Small table

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Project by HorstPeter posted 01-25-2011 07:38 PM 2263 views 5 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I thought my next posted project would be the second stepstool I’ve been making and it has been done for a while actually, but I’ve not completed putting on a finish yet. So I’m posting up this little project I’ve done for my niece meanwhile.

It’s a small table for her Barbies. She has some small chairs that a furniture store gave out for free (some made out of plastic, oh the sad irony) and my mum mentioned how it would be nice to have a table to go along with them. Although now that I’ve finished the table, my mum said that the chairs look a bit crummy next to it. Might’ve been a hint that I should do a full set of chairs to go with this table.

This project was something new for me in a few areas. First off and the biggest thing for me was how I treated it. I tried not to obsess over things as I usually do and if something ends up being far less than perfect I’d be ok with it. Of course I didn’t work sloppy on purpose, but it was interesting to not go crazy over small mistakes or other stuff for a change. Next was working with the alder, it is such a soft wood, that in this small scale and with the small tenons and mortises getting a tight fit isn’t all that easy. Still worked out pretty well, only the table base ended up a bit of a paralellogramm instead of proper right angles. Not that you can see it unless you check for it really.

The wood is all from leftovers I had, alder, walnut and ash, with some piece of burl veneer from my assortement box as inlay. Thought it looked a bit too bland without it, so I added it on a whim. Just like the whole design was done without any planning at all. The construction is made like for a real table, but I did glue the whole breadboard end and also the top, hoping that at this size it won’t be warped from the wood-movement like in a proper sized table.

The finish is a base of walnut oil and followed by honey shellac applied on the hand-planed surface, as usual no sanding on my pieces. Since this was a piece for my niece and more or less a wood-doodle for me, I thought I’d just use it to practice shellac-polishing. I learned quite some things about how pad movements and amounts of shellac, alcohol or pumice affect the surface. You can see in the last shot against the light just how horribly uneven the top still is, even though if you look at it normally it looks rather nice and with a great depth to it. Which sadly isn’t easy to capture in a photo at all.

This project along with Waldschrats post here made me think about finishing a lot again. What is an acceptable finish quality. There’s a lot I could write about it and it’s not really the place here in the project page probably, but I’m very interested in what the thoughts of everyone here are. I have my own preferences and they are probably quite clear and strict, but I do wonder how other people see this. As often when I show a finish like on this table to people they find it fantastic and admire the gloss and reflections in it, but if I look at it myself against the light it makes me cringe inside and I feel like getting out the pumice and pad and go over it again and again to level it.

Anyway, thanks for reading my wall of text and looking at my project and any thoughts you might have to spare on the topic.


8 comments so far

View B13's profile


463 posts in 3807 days

#1 posted 01-25-2011 09:09 PM

It’’s amazing little piece of furniture. I understand as a artist how critical you can be about your creations. I’m sure Barbie can be demanding at times very vogue! hod did you apply your finish? also I see that you used a plane with no final sanding. I would think you could have more control over the leveling field with a fine tuned scraper made from flat plate. with some practice. If your niece Is happy! that should tell you something. I’m confident she will like It as I. thanks! for posting.

View HorstPeter's profile


121 posts in 3943 days

#2 posted 01-25-2011 09:52 PM

Thanks for the comment B13! When it comes to leveling a surface I’ve become pretty good with my Veritas low angle block plane and there are only very slight marks now and then from the hard edges on the iron’s side. If I had one with a slight camber, it’d probably be ideal. I’ve thought about the scrapers too and tried them, but I’m not satisfied with their cutting results compared to a nice sharp plane iron. Might need to try sharpening them better and get a proper burnisher instead of the screwdriver I use. On the other hand I’m also not sure if it might not just trade the slight plane markings against a more rounded surface caused by the slightly bent scrapers. A scraper plane might be a nice thing to have and maybe I’ll get around to buy or try one sometime.

The finish was applied with a cloth wrapped around a core of cotton strands. Coarser one for the earlier work and soft Liberon polish cloth for later on as to not scratch it anymore. I think there are a few reasons for the “bumpy texture” on the surface. First that the cloth isn’t flat like say a sanding block. Then I might have been too impatient with adding coats and also used too much pumice now and then and ended up making areas where shellac accumulated or was ripped off. Also I found that the circular motions or figure eights tended to increase that effect for me and if I went in straight lines and then perpendicular to those it evened it out more again. So I’ll have to get some more practice and just allow for more wait between coats and make them more numerous and less thick in one session. On the other hand I think I can be a bit more “rough” and liberal in the early stages and grain filling than I dared to be. Either way I’ve got a good feel for some things when doing this and I have to say once you’ve polished up a surface to a nice deep shine, it’s hard to get yourself to go over it and reduce it to a satin sheen even if the high gloss reveals the imperfections so much.


View tdv's profile


1203 posts in 4184 days

#3 posted 01-26-2011 12:13 AM

Really nice job I like that you have adopted traditional techniques with hide glue & button polish I was surprised seeing it in your hand when I first looked I thought it was full size. I suppose this is almost like an apprentice piece they used to make in the 18th & 19th century to display there skill level
Well done
Best regards

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View Dusty56's profile


11863 posts in 4802 days

#4 posted 01-26-2011 03:59 AM

I knew sooner or later that someone would make a cutting board with legs on it !! LOL

Beautiful project and at first I also thought it was full size ….The dimensions are perfect to be any size at all. The mark of a real Master Craftsman : )
ps : I’m sure that Barbie will have nothing but good comments to say about her new table. How long before the matching chairs are completed ?

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Cobra's profile


22 posts in 4128 days

#5 posted 01-26-2011 02:02 PM

Okay, that’s nice. Best to keep things in perspective as this fine Barbie table is.

I can see how much attention to detail you have and that’s great. Obviously there is a learning curve here. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated. Now you may agonize over perfection at this point and it goes so far, then you have to let go and just flow. Just have fun with it. I can comment on this from both sides as I have often found myself overly obsessed with perfection. Each time you do it I think you improve and the bottom line is, you will never be perfect but your mistakes help you become better. If it’s perfect someone might think a machine made it and it’s a hand crafted piece.

Practice the finishing and stay away from figure 8’s. Try different cuts of shellac and see it on test pieces. Vary the alcohol to suit your need. The first time I used shellac I almost swore it off because of the streaks and ridges. Brand new can and said this s*@! dries to fast to be any good for anything. After mixing my own and trying again I found it better. Oh well, that’s some of my experience. Hope it helps, good piece.

Think your going to have to make some chairs now.

-- Nathan Ward, Fort Saskatchewan, AB

View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 4550 days

#6 posted 02-18-2011 12:54 PM

Peter, “Sau Schön!”

I think this table is cool, it isn’t until I looked through the pics that I relized how small the table is! Beautiful work, and I like how you lay out the individuel pieces and take a photo so others can follow how you put it together!

Well done! You could start working as a Schreiner anyday and make some interesting pieces! It just a matter of practice and “Übung macht den Meister!”

I am looking foward to seeing more stuff!

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View itsmic's profile


1419 posts in 4232 days

#7 posted 03-13-2011 09:59 PM

Very beautiful, love the wood combination and the craftsmanship is superb (that means perfect in my book, lols), your work is a pleasure to view, and I really enjoy the interesting story and informative information you provide, thanks for sharing

-- It's Mic Keep working and sharing

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3981 days

#8 posted 03-03-2018 12:25 PM

You did a nice job on this table. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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