Julia Child's Kitchen Table

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Project by Builder_Bob posted 03-08-2015 12:33 AM 2550 views 2 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After a 2 year hiatus from woodworking I decided to put my toe back into the pool with this “Robust Kitchen Table” patterned after Julia Child’s kitchen table as detailed in the August 2014 Fine Wood Working article by Mario Rodriguez. I choose to use a full apron to support the legs rather than the bridal joints used in the original. I hope Julia will forgive me. I figure you have to lie on the floor under the table to see the difference. I doubt that my table will end up in the Smithsonian like hers.

As always, the first question is “What new tools can I get for this project?” In this case I got a 6” orbital sander and a mortiser! Score!

The need for the sander was realized when I tried to smooth out these big slabs of Hard Rock Maple. Mama mia! I never saw anything like this stuff. Simple domestic white maple. Maybe that’s why they call New Hampshire the granite state. My old 4” orbital sander wasn’t going to hack it, at least not in my lifetime.

Until this project, all my furniture has been built with pocket hole screws. I love those things! But even I couldn’t bring myself to build this table with pocket hole joinery, so of course I needed a mortiser!

Mortise’s cut into hard rock maple. Hmmm. Maybe this wasn’t the best choice for my first M & T joints. Eventually, however, with enough pulling and heat and smoke the job was done. My skill became so great that I didn’t even have to shim the last 3 of the 14 mortise and tenon joints in this project.

The legs need to be turned and fortunately I have a lathe! It turns! I bought it in the 60’s from Spag’s in Shrewsbury MA. About $25 if I recall. Hung a washing machine motor on it with a small mounting plate and a door hinge. The motor’s weight keeps tension on the belt. Unfortunately the last thing I turned was also in the 60’s. I turned a fireplace log into a giant chess piece (a pawn).

These table legs required a bit more accuracy and finesse than one might use on a fireplace log. I only ruined two blanks and modified the leg design twice before I had four similar pieces!

I clamped all the frame corners together with a Merle steel band clamp that I bought some years ago and never used. Worked fine as long as you don’t mind having a 10 foot razor blade flying around the shop. It can certainly apply lots of pressure.

Finished up the project with plenty of sanding, natural Danish oil finish, and Minwax wipe on satin poly. The only problem at the end was getting the frame and the top out of the basement and into the kitchen. The basement stairs were too narrow for the frame and the corners were too tight for the top. The only way was to go outside through the basement door up a few steps and through the back slider.

Have you heard that we had a bit of snow up here in Massachusetts this winter? About 70 accumulated inches by table moving day. We shoveled a narrow icy path up the steps, onto the landing, up some more steps, and through the slider.

Did I mention that the wood is heavy? The frame comes in at 30 lbs and the top at 55 lbs. Once the path was clear, the frame wasn’t too bad to get upstairs. The top was a different story. It weighs a lot. There was no grip to be had, and the steep angle shifted all its weight to the low guy, which would be me. It took about 30 minutes outdoors (at 19 °F) for us to get the top up to the first floor. We threw towels and pillows onto the icy steps so we could set the top down after every step. We were just about to concede to Spring when a last minute maneuver let us tilt the top through the slider. All I could think of at the end was the iconic photo of the flag being raised at Iwo Jima.

It’s done! Piece of cake! We bought four inexpensive Parson’s chairs for now but the jury is still out on the long term chairs to be used with this table.

-- "The unexpected, when it happens, generally happens when you least expect it."

3 comments so far

View Richard's profile


11310 posts in 4317 days

#1 posted 03-08-2015 07:41 AM

Beautiful design and well done. Thanks for all the detailed explanation. Appreciate that.


-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4150 days

#2 posted 03-08-2015 12:37 PM

That’s a real beauty. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4431 days

#3 posted 03-08-2015 07:18 PM

Well, I imagine you’re going to enjoy many fine meals around that table!

Great story, and even better looking table!

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

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