Archive for the ‘Sawbuck Table Build’ Category

Sawbuck Table Part 6

January 22, 2014

The top is flattened using a hand plane.  This short sentence represents a lot of work; a commercial cabinet shop would run the top through a huge drum sander.  My advantage is I can listen to bluegrass (Ricky Skaggs) while I work.


I ebonized the legs using a concoction of vinegar and steel wool.  To deepen the color I added two coats of ebony oil stain.


Even though I was careful to test my finishing process on scrap boards before finished the top, I still had major problems with streaking.  The problem was the tinted shellac, it was drying too fast in the hot summertime temps.  Lesson learned, don’t try to use shellac on large tops in hot temps.


I planed off the finish and tried again.  Sometimes you have to eat humble pie.



After several practice runs on scrap pieces, I was finally able to get a good finish on the top.


I don’t normally like using much color in my finishes, but I have to admit the effect is pleasing to the eye.




The finish dried glossier than I anticipated so I dulled it by rubbing it down with 600 grit sandpaper (I forgot to get pictures afterward).


Sawbuck Table Part 5

January 22, 2014

The legs are connected to the table supports (table rails) with mortise and tenons.


The legs are rounded over utilizing a handheld router.  The roundover bit will not cut where the legs intersect with each other or the rails due to the diameter of the router bit bearing.  These areas are rounded over by hand using a chisel.



The top is glued up incrementally two boards at a time, run through the planer, then the sections are glued up to make the top.




Prior to trimming the top to size I could not resist the temptation to dry assemble the table and set the top on it to see how it looks.  Unfortunately woodworking is not my full time job; it takes a long time to go from drawn plan to completed piece, so this first glimpse of how a project will look is very satisfying.


Sawbuck Table Part 4

March 6, 2013

Use the piece representative of the tenon to help you layout and mill the actual tenons.  I used a dado blade on the table saw to rough the tenons to size, then a rabbet plane to help fine tune the fit.



Once the through tenons fit to your satisfaction, create the mortise for the wedges.  The wedges and corresponding mortises are key to the whole structure of the table.  The wedges draw everything tight.

I penciled out layout lines on the tenon and drilled out as much waste as I could on the drill press.  Next I defined the boundaries of the mortise with a marking gauge and knife lines.  These lines are cut rather than marked so that a chisel may be registered in them in the next step.


The angled wall of the mortise does not have to be any exact angle.  I just chop it with a chisel, eyeballing the chisel in reference to an angled pencil line.  Whatever angle you chop with the chisel will be matched by the key later, so the actual number is not important.




I used a Narex mortise chisel for most of the work, and then switched to paring chisels to refine the side walls (not shown).

Sawbuck Table Part 3: Through Mortise

June 20, 2012

There are multiple methods you can use to create through mortises; pick one that fits your tools and experience.  Here is the method I use.

1.  Mill a scrap piece to the exact size that you desire your tenon to be.  Cut scrap pieces of plywood and glue/clamp them around the tenon.  Pull the tenon out before the glue dries so it does not get glued in place.  The goal is to create a template with a square opening representing the size of your tenon.

2.  After the glue dries, place the template where you desire the mortise to be cut and outline the mortise with a pencil.

3.  Staying well away from your pencil lines, drill out as much as possible.

4.  Position your template back in place, clamp it securely, and then use a marking knife to outline the opening. This will prevent tearout when you route in the next step.

5.  Using a router with a bearing guided bit, route out as deep as possible.  The bearing should ride the wall of the template.

7.  Square the corners with a chisel.  Use the walls of the template to guide the chisel and assist in keeping the chisel plumb.

7.  Remove the template.  Flip the work piece over.  Using a router with a guide bearing on the bottom of the bit, route out the rest of the mortise.  The bottom bearing will guide off of the square opening you created in the first 6 steps.

The result:

8.  Square off the mortise with a chisel.  I always touch up my chisels with a strop before this; white oak is hard on chisel edges, but a strop does a good job maintaining the edge.

The finished mortise.

Sawbuck Table Part 2: Half-lap joints

May 30, 2012

Now for the half-lap joints.

1.  Flatten and square the edges of the boards that will form the joint.  Here I’m removing the band saw marks using a block plane and a spokeshave.

2.  Check to ensure the area is square and flat.  A flashlight behind a straightedge does the trick.

If you can see light underneath your straightedge you have more work to do.

3.  Lay the two boards to be joined on to of one another.  Mark one side with a marking knife.  Shift the board over so it just barely covers the knife line, and then mark the other side.  If you don’t shift the board over you will be off by the thickness of the knife line (I wish I had pictures of this).  Pencil in the knife lines to make them more visible.

4.  Remove the waste (half the thickness of the board).  Here I use a drill press to remove the waste because the joint is not a 90 degree joint (I normally use a table saw with a miter gauge).

5.  Register a chisel in your knife line to clean up the sidewall.  Sight down the chisel to ensure it is vertical and chop out the waste.

6.  Check the fit.  It should be a little too tight.  Resit the temptation to hammer it into place.  Use a block plane to shave down the edges of the other board until it fits.

7.  Repeat the process with the other board.

Finished.  The layout marks in the picture are for the through mortise, which will be part 3.

After I finished the half-lap joints I had to get a preview.  The stretcher is resting on a bucket for now so I can see how it will look; it will get through-mortised into the legs in part 3.

Sawbuck Table Part 1

May 21, 2012

I’m building a sawbuck table similar to this one for some friends.  I start with a scaled drawing.

The purpose of the scaled drawing is to rough out the proportions.  It is almost like solving an equation: always start with your givens.  In this case your givens are 1) the height of the table using the widely used standard of approximately 29″, and 2) the length and width of the table top.  The length and width of the top was derived by taking a large piece of cardboard (representing the top) to the space where the table will be used, setting it upon a small table, and progressively trimming it until the dimensions looked right and fit the space requirements.

Next, start with your easiest decision first, in my case the thickness of the top.  3/4″ seemed right for this size table, but 3/4″ is such an overused dimension that I chose 13/16 just to be little different.  I used dividers to find the right porportion for the rail supporting the top.  First I tried twice the thickness of the top, but it looked too small.  Three times the thickness of the top looked just right.  Then on to the thickness of the legs.  Four times the thickness of the top looked good.

(Use dividers for this.  If you have never used dividers before; you are really missing out.  They help transfer dimensions, find the midpoint of objects, and figure your proportions.)

Then using pictures of sawbuck tables derived from a Google image search to help guide you, sketch in the curves on the legs.  The point of this is to just get the style down in your head; don’t worry about getting the drawing perfect.

Once you are happy with the scaled drawing; proceed to a full size drawing using plywood (I apologize for the poor picture).

Here you do want to get it as close to perfect as possible.  Don’t be afraid to deviate from your scaled drawing if it doesn’t translate well full size.  I changed the length of the rail.

The full size drawing is when I work out my joinery details; a floating tenon (shown below in dashed lines) will work great for joining the legs to the rail.

Using the full scale drawing as a guide, mill the lumber.  Jointing a leg . . .

. . . and trimming it on the tablesaw.

From the full size drawing I cut out a leg template and traced it on the leg stock . . .

. . . and cut it out on the bandsaw.  Repeat three more times and temporary clamp a couple together to see how it looks.