Knotty, Curvy-Legged Coffee Table

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Project by sandflea posted 01-25-2009 07:15 AM 3406 views 3 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I found out about this contest about the same time about the same time I found out my niece was getting married. There wasn’t any furniture I needed at the moment so I decided to make an entry for this contest that would then become my niece’s wedding gift. Two birds with one stone plus some shop time, can’t beat that.

Once I decided what the project was for I then needed to decide what to make. I had some knotty alder left over from a previous project and since the focus of this category was knots I knew I had to use that lumber.

Ok, now I know what species to use, still no idea what to make.

After measuring what I had and trying to think what a newlywed couple would need I decided to go for a coffee table. I really like building coffee tables. They don’t take that much wood and everyone needs at least one.

Next on the list was the style. I wanted to push my skills envelope with this one but I didn’t know much about my niece’s taste. Well, after watching episodes 40 and 64 of the The Wood Whisperer and a few articles in Woodsmtih, Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking I decided on cabriole style legs. I got an idea from the Woodright Shop for a simple way to layout ovals so it would have an oval top and after reading about making a scratch stock plane (not sure that is the proper term but it makes sense to me) on The Village Carpenter blog I decided I wanted some hand-formed beading on the stretchers.

Then I started sketching.

When I finally settled on a design the real fun began. I didn’t have any 12/4 alder and my local lumber supplier didn’t have any so I laminated the leg blanks from 5 pieces of 4/4. Then, needing to have perfect symmetry I rotated the blanks 45 degrees and rejointed/planed them to a smaller square so that the gluelines would be evenly space from the outer spine of the legs.

I rough-cut the legs with my jigsaw and then went to town with a few rasps, files and my orbital sander to get the legs to shape.

On the top I put a 1/4” roundover along the bottom and them some sort of Freud roman ogee or something along the top. The knots were all filled with slow-setting epoxy tinted with a raw umber oil based artist’s paint. The epoxy is slightly translucent so you can just barely see the interior of the knots, kinda like looking into a cave. I was lucky enough to get several very nice knots on the table top

For the stretchers I cut them so they are curved in two planes. I made a curved scratch stock plane to make the beading along the lower curve. I haven’t perfected it’s usage yet, but I think it turned out ok. I was able to get some pretty great knots centered on one of the long and one of the short stretchers.

With the stretchers made I joined them to the legs with mortise and tenons. I added a screw covered with a square walnut plug at each corner for good measure.

I sanded the whole thing to 150 grit and gave it a good coat of 1lb clear shellac to try and control blotching. Then I hit it with some General Finishes Antique Walnut gel stain. With that dry I continued with 3 coats of a 1/3 BLO, 1/3 Mineral Spirits and 1/3 poly mix sanding to 320 between coats. Then I topped that with 3 more coats of 1/2 poly and 1/2 mineral spirits with a drop of the same raw umber paint I used to tint the epoxy. With that all dry I then hit the whole thing with some 2500 grit Mirka Mirlon to buff it a little.

All in all it was a very fun project and I learned alot. I really liked shaping the legs. I’m not 100% satisfied with the results, but I never am. If you get really bored I posted a video on my site of the whole process of laying out, cutting and shaping the legs. It’s about 30 minutes long and pretty dry, but if you want to try your hand at cabriole legs it may be of some use. Watch it HERE.

Hope you like it!

-- Sawdust is life

15 comments so far

View isetegija's profile


763 posts in 4432 days

#1 posted 01-25-2009 09:19 AM

I checked Your video , WOW , simply Incredible!
You really have patience. I understand to make 1 leg bat 4 legs exactly the same , its patience.
Nice table.
Thanks for sharing with us.

-- Not my woodworking

View BarryW's profile


1016 posts in 4823 days

#2 posted 01-25-2009 10:28 AM

No complaints here…a fine table.

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 4507 days

#3 posted 01-25-2009 01:57 PM

Great work, excellent result!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4879 days

#4 posted 01-25-2009 04:00 PM

very impressive! Well done

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View CharlieM1958's profile


16289 posts in 5135 days

#5 posted 01-25-2009 04:27 PM

Beautiful design and craftsmanship!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View mranum's profile


131 posts in 4333 days

#6 posted 01-25-2009 04:36 PM

That is gorgeous! I know she will love it too!

-- Just remember,it was a lone amatuer that built the ark, and a team of experts built the Titanic.

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 4640 days

#7 posted 01-25-2009 04:51 PM

A very nice table! I am sure the lucky couple will be very happy with it. Good luck!

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View lew's profile


13218 posts in 4672 days

#8 posted 01-25-2009 04:58 PM

Beautiful Table and a great story/video!

Good Luck in the contest.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Grumpy's profile


26702 posts in 4768 days

#9 posted 01-28-2009 05:07 AM

Excellent workmanship Sandflea, great design.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Karson's profile


35229 posts in 5317 days

#10 posted 01-28-2009 05:44 AM

A great looking table.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View SteveKorz's profile


2140 posts in 4631 days

#11 posted 01-28-2009 05:49 AM

Very nice lookin’ table… I like the legs, great design.

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View KLM's profile


2 posts in 4276 days

#12 posted 03-16-2009 05:41 AM

Where can I buy the walnut plugs?

View sandflea's profile


23 posts in 4700 days

#13 posted 03-16-2009 05:57 AM

I made the plugs from a walnut turning blank. I sawed them down with a bandsaw into about 3/8” square lengths, smoothed them out with a belt sander and a block plane and then cut them to length with a handsaw.

If you wanted to buy some I think Woodcraft stores sell square dowels you could cut down into plugs.

-- Sawdust is life

View KLM's profile


2 posts in 4276 days

#14 posted 03-16-2009 06:00 AM

Wow, you did alot of work! I was hoping to find them all done!

Thanks for the speedy response.

View sandflea's profile


23 posts in 4700 days

#15 posted 03-16-2009 06:12 AM

Yeah, I get a little nutsy with most of my projects. I try to make everything in the shop. Heck, I’d probably harvest my own lumber if I had a chainsaw and a mill.

-- Sawdust is life

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