cut. I shut down the entire shop and went upstairs for supper. THAT was probably the smartest I could have done.

Be safe.

-- G5Flyr

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