No Power Tools Challenge: Coffee Table

  • Advertise with us
Project by tywalt posted 08-19-2019 01:27 PM 1148 views 3 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been on LJ’s for a while and have yet to use this “My Projects” deal… so bear with me. Someone requested that I put up some of the build pictures for this table. I apologize that there aren’t many build photos as I wasn’t planning on sharing this.

I ran across a Paul Sellers coffee table build a while back about the same time that I got a bunch of reclaimed oak and beach from an in-laws cabin in West Virginia. The cabin was built in early 19-who-knows-when and most of the wood I got was 3-4” thick rafters all about 10’ long. Absolutely none of it was square. Heavy twist and cupping as well as some very old powderpost beetle damage. But I live in Texas and we don’t ever just luck into that much solid oak… so what to do with it? I don’t own a power jointer/planer so I started squaring it up by hand (which is normal for me and I’m one of the weirdos that enjoys that).

About a week into the planing process, I got a little nostalgic thinking about how people worked wood in the good ol days and decided I would build a coffee table (which the wife had requested) without the use of any power tools. I enjoy hand tool work, but own a respectable amount of powered tools that get used often. I am not a neanderthal purist or anything, this just sounded like a fun challenge. I know I can build a piece of “fine furniture” with all my regular tools, but this would be the first large piece attempted with only muscle power.

I liked the basic design of the table Sellers had made, but if I wasn’t going to use the table saw or router, I was going to cut joinery that I enjoy. The tusked through tenon’s kinda throw you out of whack if you try and classify the style of the piece but I really like the engineering of that joint as well as the aesthetics. If it bothers you, sorry, not sorry :)

The last photo is a prototype table that I built out of SPF 2×4’s from big box. I wanted a dry run to proof out all the joinery, dimensions and design. You’ll notice a few small differences but I kept most of it. The tusked tenon is gigantic on that prototype table as I have never cut that in soft wood and didn’t want it to split when I drove the tusk in. If you design your own furniture and don’t make prototypes, you should. I almost always end up slapping some finish on them and selling/gifting them.

Anyway, that’s my Hand Tool Challenge (which I don’t think is a thing but maybe we should make it one?) build. It took approximately 400% longer to not use any electrons but I have to say that – despite how cheesy it may sound – I have a much deeper connection/pride with this piece of furniture than I think I have to any other.

-- Tyler - Central TX

10 comments so far

View EarlS's profile


3730 posts in 3117 days

#1 posted 08-19-2019 03:12 PM

Really nice looking table. Having made it entirely by hand sets the bar even higher. I think the tusk tenons work quite well. I don’t think you violated any style or design with them. I would still call this an Arts and Crafts or Craftsman style.

Hopefully, you will post more of your projects!!!

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View SMP's profile


2100 posts in 675 days

#2 posted 08-19-2019 03:49 PM

Very cool. I have been trying to do more by hand as well. And I have to say it is a workout. My wife asked if I wanted to go to the gym and I said I already worked out making something. She was skeptical. I think you actually have to prep some wood by hand to understand what a workout it actually is. I’m actually building the Pekovich hanging tool cabinet and trying to do MOST of it by hand. Slow going, but very rewarding.

View tywalt's profile


101 posts in 933 days

#3 posted 08-19-2019 04:03 PM

Thanks Earl! I’m carving a cake stand currently for a wedding cake and I’ll try to remember to post some pics.

SMP, I saw that tool cabinet on YT last week and I’d be interested to see what you come up with. I built a hanging tool cabinet years ago that (like so many of my shop fixtures) was built with speed/utility in mind. I’ve added a few tools and realized I don’t use others as much as I did at the time and that Pekovich cabinet has me thinking that it’s time to start thinking about a prettier cabinet for my go-to hand tools.

I’d also like to mention that it was really enjoyable to slow down on this one. There is a lot of thinking and inspiration that strikes when you’re chiseling 1/2” mortises through 3.5” of solid oak…. And, yes. Prepping lumber by hand certainly qualifies as a work out.

-- Tyler - Central TX

View swirt's profile


5216 posts in 3741 days

#4 posted 08-19-2019 04:21 PM

Outstanding work. It looks great.

-- Galootish log blog,

View anthm27's profile


1721 posts in 1879 days

#5 posted 08-19-2019 11:18 PM

Fantastic work, great looking table.
Really well done. I,d bet your satisfaction levels where sky high.

-- There is no hope for any of us if we keep apologizing for telling the truth.

View BTodd's profile


5 posts in 610 days

#6 posted 08-20-2019 03:03 PM

Great work, and a good looking table. Paul Sellers has definitely inspired me to start using hand tools a lot more as well, but my hand tool skills still have a ways to go before I can complete a whole project unplugged.

-- Brett, Georgia

View Ivan's profile


15943 posts in 3636 days

#7 posted 08-21-2019 05:32 AM

Absolutely fantastic craftmanship and design! I would have hard time to make it even with electric tools!

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics