Back to school trigonometry, contemporary extending dining table in oak

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Project by jmp posted 01-18-2014 11:33 AM 3319 views 7 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This table has proved to be my most challenging project to date, both in design and construction.
Having built a fairly straightforward extending table for my sister in law it wasn’t long before I had a request from one of her friends for another. This time, however, the brief was for a contemporary design for their newly fitted, modern kitchen. They had seen a couple of tables but neither would have been suitable for their requirements. I reworked a design that kept the features that they liked but gave them the size and seating numbers that they wanted. The legs needed to come out in different angles going in two directions. Their dimensions, therefore, were not easy to work out. Knowing the table height and width I had to go back to my high school trigonometry using sines, cosines and tangents to work out each of the table leg lengths.

After experimenting with a variety of different angles and table leg sizes I finally decided that the only way to make progress was to make a 1 in 10 scaled model out of MDF and plywood. This also gave my clients something to look at and approve as suitable and also proved invaluable for later marking out.

The table was to be made in oak, I tried to source some pippy oak but I found a much better quarter grained French oak waney edged board that I hoped would prove to be more stable.

I first cut to rough size and then brought the planks indoors for 6 weeks before cutting to final size

I then butt joined them to make for the table leaves and extension. I used to use biscuit joints but found that with the thicker wood ( 2 inches thick) they didn’t make a lot of difference.

For the legs I made MDF templates intending to use a router to achieve the final size but in the end I found it easier and quicker to finish with a hand plane and spoke shave.

The joints were standard haunched tenon and mortice and I used a jig to position the central leg for cutting the mortices. The next challenge was gluing and clamping. Again I had to make some custom cauls which allowed me to clamp all the legs together in one sitting. It was only after the legs were glued together that I was able to establish that they were the required width and height for the table top. It was a great relief to see that this was the case.
The extending table mechanism was another challenge as I had intended to use wooden extension slides which worked well for my previous table. Because of the design of the legs it became clear that these would not work so I had to think again and went for heavy duty ball bearing slides which coped well with the weight of the tops. The table leaves were able to open sufficiently to allow the extension leaf to sit directly on the table legs.
The table was completed with General Finishes high performance water soluble satin varnish. I used five coats for the tops and three elsewhere. As always, I find that this finish is easy to apply and achieves a durable finish that rises to the heavy demands of a dining table
At the start of the project I explained that it was slightly more complicated than the previous table and might take a while. In the end it took almost a year, but I did move house twice during the build which meant packing and unpacking the workshop.
As always I must thank my tutors, Derrick and Niall at Leeds College of Art who gave me the confidence to take on this project (Derrick knows well by now that I never make anything simple) and also provided invaluable advice in the design and construction methods.
At the end of the project I was pleased that everything worked out well and I learnt a lot (it is definitely worthwhile spending time to make a scalable model). I was relieved that my clients Clare and David are delighted with their new table which as the pictures show now takes pride and place in their new kitchen.

11 comments so far

View Jim Sellers's profile

Jim Sellers

489 posts in 3143 days

#1 posted 01-18-2014 12:14 PM

That is one beautiful super heavy duty, nicely designed oak dining table.

-- J.C.Sellers, Norcross, Ga. Just cut it right the first time. The best carpenters make the fewest chips.

View theoldfart's profile


11807 posts in 3259 days

#2 posted 01-18-2014 03:19 PM

Fantastic design. I’m going to show to my wife, she’s been asking for a new dinning room table. The oak is beautiful and though it may have taken a year you’ve shown the wood to its best advantage. Well done.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View R_Stad's profile


428 posts in 2651 days

#3 posted 01-18-2014 03:22 PM

Jonathan. Beautiful design and execution on a difficult project. Came out great. Enjoyed looking at your previous work. Some very nice pieces. Well done.

-- Rod - Oregon

View Halc's profile


146 posts in 2410 days

#4 posted 01-18-2014 03:45 PM

It’s the joinery that draws me to your table. I can only imagine the challenges you faced, but you sure did a great job. As a retired math teacher, it always makes me feel good to know people sometimes go back to use some of the skills I was trying to teach them many years ago.

View deon's profile


2522 posts in 3833 days

#5 posted 01-18-2014 04:03 PM

Great work!

-- Dreaming patterns

View Glen Peterson's profile

Glen Peterson

556 posts in 3864 days

#6 posted 01-18-2014 04:03 PM

Very nice. I like the lines. You’ve got me thinking of high school trig. Now I’ll have to look up secant and close can’t.

-- Glen

View JonBikeRacer's profile


70 posts in 2410 days

#7 posted 01-18-2014 05:14 PM

Does the middle leaf hide away under the top when not in use? That is so trick!

-- Jon "That's about as close as I can eyeball it"

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30562 posts in 3146 days

#8 posted 01-18-2014 10:05 PM

Really beautiful job

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View hickeymad's profile


158 posts in 3818 days

#9 posted 01-19-2014 02:51 AM

Super cool design and a fine use of some amazing french oak. Congratulations on a job very well done!

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2983 days

#10 posted 01-22-2014 05:09 PM

Cool design and build especially the legs and joints. A great modern look, complicated design but it came out really well executed. Excellent job!

View OhValleyWoodandWool's profile


970 posts in 3928 days

#11 posted 01-22-2014 10:55 PM

Well done!

-- "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure." Mark Twain

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