In the February 2006 and April 2007 issues of Woodworker’s Journal, former contributing editor Mike McGlynn showed us how to build the first two pieces of a stunning Greene & Greene style bedroom set he designed: a chest of drawers and a bedstead. Sadly, Mike passed away that spring, leaving me the task of completing the set with the bedside table presented in this article.
With its square legs, breadboarded top, cloud-lift-cut aprons and shelf and classic Craftsman-style details like square ebony plugs and splines, the table is harmonious with the proportions, details and overall flavor of the other bedroom pieces Mike created. It’s also a practical and attractive stand-alone piece.
I built the table from straight-grained African mahogany, using both 8/4 and 4/4 stock, but Honduras mahogany is just fine, too (that’s what Mike used for the other bedroom pieces).
Starting with the Legs
The table’s simple square-section legs are all cut from a straight-grained piece of 8/4 stock, planed down to 1-1⁄2″ thick. After jointing one edge of the stock, rip each leg to a little less than 1-9⁄16″, then thickness-plane it exactly 1-1⁄2″ wide. Re-joint the stock before ripping each of the other three legs. Now match the grain of each pair of front and back legs, and mark the ends and sides of all four legs to show their orientation relative to the assembled table — up, down, front, back and side. The markings will help prevent mistakes during the subsequent machining operations.
Next, chop the square holes for the table’s decorative plugs. You can chop these out with a sharp chisel, but it’s far easier to make them using a hollow mortising chisel setup in a drill press. Clamp a fence to the drill press table to keep the sides of the holes square to the edges of the legs, and bore each square hole a little more than 1/8″ deep. Finally, round over the edges of the legs with a 1/8″-radius roundover bit in a handheld router or on the router table.
Making the Aprons
As shown in the Drawings, the legs are joined by a wide apron that also holds a single drawer. Start by planing enough 4/4 stock down to 3/4″ thick for the table’s aprons. Cut three of the four aprons 5-1⁄2″ wide: two that are 10″ long for the sides and one 13″-long apron for the back. For the front apron, start with a workpiece that’s 6-1⁄4″ wide x 13-3⁄4 long. Mark a cabinetmaker’s triangle across the entire face, then rip the board into three strips. Take the wider center section and crosscut it into three pieces, as shown in the top left photo, to create a blank for the drawer face and the short sections of apron on either end of the drawer. Now trim the drawer face blank down to its final size of 9-7⁄16″ long and 3-3⁄16″ wide.
Glue the remaining four pieces together to form an apron that will surround the drawer face and provide a perfect grain match. After this assembly dries, scrape off the excess glue and trim the front apron to its final 5-1⁄2″-wide, 13″ long size. Make sure to leave the strip above the drawer opening 1″ wide and center the drawer opening side-to-side.
Next, plow a 1/4″-wide, 5/16″-deep groove on the inside face of each apron member, spaced 3/8″ from the top edge. This groove will secure the cabinetmaker’s buttons that attach the table top. Now mark the lower edge of the front and both side aprons with a “cloud-lift” shape. Cut the profile out, using either a band saw or jigsaw, and sand the cut edges smooth. Use an oscillating spindle sander or drum sander to smooth the cloud-lift’s concave areas. Then, round over the outside face of the cloud-lift edges using the 1/8″ round-over bit. Also run the bit around the front of the drawer face and drawer opening in the front apron.