Victorian Reading Table

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Project by Mean_Dean posted 12-27-2013 02:15 AM 2329 views 3 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project was for a friend as a Christmas gift.

It’s made out of African mahogany, and features feet with their grain running horizontally to keep them from breaking if bumped. It has a shelf to keep her books close at hand, and is finished with home-mixed, semi-gloss wipe-on polyurethane.

It’s dimensions are: 24 1/2”H x 24”L x 11 1/4”W

Now for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good: The grain match on the top is virtually flawless—you can’t see the seam unless you squat down over it, and really squint! Also, the finish came out first-rate! I’ve used wiping varnish before, but have always left the excess on, and hoped the bubbles would pop out. If they didn’t, I’d thin the mix further. But after having studied Bob Flexner’s books, I decided to wipe off the excess—thus no runs, no sags, no bubbles, and virtually no dust nibs.

The Bad: Wiping off the excess wiping varnish really makes for a slow build to the finish. I was able to get 2 coats of finish on per day, with sanding between coats and vacuuming. I had 9 coats of finish on the top before I was satisfied with its look—which took 5 days to build! It’s a great way to achieve beautiful results, but it’s slower than heck!

The Ugly: These photos….. Since it’s Winter up here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, there isn’t much light outside, especially when it’s cloudy. I had to shoot these photos with an overhead flourescent light fixture, which made these photos take on a yellowish cast.

As always, comments and questions are welcome!

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

10 comments so far

View Woodbridge's profile


3751 posts in 3755 days

#1 posted 12-27-2013 02:19 AM

great looking table.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3629 days

#2 posted 12-27-2013 02:25 AM

Looks great! How did you like working with African mahogany?

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4484 days

#3 posted 12-27-2013 05:13 AM


I love African mahogany, and all mahoganies in general. Mahogany is beautiful to look at, machines pretty easily, and takes finish well.

One quirk of African mahogany is that it has interlocking grain. Interlocked grain is where the grain runs in both directions, instead of just one as in most wood species. What this means to we woodworkers is that no matter which way you run it through the jointer or planer, some of the grain will tear out. The best you can do, is to run it in the direction that produces the least amount of tearout. When you’re ready to start sanding, use 80-grit to smooth the tearout.

It’s more work, but African mahogany is so beautiful, it’s worth it!

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

View johnhutchinson's profile


1243 posts in 2966 days

#4 posted 12-27-2013 02:15 PM

Don’t knock your photos, Dean. They’re great! And so is the reading table!
I always though this way of storing books makes perfect sense because you don’t need bookends and you can see the titles at a glance.

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4203 days

#5 posted 12-27-2013 04:43 PM

This is really nice. It looks like a similar one that I saw in an antique shop.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View exelectrician's profile


2339 posts in 3764 days

#6 posted 02-28-2014 04:25 AM

Wow all your projects are an inspiration to me, thanks for posting.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View Alongiron's profile


654 posts in 4030 days

#7 posted 03-21-2014 11:34 AM

Very nice work…so nice and clean…did you have a plan for that? I would like to give it a try. I have a perfect spot for that exact table. If not do you have some sizing information so that I could make my own version?

Thanks for sharing! Great work


-- Measure twice and cut once.....sneak up on it! Steve Lien

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4484 days

#8 posted 03-21-2014 04:52 PM

Steve: Yes, I used a plan for this project. I found it in the December, 2010 edition of Popular Woodworking. You can probably find it at your local library. In the plan, you’ll find templates that you can enlarge, and spray adhere to 1/4” MDF to use as project templates. That way you can make as many of these tables as you like. They make great Christmas presents!

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

View Alongiron's profile


654 posts in 4030 days

#9 posted 03-22-2014 12:04 PM


Thanks I found it online for free. If anyone else is reading this, here is the link

I am going to make one this weekend!


-- Measure twice and cut once.....sneak up on it! Steve Lien

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2960 posts in 2400 days

#10 posted 07-14-2015 01:38 AM

It’s thing of beauty, Dean. I know a lot of people are really attached to their varnishing ways. By, you know, you can finish a tabletop in a day or two with shellac, then top it with vanish for protection. I’m not a furniture maker to speak of. I’m just passing along things I’ve read and seen in videos. In fact I just went looking for a specific video on the topic to share the link, and I can’t remember the guy’s name to save my life. Wasn’t Gedrys or Flexner. (There are so many masters, I lose track).

-- Mark

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