Top 5 ways NOT to make a side table!

The title is entirely clickbait. I like the little table I made. Here it is, currently wearing a fun plant as a hat:

This project started as a companion piece to the bookshelf I made earlier (World's Most Scandinavian Bookshelf) as I had extra ash leftover from that build.

The design of this project was pretty straightforward, as I planned on using many of the same techniques and elements as on the bookshelf. I didn’t want to make the exact same thing again but smaller, so I changed a couple of things around and decided to go with a circular top. Other than aesthetics, this would give me an opportunity to try out the circle router jig; I’d also have to be pretty exact with my joinery if I wanted everything to line up correctly. Just like last time, I bounced ideas off of people (thanks @joeatkins2!) before going ahead. I took stock of the planes ash I had leftover, and used to to constrict the dimensions of the table:

After some minor touch-up and planing of the boards, I cut my stock to size (the boards that would be joined to form the two surfaces, the legs, and the horizontal bars. By getting everything dimensioned and cut all at once without having to adjust the table saw blade, I saved time down the road when it came to fitting everyhring together. I did two overnight panel glue ups for the two surfaces. Please note the use of the plastic sheeting to avoid getting glue on the table!

I tried two methods for cutting out the circles, and next time I do this I’ll try a third. The first one (the top), I just went for it and used a straight cut bit, increasing the depth of the cut by a few mm on each pass. While this worked, the edge wasn’t quite as clean as I would’ve liked. While the jig is very good, there are slight variations on each pass - in order to get a clean edge, I would have to make the exact same pass every time. I was also having a bit of a problem with material clearance, bits would get stuck in the deep groove left by the router.

The second circle I did, I rough cut on the band saw. this helped with the material clearance, but I had the same problem with slight variations on each pass.

Were I to do this again, I would make a first pass at a shallow depth, rough cut on the band saw, then use a trim bit with a bearing to clean the edge in a single pass (thanks @Riggerz! ).

I didn’t take any pictures during the cutting of the tenons, but that was all done on the table router. @Jonty pointed out the clamp for the sliding table and outlined a better (more controllable and repeatable) technique for making those cuts. The mortises were done on the mortiser. I did the heavy round over of the table legs prior to assembly (also on the router table). With the bookshelf, I stopped the round over with a simple block, but after a conversation with @joeatkins2, I decided to use little ramps. These have the effect of changing the shape of the curve left by the router bit. I experimented with a few different shapes on a scrap, and arrived at using this semi-circle pattern:

I messed up the end of one of the legs, so pulled a page out of the @joeatkins2 playbook and filled it in with a piece of sapele.

Here are all of the pieces prior to assembly. I also cut the lap joints, drilled a couple of holes for alignment, and rough cut the horizontal bars to a template I laser cut:

In order to get the fitting right and as square as possible, I assembled the pieces together. This made it a bit annoying to rout, but not too bad.

After some more routing, notice the use of the little ramps as stops:

I put it off towards the end, but next up was cutting the slots in the table surfaces for the legs to intersect. I ended up going with a trim bit and pieces of scrap to get the hole a very exact shape.

The last step before dry fitting was to cut the leg assembly that was oriented perpendicular to the grain. If I did not do this, I would not be able to assemble the table, and even if I could, there would be a danger of that leg ripping itself apart as wood moved throughout the year.

After a dry fit and some minor chisel work, I glued everything up. Again, small mallet taps are your friend. I messed up two things on the table surface - I made the hole for the circle template on the nice (top) side, and when I rough cut the slots, I somehow measured the completely wrong dimension and made too deep of cuts. Similar to the mistake on the leg, I filled in with some pieces of contrasting sapele.

This is what it looked like when trimmed up and sanded (to 240):

As with the bookshelf, I finished with Osmo Raw. When I finished the table, I thought it looked a bit too chunky (I struggle with visualizing proportion), but as it’s been in our flat, it’s been growing on me. The top also doesn’t look like it’s on completely straight, even though when I measured it is - I think it’s an illusion caused by either the wood grain or the shape of it, I can’t tell which. I don’t think the plant on it is in its permanent home, but it does greatly diminish the effect of the top not looking square.

As always, thanks to the SLMS community for your help in getting this project done!


Another beautiful project and write up. Thanks Max.

1 Like

Very nice.

It makes me happy to see beautifully made and well Thought through objects come out of our workshop. Definitely makes the hours of effort people have put in to Building the makerspace worth it

PS I will show you how to cut a circle on the table saw