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Project Information

Wood And Materials Used
European Beech, Cherry
Contemporary Side Table - European Beech & Cherry

This Side Table is for a specific location, which defines its overall dimensions (15” x 36” x 31”) - a bit smaller than the area for most.

The Top is European Beech ¾” thick, framed with a ½” Cherry border, and radiused at a 120” (the arc formed is that arising from a 120” trammel; and is the equivalent to a 1” rise at the center on a 31” wide run) on each of the 4 sides. The Cherry border attempts to integrate the Top to the Cherry Legs/Apron. It would be interesting to see this piece in one to two years – the darkening Cherry against the Beech.
The Beech portion of the Top is straight-forward; though, built oversized initially – glued-up and flattened.
The Cherry border can be created several ways, and I would choose a different option if there’s a second piece. In the oversized Beech billet, I chose to route a ½” rabbet using a 120” radius template; then create and dry-fit the inlay – I let this sit for several days, as I completed other tasks, to allow the inlay to acclimate to the radius; after several days, I glued the inlay in place, waited overnight, I then again used the 120” radius template to remove the outside Beech. This worked very well – right up to the point where it didn’t. The long sides were perfect; the short sides were not, and pulled away from the Top. Rather than gluing and clamping the offending mistakes into place – not sure if this would work, actually, I re-made the short pieces with the radius formed using a bandsaw and an oscillating spindle sander.
As the inlay failure took two days to manifest themselves, one of the created problems was now having raw wood next to areas with two top coats.
My Plan B for the inlay is to create the inside curve using the 120” template, and a 3’8” offset jig that would allow me to run against a rough-bandsawn part – difficult to explain… the better solution would be to both inside and outside curve templates (2 different templates).

The Apron is radiused at the same 120” (as the Top) and inset a continuous 4” from the Top’s edge. Overall, the Apron is ¾” x 3”. The 3” height provides attachment landings for the upper Legs, via 16-8mm floating tenons (each apron end has two tenons - 4 apron sections, each with 2 ends and each with 2 tenons). The top of the Legs are 7/4 square (when finished). The Aprons terminate on a 45 degree angle, landing on the Leg's side. The 4" inset allows the Legs to reach out 2" each (from their top), to rest on the floor at 2" in from the Top's edge.

The Legs are highly sculpted, and I opted for a more robust leg than I’ve seen in most pieces… I’ll be in the minority on this one, so I know this going in – my wife thinks the legs are on the heavy side; my daughter likes to them as they are. In hindsight, I would choose a 6/4 starting point, tapering to 3/4; whereas these are 8/4 nominal at the Apron, taping to 4/4 at the floor). I chose the 8/4 starting point to allow ample tenoning- and glue-surface for the Leg/Apron joint – I’d revisit this one…
Each Leg has 4 mortises for floating tenons – it is critical to replicate the placement of the mortises across the 4 Legs and Aprons to ensure square when assembled.
As mentioned, the legs began life in 8/4; with milling you lose about 1/8”. The initial billet is formed with 4 identical profiles, and bandsawn to the gross shape of the leg, 7/4 thick); then, routed (to remove the sharp corners), then angle-ground to progressively remove material, then sanded with progressively finer grits (starting at 80, 100, 220); and finally, hand-rubbed at 320 & 400. There is substantial work here, and I’m not sure there is a good alternative process. During this deconstruction phase, you need to keep in mind that you want a contoured shape and consistent tapering that is repeated on 4 pieces – you need to be careful as you hack-away at the billets.
The Legs are attached to the Aprons (precise layout of the floating tenons is important, so that a consistent referencing occurs across the 4 Apron pieces and the 4 Legs – otherwise, the legs will not be square to each other. The Leg/Apron assembly is attached to the Top. Glue-up was un-eventful. I have move away from the Titebond 3 to Franklin’s Liquid Hide Glue – the longer open times (offset by longer curing time), have virtually eliminated glue-up stress.

I really struggle with finish. I have an excellent Fuji HVLP system; however, it is much more capable than I am – a matter, or lack, of practice and playing that would allow me to fine-tune and adapt to different types finishes, woods and shop environments. Currently, my go-to finish combination is Zinsser SealCoat (one coat on the Beech, two coats on the Cherry) and Deft Waterborne Acrylic (un-thinned). Every Deft product I’ve used has been excellent. The SealCoat – I’m looking for an alternative.
Between coats, I wet-sand with 600 Abranet (Mirka). I consider the Top to be water-resistant and have relayed this to my daughter. Curing time for the finish is 6 hours – I’ll give it 24.

This piece if more about the sculpting of the legs – their design and weighting – than the other processes combined; however, you need to be consistent with layout and execution on the mortise and tenons.

As always, I welcome constructive feedback, as well as counsel from those who simply know more about this stuff that me.
Everyone, Do Take Care.



· Registered
303 Posts

Very nice table. The legs look fine. Must have been a lot oof time spent sculpting the legs.

An alternate to Seal Coat if you still want to use shellac is making your own from shellac flakes or buttons. I order my flakes from Wellermart, high quality product. Might start with 4 oz packs which will make 1 quart of 1# cut. I usually mix one cup at a time which take 1 oz.

Need to think with fuel alcohol which I get at ace hardware.
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4,904 Posts
Sweet table with shaely legs, well done.

· Registered
416 Posts
For spraying shellac - what makes you dissatisfied? You could thin your Seal Coat with alcohol and see if your results on Test Pieces are better - before it's time for finish on your next project.

· Registered
650 Posts
if you are spraying sealcoat, you still need to thin it. I thin it 50/50 for my first 2 or 3 coats. I sand after the second with either 220 or 320 to smooth it out. Then I do 2 more coats with a very light sanding between each. I have not used the Deft waterborne acrylic , so I can't share.. Sealcoat is awesome as a base, it's quite easy to work with, dries quickly. I have used it all the way to final as well. I am a huge fan of shellac.

I don't think the legs are TOO heavy. They are a little heavy, but they work , and they don't detract from the appearance.

· Registered
502 Posts
Thanks for the comments and follow-up.

The spraying issue is with the Deft product... though, I'm the problem, not the Deft and not the sprayer. The issue is getting sufficient material to flow onto the work; then getting massive over-spray when I adjust the settings. I've sprayed the Deft before - with excellent results; however, this was last year at this point. My guess is that I'm woefully out-of-practice.

That said, I eventually applied a smooth finish, though, taking much longer and consuming much more of the Deft than would normally been necessary. I'm not a naturally skilled woodworker, and getting this correct is an inherent effort.

Thanks, again.
Do Take Care.