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A dining table in 4 hours


My girlfriend moved recently and her old dining table wasn't really going to work in the new place. I had been thinking that it would be fun to knock together a new one for her, but things had been a little busy and I hadn't gotten around to it. I finally found myself in the shop on the morning of the move and decided that it was time to put it in gear and get busy. I, obviously, didn't have all the time in the world, but I wanted to make something with at least a little style. I also had to make it out of materials on hand. Hmmm....let's see....

I had enough 4/4 alder to make a top, some leftover alder rips from another project that would work for rails and a stick of 8/4 that I could get some legs out of. I figured I might as well start by gluing up what I had in top material and let that drive the size of the table. I ran the stock over the jointer, stuffed it into the planer and got it in the clamps. OK, what's next?

glue up

At first I thought that I would just taper the legs on the jointer and call it good, but somehow I got it in my head that it would be cool to do a tapering chamfer on the corners that would take the legs from square at the top to octagonal at the bottom. (Good grief, we're running out of time here!) I had cheap, adjustable taper cutting jig laying around that I almost never use. It was just the thing for this little project. 

taper jig 1

I set it to the amount that I wanted to take off of each side and then cut two faces of each leg to that taper on the table saw.

taper jig 2

Then I reset the jig to double the original taper amount, since I was going to be putting the faces that I'd already cut off against the jig when I cut the remaining faces.

taper jig 3

With all 4 faces of the legs tapered I fiddled around with the taper jig until I figured out what the flare had to be to get it to cut nothing at the top of the leg while leaving me with an octagon at the bottom. Then I ran the legs through the table saw again at that set up with the blade at a 45 degree angle.

taper jig 5

It worked pretty slick.

taper jig 4

Time to do a little sanding.

sanding legs

sanded legs

With my top size determined and my legs made I did the math and figured out the length of my rails. They were already ripped to width, so all I had to do was cut them to length. Then I busted out the Domino machine. I love the Domino. If you aren't familiar with it, the Domino is a hand held machine, kind of along the lines of a biscuit jointer. Instead of cutting little slots with a small saw blade it uses a spiral cutter similar to a router bit to cut perfect mortises. Then you use the pre made "domino's" which are loose tenons that you buy from Festool, to put your joint together. It is super fast, really accurate and very strong. I once built a pair of entry doors with a woven looking grille in them. The grille took 600 dominos and every one of them fit perfectly. It was amazing.

I boinked my mortises in the rails.

domino rails

Then in the legs.

domino legs

And it was time to get busy gluing.

glue legs

glue base

I like curves in my furniture. Getting a sweet, fair curve can be time consuming, though. That's why I had a shop with a CNC make me a set of curve templates some years ago. They are 8' long and range from a 1" arc over the 8' to a 10" arc over 8'. That gives me a nice range of curves to chose from. I can pull down the template that I think will work and lay it on the piece I'm building to see if it looks good. If it does I use it to draw the curve, cut that on the bandsaw or jig saw and then use the same template as a flush routing jig. It makes a formerly time consuming task really fast. 

top layout

top 1

 A flush cutting bit with a bearing always seems to take just a little shaving off of your template, so I like using rub collars for this kind of thing. A helical cutter keeps the splintering to a minimum. 

top 2

top 3

It was almost time for lunch, but I just couldn't help myself. I just had to doll it up a little with a small chamfer on the edges of the top. 

top 4

top 5

I had some good water borne Spar Varnish on hand so I gave it a coat before lunch and then layered on two more over the course of the afternoon.


 By  8:00 we were eating dinner on it in the new place. 

kathis dining table

Believe me, I can go right down the rabbit hole, dialing things in to micrometer tolerances but sometimes it's cathartic to just bang something out in the woodshop every once in a while. I don't mind the brownie points either…...