Mid Century Modern Table/Desk Prototype

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Project by Chiaroscuro posted 12-08-2019 08:32 AM 340 views 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was a table/desk requested by my son who likes mid century modern furniture. He wanted a tapered edge, round legs that tapered and flared out, rounded corners and 8’ in length. So… having never done any of that, I started with a prototype out of pine figuring I would make my mistakes in $40 of construction pine. It is currently in his room while I gather the strength to do it all again (with modifications of the design) in walnut. I ended up painting the table white and putting a water based poly on for protection. The grain pattern is very visible but it is actually quite smooth (slight texture on the fingers).

I also work mostly with hand tools so this project took waaaaaay longer than expected. I do NOT like working with pine although I know many people do enjoy it and actually like the color. Flattening this was a bear (didn’t help that during the glue up I turned one board the wrong way and had too many boards cupping in the same direction), and cutting the 4” taper was as well.

Glue up, note that I have too many boards cupping in the same direction.

Finally using my sawyer’s bench as I rip the stretchers for the base.

Beginning the long process of flattening.

After a couple of days, I gave up for a while and started working on the base (I had turned the legs earlier).

The joinery was different on each leg as I tried out different techniques.

Eventually had to start dealing with the flattening again.

Even with a scrub plane this took forever and pine likes to chunk out.

Ultimately I was able to start smoothing it out with my number 8. This also took forever and I hadn’t lined up the grain direction well… which was a pain.

Once the top was done I had to turn to the 4” taper…. this almost made me quit the project…

Then I had to strengthen the base, which at 8’ was very flexy. I also poured epoxy in the mortise and tenon joints for the legs because 3 of 4 experimental joints were not the right choice.

Figure of 8 attachments for the top and sealing the wood with shellac before painting and poly.

-- Todd

5 comments so far

View Brit's profile


7889 posts in 3448 days

#1 posted 12-08-2019 08:51 AM

Wow Todd! I can imagine the challenges you faced in this project with hand tools. I’m particularly impressed that you elected to saw the 4” tapers. I started to imagine how I would do something like that and I probably would start with a drawknife to hog off most of it and then refine it with jointer and smoother planes.

Well done sir! I’m looking forward to seeing the walnut version now.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View BOBAH's profile


122 posts in 1948 days

#2 posted 12-08-2019 10:19 AM

I second that, wow! The design looks very elegant and beautiful – reminds me of eye candy furniture that I saw in our local Scandinavian furniture stores (in Washington state).

It was a lot of work for a prototype, given a choice of material. Walnut is much easier to work with than pine – so hopefully actual build will be faster to finish.

How sturdy is it after tabletop was attached? With 8’ span, and relatively small cross section in thinnest parts of the frame, I would be cautious to not put too much weight in the middle.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

4446 posts in 1188 days

#3 posted 12-08-2019 01:06 PM

Nice prototype, Todd, and you learned a lot of things for the finished version. Win!

I agree with Andy that sawing the tapers seems like the hard way to do it. I would’ve thought of it as an oversized raised panel, and done it with a plane (though probably not a specific panel-raising plane).

I’m also looking forward to the walnut version!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Chiaroscuro's profile


116 posts in 1380 days

#4 posted 12-08-2019 09:28 PM

Thanks all –
Bobah, It’s very sturdy actually, the top is thick and doesn’t flex so all the weight is on the ends (thus the 45 degree supports in the corners). The walnut version will have thicker stretchers though to allow a beefier mortise and tenon joint. Part of the issue was that I was originally trying to figure out the joints without a way to secure them in place (it was 7.5 degree angle pointing 135 degrees from the plane of the short and long stretchers. This made consistency difficult so I eventually built a jig for the glue up that I hope to use during the next build.

Brit and Dave, I started with planing it… but I hate pine and it was NOT going well, sawing was my backup plan after also attempting power tools. I’d actually love to do this with a powered table saw because of the headache/time but my shop would not allow without some serious reconfiguration and jigging. Cutting it prior to glue up also occurred to me but I don’t think I could get a good glue up that way. I figure this will almost be a non-issue in walnut which planes beautifully and I will likely just plane it down.

-- Todd

View swirt's profile


4559 posts in 3577 days

#5 posted 12-09-2019 02:26 AM

Wow. A very impressive handtool build. Hand sawing the tapers is over the top. I like the lightness of the look. Good design.

-- Galootish log blog,

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