Building the Table Top and Stretcher
The table top is composed of three pieces of wood, and the stretcher is secured with cherry accent wedges (pieces through 7). As I mentioned before, the stretcher was formed out of the cathedral grain section of the stock.
I cut it to length and raised the tenons on its ends as I did with the legs. The original country table used only one wedge per tenon, which did not make sense to me if it was intended to be something other than eye candy, so I placed two wedges per tenon.
The table top is simple in concept, but a little tricky in execution — only because it is a long, exacting joint. Go ahead and cut your two tops just slightly oversized, so you will have a bit of stock to trim if necessary. Making the V groove cut on the table saw requires some preparation.
You will need to secure a sacrificial face to the saw’s fence in such a manner that you can slide the tops without obstruction. You will also need a zero-clearance insert in place that you sliced the blade opening through at 45°.
This is because you need to form the V-groove, but leave a very small amount of wood in place on both sides of the V — less than 1/16″. That tiny bit of stock needs the zero-clearance insert to ride on. I also used a featherboard to help control the cut. I heartily suggest that you test your setup with some scrap lumber and even go all the way to glue-up as I did. It is an odd little joint, and practice never hurt anyone!
When I had the tops machined, I formed the insert strip by cutting an over-long piece of 1″ cherry and then machining it perfectly square in my planer.
Glue-up of the table top was not tricky at all, but I did check to make sure that the two tops were aligned with each other (flat across their width). Once the glue had cured, I used a hand plane to remove the triangle of cherry that protrudes over the flat surfaces of the table top. Then I cut it to final size. There are a few ways that you might create the rather large chamfer on the edge of the table top, but seeing as I had the 45° zero-clearance insert already made, I just did it on my table saw. It worked really well.
Wrapping Up the Last Details
All of the components were now complete, which left just a couple things to do … first off, you guessed it … sanding. One nice thing about this little table is that there are a lot of flat surfaces, which are easy to sand. One not so nice thing about this table is that there are a lot of curved edges to sand — which are a lot trickier to do well. I used a combination of spindle sanders and hand sanding on the edges. For the flat surfaces, I used my trusty 4 x 24 belt sander and a random-orbit sander. But I always do my final — in this case 320-grit — sanding by hand. I “broke,” or gently rounded over, the edges of the pieces during this step.
Once the sanding was done, it was time to glue the stretcher in place. This was done with extreme care to avoid breaking off an edge of the through mortise. I cut a temporary brace for the clamp-up that was exactly the distance from shoulder to the shoulder of the stretcher. This allowed me to clamp top and bottom on the leg subassemblies and keep the assembly exactly square. I glued the wedges and tapped them in place, wiped all the excess glue clean with water and a soft rag, then waited for the glue to cure. When the glue was dry, I trimmed the excess off the wedges and sanded the tenons and wedges flush to the legs.
I finished the table top and the legset separately. My first application was amber shellac mixed three to one with denatured alcohol (right from the can). I wanted the amber color to highlight the lighter grained flecks in the wenge. I paid special attention to the end grain, making sure to seal it well. Then I used three coats of sprayed-on shellac from an aerosol can, de-nibbing between coats with #0000 steel wool. I applied a final coat of lacquer from a spray can, because I think the lacquer is a little tougher than the shellac.
Once the finish had cured, I attached the top to the leg-set with screws, and the table was completed. And I must say that I think it turned out well. The dark wenge accented by the cherry lumber looked very sophisticated: equally as attractive, but quite a bit different from, its country pine table origins.