Designing some side tables, out of comfort zone, input need please!

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By a stroke of luck I managed to acquire some oak boards for the cost of some pine - so I bought them and have got cracking - I'll get a project thread up at some point - im just doing bits and bobs here and there so as not to rush it.

At the moment, ive cut the material for 8 legs, and enough for 4 more, those will be to practice on, setup for the mortices tapers etc, The boards were 1" but around 6" wide, so I managed to glue some together using two pieces that were next to each other on the board (if that makes sense!?) to try and help reduce the visibility of the glue line.

I then fired up my thicknesser for the first time in anger, blimey, what a brilliant job that did, I got all the legs dimensioned to size after sitting overnight glueing up, the material for the aprons and the material for the tops.




Leg material cut to size


Leg material ready to go ('c' tabled legs are the test pieces - bit of a gap in one where I messed up, but its fine for a test piece.

It’s looking good Rorton, I’m sure you know but just in case, on your first photo that lighter strip at the top of the wood looks from here like sapwood, shouldn’t really use that bit on your furniture, it’s where the woodworm live!
Keep it coming, do love a WIP. Ian
thanks, never even thought about sapwood, its obvious on Walnut (my first love :)) but not so obvious here (not to me anyways!)

That board had some cupping, so I have ripped it down into smaller pieces - replanned/thicknessed and will then glue together for the tabletops, not ideal, and if it looks rubbish I can get some more as this was cheep enough - I was reading about tabletops last night and getting and keeping them flat seems to be a fine art in itself, would have liked to not have as many joins in, but was reading some people got say 2 board each 8" wide glued up, planed flattened and then sanded, and then it still cupped, so is it better to have joins in anyway? Maybe at 3/4" its too thin?
ah I see what you mean on the picture I think, I think its how it looks as there are other boards behind it maybe?
Ah yes I can see the other board behind now, when you are joining boards together for a top personally I think 8 inches is a little wide for individual planks, I usually go five or six at the most. I hope I’m not telling my granny how to suck eggs, but the planks need to be turned over so that when looking at the end grain it looks like cups and bridges – I’m sure there’s a correct name for it, alternating every other board helps to mitigate the movement of the one before it.
It can make life easier if you switch the boards end to end alternately as well, doesn’t always work, but generally speaking the direction in which you plane a board to stop it ripping the grain up should be the same on them all.
Thanks for that, unfortunately I can't get 5-6" planks from this material - im at 2.5" so will need 6 of them. I'll do it, as its a good exercise for me anyway, and if it looks rubbish, I can get wider boards, I can use the practice to get the bevel/chamfer correct at the bottom!

Thanks for the tip on the orientation, certainly no egg sucking here, any info greatly appreciated.

Ive bought a biscuit cutter for the 1/4 palm router, so plan to use these for alignment and help reduce any movement and further planing after glued together. My thicknesser is 13" wide, and the top is another couple of inches wider than this, so was unsure if I glue up in 2 lots of 3, which I can then plane, and finally glue together, or just go for it, and glue all 6 together - they have all been thicknessed anyway, so I was hoping it would be ok
English Oak. My favourite timber. I have just one board at the moment a 12' x 12" x 1.5". It is a centre board and it's beautifully figured. I got it from Venables in Stafford itself so it's knocking on a bit. Time I made a side table for myself.
I tried one of those biscuit cutters in a router and I’m sorry to say I wasn’t terribly impressed, the biscuits seemed quite loose which sort of negates the whole idea of it really,
I think as it’s your first time I’m going to say I think you should glue as many as you can get through your thicknesser – five maybe? and then glue on the last one (After putting it through the thicknesser on the same setting)
You will find it a great deal easier to take a thin skim off close to the edge of the board than you will in the centre had you glued it up in two halves
I understood biscuits to be made of compressed wood, which then expanded back to size once in contact with water based pva? There are anecdotes of them expanding and distorting the timber if they are sited too near the surface of the wood. I've used an axi cutter and lamello biscuits and they've been excellent.
Made a bit more progress, I won't swamp the thread with pictures, I'll save that for a project thread :)

I tried with hand tools, and after cutting 2 mortices which took forever, I really wasn't happy with them, must be an OCD thing. Because I have 16 to cut (2 tables now, each leg has 2 mortices), I went with the router and a 1/2 bit.

A few errors through carelessness, but I had enough blanks cut anyway.


I then got excited and thought id try a test tenon on a scrap of the apron material.

Went ok - I used the table saw, and crosscut sled to cut the 2 small sides with the same blade height. Once they were done, I cut the bottom, and then finally the taller section at the top.

Corners cut with a chisel, and then files/sandpaper to round. The leg I was working on is a perfect fit, tried in another, slightly loose, so im assuming that I will have to fine tune each tenon to each mortice , perhaps put a mark on the end of the tenon and inside the mortice to show which mates with which?

Shoulders look a bit rough as I went at this with a file, won't do that again, or will at least take a bit more care! (that's what test pieces are for right!?!?)

All in, its a decent fit, so has spurred to me on to do some more when I get some more time, will take my time, and cut each one to suit each end. I think im expecting perfection, and all the tenons to fit all the mortices!



That’s all looking very good, I think you might have found it quicker to chisel the ends of the mortises square instead of rounding the tenons, the only other comment I would make is that, and you may already know this, I don’t think your blade is particularly sharp on your tablesaw, Little wispy bits, I bet you’re enjoying this job. Ian
Edit, oh sorry that’s what meant when you said about using a file.
thanks, I'll have a go with one of the test legs and see how I go with squaring the mortice. Yep, its nice to do a bit and then leave it, I have the tops glued also - now sitting under something heavy to hopefully stop them cupping while in the garage. They were dead flat after glue , so thought leaving them under something would help prevent any movement?

Don't tell anyone I told you... 🤫🤭

You probably know, but a sloppy tenon can be fixed by using veneer slips to each side of the tenon. Glue them on first, let dry and then refit the tenon to its mortice.

Cheating? Maybe, but if you haven't much timber to spare, it can save buying new.

Don't tell anyone it was me who made the suggestion!! 😁

John 🤫
Thanks for that. Great tip!! I’ve cut them all today. Used the table saw and crosscut sled so they are identical, some tighter than others so will fine tune each one - is that normal to do?